Enemy Mine is a 1985 science fiction classic starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr. The plot revolves about two enemy combatants: a human played by Quaid and an alien played by Gossett, who are forced to work together to survive. They become friends over time, and their friendship ultimately helps to end a brutal war.
When I bother to scan social media and the mainstream headlines these days, and this happens much less frequently than in years past, the prevalent theme seems to be “enemy thine.” Everywhere I turn there is someone willing to tell me who I should hate and why. This is not an unusual condition in the context of the volatile record of human history. It’s certainly not unknown to American history. But it does not bode well for a society which has prided itself on its egalitarian values and melting pot abilities.
We’ve wrestled with this issue here over the last several years. We’ve lamented the stubbornly self-limiting paradigm of that persistent false dichotomy of left versus right, but now there are enemies everywhere: Young versus old, urban versus rural, black versus white and white versus everyone else.
You know what I’m talking about. If you consume media at all, it’s almost impossible to avoid. We’ve always been a contentions species and our nation was born out of confrontation, but in my lifetime I have not seen this level of hatred for a people against its own members.
First, I want to have a word with those of you on the “right.” Shame on you. You claim that Christianity informs your values. Excellent. Lets run with that. The Bible says to love your enemies, pray for them and treat them with kindness. I’m not seeing that in your Facebook posts, your tweets and your opinion pages. Only God can judge the hearts, minds and characters of the people you seem intent on herding together and labeling as “liberals,” “leftists,” and “socialists.”
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Does that sound familiar? It’s written in the same Book you’re using to condemn your neighbors, but if you pick and choose the instructions you decide to follow, don’t you think that cheapens your brand? Dilutes your message?
On the left, there seems to be some difficulty with definitions and a blind eye to hypocrisy. Shame on you. Let’s start with “prejudice.” The definition most often bandied about is one from Webster, which defines the word as “an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics.” You pride yourself on your egalitarian values and claim to desire equality, but you have no problem with statements like “All white people are by definition, racist.” How often have you used the word, “redneck” this year? Do you think all republicans carry assault rifles? Are all black people victims who need your help to overcome everyone else’s prejudice?
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Does that sound familiar? It was spoken by Martin Luther King Jr., whose words and vision have informed the advancement of equality for two generations.
Back and forth like a seesaw on a playground, the insults have flown from election to election. The “left” was incensed by the disrespect shown to President Obama by the “right” during his administration. Now the right complains about the venom directed at President Trump. But he started it. No, she did.
We are not children on a playground, despite our willingness to act like them, but words can wound us just as deeply, and our toys and our abilities are much more dangerous to each other than what can be found on a playground. Neither are we engaged in a conflict with alien life forms. Our hatred is directed at human beings who are genetically almost identical to us.
It’s unfortunate that history tells so many stories of people brought together by a common enemy. Perhaps we have not advanced past such a need to resolve our own conflicts. In truth, we do have common enemies. We are suspended together on a tiny blue dot on the outer rim of a galaxy which is also a tiny dot in the vastness of space. We have crowded and consumed and poisoned our little home to the limits of its ability to provide a safe haven for us. We have our faith, our ideas and our hopes. These are powerful, but invisible. Ephemeral. All we have that we can touch and hold, and the only thing standing between us and the vastness of space, the loneliness of eternal time, is this earth, and each other.
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For those of you who aren’t sci fi nerds, the illustration is from a 1969 episode of the original Star Trek series called “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.” The two antagonists are the last two survivors of a planet which went to war separated into two races of people, one which was black on one side and white on the other, and the other which was white on one side and black on the other.