It was noted by a longtime reader and email acquaintance that there has been a political undercurrent in my recent posts. I teach and write primarily to help people learn how to stay safe in a crazy age. There is a lot of political anger in our time, and I am not of the mind that it happened organically. I do not like to bring politics into this blog. The way things stand right now, there is no way, to be honest about your political views without being labeled by half of the people you know. I am going to look at the politically motivated violence in our current time. I will avoid labels and stick to the center. If you feel I am insulting you, look at the behavior I am describing, and if you are doing this, rest assured I am talking about you. I hope we get past this stage soon so I can go back to writing about things I like.
It was a car running over people in Charlottesville and a madman shooting at GOP lawmakers at a baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia that really drove home the point of how far down this road we really were. Watching the news media stoke the fires made me see what a foul mess we were in and that there was no easy way out of it. And so many people, having spent too much time in the echo chamber of a single thought, were shocked that different ideas existed. Politicians asking those on their side to publicly harass those on the other side brought a 32-year-old man to throw a drink in the face of a 16-year-old-kid and steal his hat. Yes, things are getting that asinine.
Emotion-based decision making leads to poor results in most circumstances. Emotions control what you say, how you say it, and the actions you take. When you base every word and move on emotion, you are going to do things that are not based on principle or values, but on whims.
Think about a time when you were angry or upset and you said something you wish you had not said. We can all relate to that, I am certain. I am saying that this should be a big clue that we should not stay in an emotionally charged state for very long, and should be careful with our words and actions when agitated.
In self-defense classes, instructors often use the term othering to describe a mental process where we give ourselves permission to act on our more violent impulses toward another person. Example; everyone knows that nazis are evil, so violence against nazis is justified. But what happens when you just decide willy-nilly that anyone who voted for Trump is a nazi? Exactly, your violent impulses are suddenly justified! Nevermind that you have no basis for using that term, they used in on the news and the news media would never lie you! Would they?
And then there is the problem of social media. I look at how people act on social media and see clearly that people are not yet mature enough to be in contact with strangers. The way people act online was, for a time, far different from how they would ever act in person. Now, however, things have changed. People have given themselves permission to live out their digital identity in the real world. And the result is a big disaster. And again, we see rampant othering, which offers an excuse for violent behavior.
Taken to the extreme, this thought pattern will take us to a place where we will view violence as an acceptable response to anyone with a differing opinion on anything. We will reach a point where if we say that a person is wrong, anything we do to them is justified. That should scare the hell out of anyone. We see examples of it peeking in here and there now, where people with the wrong view are fired and publicly humiliated, speakers at public Universities are protested with riots, and groups like Antifa attempt to get their way through violence.
Tribal thinking is what allowed our species to survive and thrive. It has its place. It is what allows wonderful ideas such as family values and protecting our kin. But right now we need to find a way to understand that people who disagree with us politically are not nazis or commies. They are just people who disagree with us. You will survive being disagreed with. Your friends and neighbors who voted differently from you are not what the media makes them out to be. Relax, it’s just an opinion.
Your righteous indignation is a sign. You are telling yourself that we are better than them. It is dangerous ground and you should tread carefully, lest you become what you profess to hate.