"Us against them", Saturday's violence, & self awareness

I try to keep track of my own biases. I also try to root them out when I find them, but consider certain judgment to be a basic biological element of human function, never fully overcome (nor maybe should it be). And I’ll admit that the first thing I thought when I heard about the eighteen people wounded and killed today in Arizona was “how many people have to die before the far right stops calling for violence in their constituency?”. And maybe with Sarah Palin’s retraction of her infamous crosshair map from her website today we have part of that answer.

But the harder truth is, Palin’s popularity and the response of a growing minority to these calls for violence are part of a larger trend. Crime and violence generally rise in a recession; the country’s economic woes are complex; our population is higher than it has ever been. Subsequently the challenges the country faces are larger, people are feeling them directly, and, as Einstein said, you can’t solve the problems of the present with the same level of thinking that created them. We are in need of a lot of new solutions, fast.

The rejection of the government, or the overall pushback toward a system that is at the wheel of a lot of trouble, should not be a shocking development. It is certainly reprehensible and foolish to call for violent acts against other human beings as a first line solution in my book. But the larger development is the rising voice of a number of people who have a very realistic and more rational objection to the concept of large government, and this reaction is indicative of larger forces at work in a world changing with ever-increasing acceleration.

The “us and them” is the part that genuinely frustrates me, even if it, too, is possibly an inevitable conclusion in any high stress situation. I seem to see it everywhere lately, in my professional life, in national politics, on the world stage. And I have trouble seeing how, although it might drive short term “victory” of a sort in cases of immediate survivalistic objectives, in larger scale it winds up being anything other than deeply counterproductive and damaging. And the use of labels to immediately dismiss the humanity of one group of people or another is genuinely disturbing.

To close with a counterexample, I offer this amazing story coming out of Egypt by way of Ernest Adams: Egypt’s Muslims attend Coptic Christmas mass, serving as “human shields”.

I think back to Obama’s “One America” speech at the convention in 2004 and how much it moved me, and wish that we could ratify again our shared global intent for peace and the eradication of suffering. And I wish for Rep. Giffords’s fast recovery, and for peace for the families of those injured and killed.

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