Creating Enemies

Years ago I began to think about how groups/coalitions are formed and saw that the quickest method was through what I dubbed “creation of a common enemy.” The first large example was 9/11 when suddenly everyone was flying an American flag and Bush’s popularity soared to something like 90%. But we do it all the time: sports teams are a perfect example. We band together, we feel related to others because we have a “common enemy” of the other team.

Other than school spirit and elections in general, I have not experienced a person or group attempting to manipulate us using this technique as I see our Executive Branch doing since the inaugural. Furthermore, I have never before experienced a feeling that there is a desire to oppress, divide, and silence the citizenry. I fear the desire is for power, not for the betterment of all the people in our country.

And as woman of faith, I admit that while I don’t believe people are evil, I believe there is a force, a presence of evil that expresses itself in many ways.

Perhaps what I label evil isn’t anything at all but a turning away from universal love, peace, equality for every person. Perhaps evil has no power at all but is simply neglect. Neglect that allows us to believe that if I’m okay then it doesn’t matter if anyone else suffers. Neglect that says hoarding of objects may be bad but hoarding of money and resources is admired. Neglect that feeds the seeds of human hate and its inevitable isolation, no matter how many times it tries to create enemies.

My prayer is that we not band together against an enemy but that we come together with a common purpose. The original US revolutionaries fought against an enemy, yes, but they were fighting FOR a set of ideals, of goals. Yes, they made some major mistakes along the way and expressed the morals of their European feudal ancestors far too often. They regarded colonialism as an ideal and not as the oppressive social structure it is. They did not apply the soaring words of the Declaration to people who didn’t look like them.

But we can always learn, grow, evolve. I think we have although like any real learning it happens in fits and starts.

We are presently in a start, not a fit. I pray we can stay there. Some examples:

The Women’s March on January 21 was about freedom, equality, and justice for our daughters and our sons.

When people were detained because of their birthplace and religion this past weekend, we stood up and said, “No.” And while the rest of us were standing up, the lawyers at the airports sat down with their laptops and filed legal papers on behalf of the detained.

Many many people have contributed to organizations fighting for equality. The ACLU and SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) are two that have received and are worthy of our support.

Government employees are starting/participating in “alt” and “rogue” addresses on social media. The prize-winning name for one of these sites, if there were a contest, would go to “ViralCDC” on Twitter. HHS, DOJ, USDA, NIH, NASA, NWS, EPA, National Park Service, and so on.

Knitters may still be knitting pink hats, readying for the next march. I wonder if the hats in some form will become an enduring symbol of positive resistance. The upcoming Time magazine cover is an indication of this.

There is a March for Science to stand up for truth and freedom of scientific inquiry coming up that will also be in many cities (follow March for Science on Twitter @sciencemarchdc).

My point is, I am encouraged at our response to attempts that seek to divide us. The next months may be more difficult than we would want, but perhaps we are holding ourselves accountable for too much complacency. I think we were lulled into thinking if some of us voted every few years all would be well. We were wrong, and we are changing our thinking.

Feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, writing, calling, faxing in opposition to oppressive laws, working for justice, extending the hand of equality…these are all how we work to make this nation better.

See you out there.

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