Hatred is its only reality. Racism is a part of nothing larger than itself. The simple word “Fear” yields many acronyms to reflect what fear is in its essence: “False Evidence Appearing Real” is a famous one. So is “Eff Everything And Run” or “Eff Everything And Retaliate.”
America. July 2016. The bitter angels of our nation’s nature seem to have won. Lately, part of me wants to declare victory for F.E.A.R and its glorious absence of nuance or shades of gray, its loving embrace of nothing except its own bright-red lust for violence for its own sake. “Hate Wins” would be the headline. “‘Just Hate Everyone,’ Experts Suggest” would be the sub-head.
Murder is murder. It is not an idea. It is a vacuum, and vacuums are totalitarian in their lack of purpose. I used to think that ideas can fill the vacuum, the murderous vacuum, but that is wrong. Ideas are ephemeral. No one kills for an idea. Many murderers will tell themselves that they are killing for a reason, for an idea; there is no human thought more corrosive, more dangerous, than self-justification.
Terrorists say they are killing for an idea; they are not. Ideas do not accompany a bullet on its path into a person’s viscera. Ideas are decisively abandoned with the plunge of a detonator button. Many humans who kill seem to seek the inner self-knowledge that they are somehow in some real way above the status of merely a human who is killing. The irony lays in the fact that, upon pulling the trigger, plunging the knife, or pushing down the detonator, the person who kills has in that moment divorced themselves from the idea of having an idea. And then, once murder has been committed, the cycle gets started; the murder of the murderer is approved of, and the pursuit of that murder is treated as if it is an idea in itself. It isn’t.
It gets called “self-defense” or “justice.” A life is ended anyway.
The Dallas Police Chief, David Brown, said this morning, “We won’t militarize our policing standards,” in response to last night’s carnage in that great city. That is an idea. It should not feel as fresh as it feels, but it is encouraging. It is a sentence that sounds like it was spoken by a man who wants to do his part to break the cycle we are on right now of ending lives because lives have been ended. “We are not going to let a coward who would ambush police officers change our democracy. We are not gonna do it. Our city, our country, is better than that.”
Our country is better than that. We are better than that. As I wrote above, I do not know if ideas are worth anything, but holding on to that thought is one of the best ideas. For so many people, revenge feels like an idea, though, and revenge is often given the endorsing sheen of the self-justifying phrases, “self-defense” or “justice.”
We are better than that. The only truths worth sharing with one another are peace and love, so any dissenters against those two things are by their very nature loud and violent. Murderers and racists, in their cacophonous search for self-justification for their violence and their hatred, need us to forget Police Chief Brown’s words. Because they know that they are not “better than that,” they need us to prove that we are not as well. They need our revenge to come with the spilling of blood, ours and theirs. A bizarre equality will come that day, the day when we will not see color because everything will be red with the bloodstains of fury, and no man will be an island apart and alone in our ocean of tears.
Fear is its own self-reinforcing reality. It is not an idea. Violence is not an idea. It gets the headlines, attracts our attention, sparks a doubt about whether peace is possible and love is real, but the violence that begets violence only exists to entrap us all in a black box.
The only way through this moment is through. Most of the country does not share the vision that the only way to not feel fear is by making one’s neighbors more afraid than you. Some people do hold that vision. They are loud, which makes them sound like they have an idea, and they are violent, which proves that they do not, and there is only one possible reply: We are better than that.
The WordPress Daily Prompt for July 8 asks us to reflect on the word, “False.”
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