Vilifying the Other Side Will Not Solve Our Problems: A Post About Peace

Most of us have been through a hell of a lot. We are pretty clear who did it and what was done to us. We know what we do and don’t like. We know who we’re mad at and why. And we can all agree we hate Nazis, for instance.

It is my opinion that “hating Nazis” without backing that up with helpful action–working to promote free speech, donating to anti-racist organizations, attending conferences on nonviolent communication–is not good. Humanizing, to the best of our ability, EVERY PERSON, not just the people we “like,” is the strongest anti-Nazi work we can do.

I learned through my stint with Buddhism that hate is a painful, potentially harmful emotion. You can hate your abuser but you are not free until you no longer carry your abuser inside of you through your hate. People are born people, not Nazis. Nazism is a political ideology that maybe more people than we thought identify with, but still, not that many. The “Karen” you want to argue with at the store (and believe you me, I want to argue with them a lot) might not be the horrible person you think she is. If you’re seeing people out there to hate, chances are you hate yourself, and the actions you plan to take with respect to those feelings are potentially harmful, to you at least.

The point isn’t to hate people. The point is to love people. Loving people does not mean you agree with or allow all the things they decide to be and do. Thich Nhat Hanh says you can even kill with compassion when people are out of hand. I don’t plan to–I don’t trust my judgment on what “killing with compassion” is, except maybe the example of Atticus Finch shooting the rabid dog.

Hypocrisy is a natural result of vilifying the “other side.” Just like there is no Planet B, there is no other side. That is how complicated this is. I do not agree with White Supremacy. That’s an easy stand to take. Many white supremacists, when asked, would say they are “not racist” and don’t agree with white supremacy. So what is happening? People are disappearing into “safe” little factions. The reason cults are so popular with people is that people like it when they are surrounded with similar-looking/thinking/feeling people, and life is simple. The reason they seek these things out is that life is incredibly hard. For everyone. People think, in their naivete, that it is better to be stupid on purpose than lonely on purpose. Awareness of the truth often begets loneliness, one of the most painful things humans have to deal with. If they live in conservative America, they are surrounded, apparently, by hyper-religious, uber-macho people with guns. They are not the most open-minded folk, as we have seen. So it is easier to blend in, if you can’t leave.

The same thing happens on the left. There are plenty of things I don’t believe in, particularly the highly punitive policing of people’s thoughts and speech. If we need to evolve, can we please create a safe space to do so? I also dislike the covert classism and exclusionist perspectives. “If you don’t/aren’t [blank], you aren’t good enough for this group.” I have hated that attitude since I was six and first experienced exclusion and bullying. If the left doesn’t provide an inviting environment, not only with the right not join us, people will leave the left. “Christ,” and the Evangelical Church, with all its problems, is pretty welcoming. Anyone who has ever been to church knows that.

Until we start seeing ourselves, the abused, as potential abusers (because we were abused–that is the pattern–no one is only good!) we are liable to abuse people. If we can’t see ourselves in an enraged prolife woman in a MAGA hat (extreme, period) then we can’t see our humanity. We can have our opinions of Trump supporters but hating slightly less than half of America sounds exhausting and ineffective. If you are white, and condemning Trump supporters because they are racist, root out the racism in you first. We hate Trump supporters because they are a representation of the deeply rooted white American ideology America has hastily and badly covered over, without apologizing, without denouncing, our previous grave, grave errors. They represent the white person’s shadow. And we hate it.

Your shadow needs to be brought into the light. Your shadow is a product of punishment and suffering, denial and ignorance. Your shadow started being created before you had control of anything–when you were an infant. So stop being so terrified, look your humanity in the eye, forgive yourself. Try to symbolically forgive the other–they think they’re right, don’t forget–and then, get to work. Kill them, not literally, with all of that compassion you are capable of. Because you are no better, or worse, than anyone.

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