What follows is a bit of a rant, but I found it important to say. I hope you will stay through to the end, and that you’ll be accepting of what I think and believe even if you don’t agree with me.
Is it in the blood or in the brainwashing? I’m like everyone else. I believe my world view is the best one. My world view is based on kindness, caring, compassion, hope, love, compassion, empathy, dignity, freedom, and justice. I have shortcomings, I make mistakes. I have done things of which I’m not proud and will likely do so again. I believe I’ve learned from my mistakes, though sometimes I have to fall into the same hole several times before I learn to avoid it. Perhaps the main thing I have learned is how little I really know, how vast our universe is both macroscopically and microscopically, and I imagine we matter little when examined against the vastness around us and within us. Though I know others who believe we are the center of the universe.
Still, we live our lives in the now. This is the only time that exists for us, no matter how much we plan for the future, worry about our lives and loved ones, regret or lionize our past, or declare our brilliance, bravery and goodness. In this now, we are all the same. I can hear the outcry, “Those people aren’t like me!” Yet I promise you they smile, laugh, cry, love, hate, hope, worry, plan, hurt and judge just as much as you do. Why they do these thing may be for entirely different reasons, but they generate the same emotions. How could it be otherwise?
Is it in the blood or in the brainwashing?
I think everyone is entitled to believe in whatever helps them get through their days, but not if it causes pain, suffering, degradation and harm. When you believe not only that your view of the world is best, but also that it is the only possible view of the world, it becomes acceptable to take whatever steps are necessary to convert others to your view. You can lie to them or about them. You can create propaganda that makes them seem strange, foreign, evil, the other. You can hurt them. If you can’t convert them to your way of thinking, or you decide that they are evil, dangerous, frightening, you will decide it is not just acceptable to kill them, it’s your duty. Sometimes, I feel powerless in this world where there are people who believe they are the only ones who have the right answer.
So I return to my opening question, is it in the blood or in the brainwashing? This brainwashing may be as subtle as the way we are raised or as overt as gurus, religions, armies, or whatever group wants to use you to their own end. It’s all learning. At home, our parents provide a model, good or bad, and we learn it. We may ultimately choose to accept it or rebel against it, but we learn it. Some, even in my family, would describe me as a leftist, bleeding-heart liberal agnostic. They’d be right. I’m also a seeker. I try always to remember how little I know. Maybe I’m mistaken in my thoughts and beliefs. I live by the values above, but always quest and question, and make changes when warranted.
I feel powerless in this world where there are people who believe they are the only ones who have the right answer.
My oldest brother, who died many years ago now, was also a seeker. Sometimes he lived recklessly, courting danger without thought and sowing his wild oats with abandon. For a time, he found that tub-thumping, bible-beating, old-time gospel, going back to the land in the hills of Virginia. He became righteous, let me tell you. One of his sons, from his first marriage, I believe, took this to heart. After his son’s rebellion placed him in a tight situation, I’ve been told, his son had a choice of being in jail or joining the Army, he joined the Army. He served well, rose within the ranks, eventually returning to civilian life. Once there, he became the pastor of a church. What’s wrong with that, you ask? He became a pastor who made the national news because he preached a sermon advocating, physical abuse of your children to cure them of their homosexuality. Not only should you do this, it was imperative. You must save them from the devil.
I could accept or condone his exhortations, though we are related by blood. I found them extreme, ill-informed, self-righteous, bigoted and fearful. Other views he’s expressed in his blogs are equally puzzling, if perhaps not as damaging. He wrote once that young women should not wear bikinis when going to the pool or the beach because it would cause unclean thoughts in men. Because heaven knows that men have no responsibility for controlling their own thoughts and urges, nor the ability to do so. Think how scandalized my pastor nephew would be if he had one of my memories. I remember when his mother, pregnant with him, came to the beach in a bikini. She was probably eight-months pregnant. My mouth fell open, I can tell you. Perhaps he has some sort of weird fetal, vestigial memory of this that has shaped his life and his thoughts.
Still, this shocking behavior didn’t warp me, I think. I grew up to be a good, moral person and attempt to live as my best self every day. Now this nephew has two half-brothers. I only saw them a couple of times growing up and they seemed like average kids to me, raised in a loving home. Yet one of them pictures himself in social media wrapped in a head-scarf with only his eyes showing. I’m sure this is some attempt to guard his identity from the enemy: liberals, Muslims, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, foreigners in general, or, more probably, the United States Government. I hope he realizes that this makes him look like a stereotypical jihadist. Somehow, it seems to me, he has become convinced that our government is the enemy. And yes, I know even our founding fathers cautioned us to be ever vigilant toward tyranny even from our own government. I just can’t follow the logic. Somehow, the argument seems to run that the government, this government is or wants to take away our freedom. That it wants to take away our guns, so we cannot defend ourselves against our government.
I admit, I don’t understand. Still, I am all right with him holding this view, with the caveats mentioned above. If anything, I think our previously elected leaders came far closer to curtailing our freedoms, but they like guns, so that was not a problem. By God, anyone gives them trouble, they’ll go and kick there ass. Even if they haven’t given us trouble, if we don’t like them, or they won’t be our friends anymore (and after we gave them all those nice weapons) that’s enough. If we want to test our new, more sophisticated weapons against our old weapons, that’s enough. If we can’t find a justification, we’ll invent one. After all, who’s going to stop us from invading a sovereign nation? Yet that doesn’t frighten my nephews. I believe it makes them proud.
No, it came home to me today, when my other nephew, one of the half brothers, posted a video clip supposedly proving that our government had blown up the fertilizer plant in West, Texas with a drone. I watched it all the way through. After all, he believes this. There was nothing there. No can I think of one logical, illogical or quixotic reason our government would so such a thing. Someone in the thread following the video asked why the explosion was so big, as if that proved the drone theory. Did they miss the Oklahoma bombing, and how the same ingredient that makes good fertilizer can be used to make bombs? This was a fertilizer factory. Of course the explosion was big. They didn’t question why a town would build not one but two schools, a senior care facility, apartments and houses so close to this hazard. Who knows, maybe that’s the reason they’ll site for why our government did it.
If we can’t find a justification, we’ll invent one.
I’m ranting and probably seem to be rambling, but I’m troubled. I don’t hate my nephews, though the scare me. More than anything, I feel sorry for them. It must be so difficult to live lives driven by paranoia, fear and bigotry. That’s the way their lives seem to me. Though they probably believe I’m a fool, that might makes right and that the God of Abraham and conservative Christianity is they only right way to live. Maybe my life is the tough one? I question, I doubt, I’m troubled by people who are not accepting of others, as if we are still in tribes and bands defending our patch of survival. Still, I accept that others can hold conflicting views. I believe we and all and everything around us and within us is connected, a part of the whole, vast universe. We came from star stuff and to star stuff we will return.
For me, that’s enough.
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