Accepting our shared human nature

Fear and anger are two human emotions. We cannot legislate them out of existence. We can’t laugh them out of existence. We can’t banish them, in ourselves or in others. They are so much, much easier than love and vulnerability.

Love is a human emotion, but it is also a discipline. And it is a discipline of inclusion. It will do us no good, help us in no way in our evolution as a species and in our cultures, to despise and ridicule those who are expressing fear and anger when confronting the changes in their world. Such feelings are rarely expressed gracefully. It is so, so easy to respond so the ugliness of that expression with disgust, and a return of the fear and anger.

In that sense, hatred while also being a human emotion, is also a discipline. It’s just such an easier discipline than love. It is the discipline of exclusion. It is an attempt to control. It often comes from a sense of powerlessness.

Our species is violent. People are fundamentally self-centered. I am beginning to know that without the sort of despair it engendered in me in previous phases of my life. To accept these realities of the human condition is not, in my mind, to become complacent, but to move toward positive change from a more centered and grounded place.

And so, I think we make a fundamental and destructive mistake when, in the effort to improve ourselves and to repudiate the violences of the past and present, we say to people with whom we do not agree, “You should not have a voice; you do not deserve it”. This is really an attempt to excise part of our shared humanity. It does not work. And we so often double down when we simultaneously (often subconsciously) attach unassailable virtue to the arguments of people with whom we do agree.

I repudiate with everything in me the racism expressed by Donald Trump. The eagerness with which some of his supporters have taken up the overt and aggressive expression of that racism terrifies me. But if the response by those of us who oppose him is to judge and laugh at his supporters and wish we could vote them all off the island, we will be digging our own political graves.

We must attempt to understand, to hear. Everyone deserves a voice, even if that creates an incredibly ungainly and messy and sometimes unworkable system.

When I attempt to put my rage in a box and throw it away, that is an act of violence, the only result of which is to toxify and twist and magnify that rage.

I am not suggesting that racism be coddled or not challenged. Challenge it! White people have to challenge it with consistency and energy, and persistence. Similarly, I expect my feminist-ally male friends to challenge sexism, and to be willing to listen to me when I challenge them.

But do not make a virtue out of your beliefs and priorities to the extent that you find yourself dehumanizing anyone who disagrees with you, that all you can see is their stupidity or blindness. Do not assume that other people hold different priorities from malice or some sort of debased character.

Believe passionately. Live your values. But mock and degrade other people at your peril. Doing so will bite you in your ass.