Coals of fire

Conservatism is a cult. Liberalism is a cult. Life is not black and white. When you ignore obvious facts in favor of comforting lies that become endlessly parroted rhetoric without thought, you are in a cult. When you cut off family because they voted for someone you don’t like, that’s cult shit–you’re eliminating all input that doesn’t reinforce your narrative. That’s what cults tell their followers to do. They don’t want them to think. They don’t want outside influences breaking down their questionable ideologies. You don’t know it’s crazy if nobody ever tells you it is.

People generally get along fine until politics are brought up. Battle lines are drawn and auto-hate kicks in because that’s how they’ve been programmed.

The vast majority of conservatives are not bad people. The vast majority of liberals are not bad people. Every normal, average person wants peace and prosperity for all, but they strongly disagree on how to achieve that. They don’t even agree on what that means, sometimes.

When I step out into the real world and ignore the online propaganda machine, which tells us that the sky is falling and gets paid to keep us clicking and fighting, everything seems normal. People are courteous and civilized to one another, for the most part. People don’t act like they do online, and the people we see on TV acting nuts are on TV because they’re acting nuts. They don’t represent the average American.

The hateful rhetoric that average Americans spread online is not who they are. They feel threatened because the scapegoats they’ve been trained to hate have been painted as monsters.

On Star Trek, the Klingons would say things like “You know what the Federation does to their prisoners.” And the Federation was like “You know how Klingons treat their prisoners. Each side has had these biases and fears hammered into them by propaganda.

That’s what I’m witnessing right now between people who follow opposing political narratives. I see people cutting off lifelong family and friends because of the toxic bullshit they are feeding their minds. And I’m speaking of both liberal and conservative toxic bullshit. Your Google search results, your Facebook and twitter feeds–you’re being shown things designed to both outrage you and reinforce the beliefs that you have allowed to be planted in your head. Be aware of this. Choose the ground you stand on carefully. Don’t just take these vulturous political pundits’ word for it.

We have unprecedented access to information in this day and age, but we lack the ability to properly assemble and interpret it so we fill in the blanks with all kinds of wild, speculative nonsense that would’ve seemed extreme or really stupid 20 years ago. People just waddle up to the buffet of “kinda true” information and gorge themselves.

All of this anger and hatred we’re carrying around isn’t good. Stop dehumanizing people who believe differently than you. Get to know them and find out where they’re coming from. It’s easy to call people “dumb” or “crazy” and create more hostility, but you’re wasting your time and making the problem worse.

I know how you’re going to react to this post. You’re going to say, “I’ll never compromise with those fascists!” Fascists, of course, meaning the team that you’re playing against. Both sides think the other is fascist. It’s all black & white, cut & dry. They’re evil, and we’re not. They’re crazy and want to destroy us! Case closed! WE MUST DESTROY THEM FIRST!”

Those people you hate are going to jobs, raising kids, laughing, crying, struggling, suffering and living just like you. They could be your friends, if you’d both cut your puppet strings and try to get to know one another.

In the Star Trek episode Day of the Dove, a cloudlike entity that feeds on hatred manipulates the Klingons and the crew of the Enterprise into fighting each other to the death over and over again, forever. It can resurrect them to kill each other endlessly, all the while feeding off of their negative energy.

They eventually realize that they are being used, and they take away that which the creature needs to survive.

They laugh at it. They mock it. They throw down their weapons and refuse to fight each other to satiate its bloodthirst.

This doesn’t eliminate problems and misunderstandings between Klingons and the Federation, but I imagine that it certainly paves the way for eventual peace between them. It‘s a start.

Stop feeding the creature. Stop hating your neighbors and people you’ve never even met because they vote a certain way. Respect each other. Listen. Voice your views without resorting to childish name calling. It’s hard, I know. I’m guilty of it, myself. I’m not elevating myself above any of this like some “big brain” pretentious know-it-all. I’m not like that. This is what’s in my heart right now, at this moment. I know I’m wrong when I’m denigrating people or stereotyping them or calling them names or needling them just to piss them off. I do it because I get infuriated sometimes by all the rhetoric.

“Do your research!” people say. Okay, I did some this morning. I woke up next to my wife, got up, went out for some caffeine and stopped to let a baby rabbit cross the road. I admired the beauty of the clouds. I said “good morning” to a stranger. I don’t know who he voted for. I don’t care. I had a conversation with one of my cats. I ate some biscuits and gravy. I didn’t seek outrage, and it didn’t come looking for me. I’m going to do some writing. I’m going to visit my mom. It’s going to be a good day because I have decided it will be.

We can have peace. We can get along. We can achieve equality for all and be all the better for it. We can be the America we have always purported to be, and have in fact strived to be until recent years.

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