“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to much suffering.” — Yoda
I want to thank all of the public and private responses to the more than slightly tongue-in-cheek article I put up a few days ago calling for Code Pink to go after those disrupting town hall meetings. One of the greatest benefits to doing my sermon-pre-writing publicly here at Celestial Lands is that your responses challenge me to think in deeper ways. In this particular case, it challenged me to look deeper than the issue of health care.
Really, the response of the right is not about health care at all. The same kind of energy as we are seeing now in these anti-health care reform disruptions was evident at the tea-bag anti-tax events, at the birther events, and during much of the 2008 presidential campaign (evident on both sides, though to a greater degree among Republicans). What we are seeing is the logical, spiritual, and psychological result of a decade of the primary tool in politics being manipulation of fear.
I don’t often quote Yoda, but on this occasion I’m not sure anyone other than the little green Jedi has said it so clearly: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to much suffering. It really does not matter what the fear is about, what the anger is about, or what the hate is about… the emotions are so powerful they stand on their own and can be transferred easily from one issue to another. The emotion “attaches” to whatever can justify it, but it exists and grows within the system regardless of issue, excuse or reason.
Though the Politics of Fear have always been a part of our political system, it took on new heights in the aftermath of 9-11, and for the prior administration it became their primary way of interacting and moving the American populace. For seven years, layer upon layer of fear was built up in the American populace. On the right, that fear most often attached to fear of “terrorists” and “foreigners”. On the left, that fear attached to civil rights intrusions, war, and to government collusion with corporations and certain religious elements.
But the fear itself is within the system, and it is independent of any source, issue, or cause. It will never be resolved by solving any particular issue… only by recognizing it for what it is and addressing it openly. The more that fear attaches to particular sources, the less likely we can come to terms with it. When the issue of health care goes away, it will just attach to something else.
What is occurring now is that, for a large number of people on the more conservative end of American Politics, that fear is in the process of translating into anger. This is a defense mechanism, because uncontrolled, unattached fear can become deeply debilitating… and transforming it into anger gives it a target, something the fear can be blamed upon. Externalizing the fear into anger makes it seem to be outside the human psyche, not within it. The fear therefore seems less personally dangerous, even if the opposite is actually true. Anger can also be used as a political weapon, which is why some of the politicians on the political right are trying to direct that anger toward specific targets for their own political expediency.
Before we get up on our high horses, this is exactly what many on the political left sought to do during the last administration… to turn the inherent fear within the system into anger that could be directed at targets of political expediency. Though it is most evident on the political right at this moment, the politics of fear and anger have been used by all sides of the political spectrum. I cannot count the times I have listened to activists on both the right and the left ask “When are the people going to get Angry about this!?!”
There is such a thing as righteous anger… but righteous anger never arises from fear. Righteous anger always arises from love… and I have seen precious little anger arising from love on either the right or the left in the last ten years.
What anger needs right now to begin making the transition into hate is a target that gives an excuse. Many have found enough of an excuse to begin hating President Obama, and that anger has transformed into that hatred. The more I thought about it, confrontations between activists at town hall meetings might be just the next spark to turn that anger into hatred… and so I want to retract my facetious, tongue-in-cheek article. I won’t take it down, because I believe in highlighting my own growth and modeling intellectual honesty… but what I said in smart-alec humor could have dire consequences I had not forseen.
For we are on the edge of that anger turning into hatred, and as Yoda said “hate leads to much suffering”. We are in deep, national need of therapy. I think the current administration realizes this, and that much of their strategy that puzzles many activists on the left comes out of that realization. The “hope” campaign the administration ran was a beginning of that therapy, at least on the left. What is needed is some way to do the same for the right.
Without it, we are on the road to “much suffering”.
Yours in faith,