Excuse me, but it gives the greatest satisfaction
to view the spirit of another age,
to see how wise men thought before our days,
and to rejoice how far we’ve come at last.
Oh yes, a journey to the stars!
-Faust, Play by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1808
Aside from hangovers rivaling what I envision the brink of death to be like, I scarcely get sick. But I’ve been sick since Saturday – the day after Trump’s (arguably) infamous Inauguration. Don’t roll your eyes. I’m pretty positive this was (almost) completely coincidental.
Perhaps it was all that baby snot I spent my previous weekend with (if so, worth it!). Maybe it’s just my body’s weakened immune system due to months of post-op surgery complications, bleak winter weather, mild depression, etc.
Although nerve pain isn’t waking me up as much as it used to, I can’t yet exercise like I used to either. So I’m lethargic all day, yet sound slumber eludes me at night. My brain races through a chaotic cacophony of events, which drowns out all that dark and dreadful silence. In those confused states of consciousness, I ponder the state of the world and get caught up in anti-Trump fear-propaganda in some weird ways.
In one dream, Trump showed up at my all-girls college dorm. He was dressed in old civil war general get-up and demanded we stop what we were doing for a photo op. He wanted me to be in the photo with him, but I could not stand at his level. There was what I believe to be a golden retriever with us. I could not sit at the dog’s level in the photo either. I was instructed to lie on the floor with my head propped up on the dog food bowl. I could not look directly at the camera; it was just going to be a profile shot of my face
In another dream, some sort of crazy warplane crashed near a small event or rally I was attending and I was on the run like a fugitive for the remainder of the dream.
Point is, I felt like shit Saturday. I was only at a tolerable level-2 hangover, so I knew something other than wine was a co-culprit. Whilst organizing photo collages (tantalizing life I lead, no?), I lost motivation to do much of anything beyond the dishes.
I gave into temptation of my dog’s persistent pleas (photographic plea #77 featured below). I agreed to cuddle on the couch and watch whatever was on TV until he grew bored with my affection.
I may have underestimated his stamina for cuddling… There are certainly worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Civil Rights and Violence: A Long Road to Progress
A 1988 film with Gene Hackman was playing: a true story about two FBI agents investigating missing civil rights activists back in 1964 – Mississippi Burning. Spoiler alert: the Ku Klux Klan, Neshoba County Sheriff’s Office and the Philadelphia, Mississippi Police Department were all involved in the conspiracy of the abductions, murders, burial, and cover-up of aforementioned civil rights activists.
Important sidenote: Despite the 14th and 15th amendments of the 19th century, the state government of Mississippi created a state constitution with a great number of voter restrictions, making it difficult for black Americans to register to vote.
White employers used their power to ensure blacks would oblige. If that didn’t work, the Ku Klux Klan maintained white supremacy using ruthless threats, and acts, of violence.
In one scene, a simple, nice white gal — a local hairdresser married to the police deputy in on the conspiracy and part of the KKK organization – said this to Agent Anderson (Gene Hackman):
It’s ugly. This whole thing is so ugly. Have you any idea what it’s like to live with all this? People look at us and only see bigots and racists. Hatred isn’t something you’re born with. It gets taught. At school, they said segregation what’s said in the Bible… Genesis 9, Verse 27. At 7 years of age, you get told it enough times, you believe it. You believe the hatred. You live it… you breathe it. You marry it.
There were many quote-worthy moments in the movie, but this one stuck with me. Hate is learned. Otherwise fine people can be indoctrinated with hate in sneaky, subtle, but powerful ways. I imagine it’s hard to unlearn something so powerful.
I am beyond grateful for civil rights activists of the 60s who helped us collectively unlearn some of that hate. What an emotional reminder of how far we’ve come in such a short time.
My mom was 3-years-old when these tragic civil rights murders took place. In that moment of her life, this hateful, radical, racist way of thinking was a reality; conjured up by a small group of men threatened by a group of people, outwardly different from them, obtaining power.
I’m grateful justice prevailed so that we could progress.
Fear and Loathing in Tribe Thinking
This innate fear, distrust, or disdain of outsiders is part of our evolved tribe mentality. But such a mentality is bred not only out of fear and hate, but conterintuitively, also out of love and belonging — albeit a jealous sort of possessive love, perhaps. Once we become equal with outsiders… once we grant them membership to our “elite” group… once we love and accept them as part of our family… two things happen that make insecure individuals deeply uncomfortable.
- The playing field is leveled. Competition becomes fairer. Suddenly we’re all equally entitled to the same inalienable rights and pursuits of happiness. We’re all playing the same game. Wealth and resources will be divided according to how we play the game. We’re all invited to share in the same rat race, competing for the nicest plots of land, the most prestigious professions, the most beautiful and intelligent mates. We all get an equal say in whom we vote into office and how we share and spread ideas and principles that we’ll pass onto our children and future generations. If we are insecure in our own abilities to achieve success, happiness, and influence, we would naturally re-act with fear and anger to this influx in competition.
- We feel vulnerable. In childhood, we feel a sense of belonging, love, and loyalty to our family, our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches, and their unique belief systems. This is where we feel safe and comfortable. We perceive that there is a right way and a wrong way to live, as we mimic the lifestyles of the tribe members surrounding us in our most formative years. But as our world has become increasingly interconnected, our schools, neighborhoods, and churches are becoming more diverse than ever. Globetrotting is a reality for more people than ever. Information can be shared from all corners of the world in a split second. This has changed everything. Our unique worldviews are being challenged. There are at least 6,500 languages spoken in the world today. There are roughly 4,200 religions. It’s hard to know what or who to trust; outside of whatever we’ve been indoctrinated with, of course — that’s the only real “truth”. Amidst an overwhelming abundance of more information than we could ever possibly process, we might cling more desperately than ever to our like-minded network of childhood confidants and those that think similarly. Lest we open up with outsiders that think differently than us, giving them a chance to crush our ideologies, ways of life, and everything that makes us who we are.
To overcome insecurity, self-doubt, and live somewhat happily in a maddeningly chaotic world we can’t quite make sense of, we often cling to one narrative… shunning those that don’t line up with our value system, manipulating stories, events, and facts to maintain control of our narrative.
How Love Actually Trumps Hate
But sometimes, some of us choose a narrative that fits best with our sense of truth, but we still go about life with an open mind. We aren’t scared of outsiders and conflicting world views, we’re intrigued and inspired by them. We might even adjust our own lives accordingly… expanding our minds and our tribes!
You see, once you wash away the insecurity, fear, and hate… what remains of the tribal mentality is the human desire for love and acceptance — belonging to something greater than the self alone.
As our global community becomes increasingly more homogeneous, aggressive territorial behavior will be increasingly viewed as barbaric and primitive. Our tribe mentality will have to adapt if we hope to survive, globally.
Trump’s Tribal Thoughts
As America enters another era of extreme divisiveness with Trump’s presidency, it’s important to remember how far we’ve come… and how far we’ve got to go.
It’s important to keep in mind that President Trump was an 18-year-old affluent white male during the tragedy unveiled in Mississippi Burning. His life and reality were vastly different during his formative years than they are today.
His ideologies and policies may stem from a less progressive tribe mentality. His desire for a massive wall to keep Mexicans out, his outlandish anti-Muslim and Islam rhetoric, those lewd and sexist comments towards women… all while publicly stating that “there is no such thing as racism anymore” amidst the Black Lives Matter social movement… all of this has some Americans concerned that we are in danger of regressing in terms of civil rights.
Making (All of) America Great Again
And while I agree whole-heartedly with him here: “When America is united, America is totally unstoppable,” I hope he realizes his own role in expanding that pre-existing divisiveness.
He’s never going to unite our great nation if he keeps focusing on eliciting our strongest and most dangerous human emotions of fear and anger, which very readily lead to aggravated aggression.
People in America, on both sides, have a right to be angry. But it’s important for leaders and protesters to keep that anger in check to avoid aggression and violence.
The wise men of the days of old may have succeeded using such tactics, but it’s hard to deny the dangers of a close-minded tribe mentality and its propensity for violence (e.g. radical Islamic jihadists).
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I know the majority of Americans are peaceful and respectful to one another, but hate crimes, harassment, and racist incidents have been on the rise since the election. The “civil rights” tab of issues was deleted from the White House website immediately after Trump was inaugurated.
Internally, we can’t unite with an “us” vs. “them” frame of mind.
Our president is facing an enormous task right now to help our people overcome this ideology. In trying to protect our people and our resources, I hope he’s able to walk that fine line and still work to ensure we’re not also sacrificing the peaceful democratic values we’ve worked so hard to establish and preserve.