Southern Views

Generalization usually are the death of any kind of communication, for in order to speak in that fashion, the opposing group has to be reduced to a stereotype, which in fact, probably does not fit any real person, no matter how strongly one’s opponent may seem to fit into it.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

I remember one day, as I was driving into Atlanta with one of the people I take care of for a medical procedure; I overheard Glenn Beck say something that got my attention.  Truly being the type of person who does not know where I fit in the political spectrum, (I think it may be some kind of brain thing, for I am really kind of stoooopid when it comes to this sort of thing), I can pretty much listen to anyone on the radio….be they liberal or conservative.  So this one morning I tuned into talk radio “640” and listened to Glenn Beck for awhile.  I knew I got him because of the “dead air” I encountered. I think it went on for about 20 seconds (or it seemed that way), he so loves dramatic long pauses.  Then I heard his voice.  I think he made a statement that is common from both the right and the left along political lines; a sweeping generalization that made me laugh at first, but then it really bothered me.  Perhaps, because I also have that all to human tendency to make sweeping statements about others in an opposing group…. so it held up a mirror to me about things about myself, that are still more a part of my primitive unconscious, rather than my conscious mind.  I have learned, as perhaps many of us have, that personal reactions says more about the one experiencing than about who caused the event.  This goes for both good and bad, which I feel is a mixture that we try to sort out all of our lives.

This is what he said:  “People on the left are evil.”  I think statements like those are dangerous coming from a man like him, who is a public figure with a huge following.  In spite of myself, I tend to be left of center, but I don’t tilt too far, but there you are, I am not a conservative.  I looked into the mirror to see if I had red, demonic, evil eyes….but no, they still looked the same; I have baby blue eyes not red glowing ones.

Evil, what does that word signify?   One way of looking at that concept, is as something that only exists when good is lacking.  So indifference is there when love is absent.  Or cruelty when empathy and compassion are not present….so as far as the left was concerned, the statement was useless, and in fact did not say anything. Well it did not say anything real or meaningful about the left. It just says something about Glenn needing to make the left into a stereotypical figure, which fitted into a nice neat box, with the lid tightly in place and on the shelf.  However, if Glen has some followers who tend towards being fanatical, well it could actually be a dangerous thing to say and possibly put others in harm’s way.  Gee, maybe Obama is the anti-Christ….some may think.  The left does the same thing, well some on the left, those who get the attention by their inflammatory remarks.  For instance, I am not a member of the so-called ‘tea party,’ but some on the left make some pretty lame accusations that lead me to really not trust anyone on the radio or television or news circuit.

Points of meeting between two people will bring out identical reactions if the encounter is based on ideology or religion, and yes, we must not forget the most dangerous of all… sports.  The worst comes out, and I find it interesting that those who have the most rabid exchanges actually resemble each other in how they express themselves.  Fanatics exist both on the left and the right.

A friend of mine told me about two sisters that he has.  One is far right, a Glenn Beck fan, the other far left, a tree hugger.  Yet he told me, he could not see much difference in how they respond to those who come from another perspective, for both become very defensive and aggressive to anyone who thinks or believes differently.  I was on YouTube the other day and found a rant by an atheist about believers and Christians in general.  Just one sweeping statement after another that really had little bearing on my life, my faith or how I live it out.  For instance, I am very much this worldly in how I look at my life.  I want to make a difference and I have found one way to do that is by my job as a caregiver.  It is good both for me and for those I take care of.  I do think, I ponder and study, but according to this rant, I do none of these.  It was ridiculous.

The same goes for some of the rants that believers present about ‘unbelievers’ of all stripes.   Now I have these tendencies as well and at times I have to restrain myself from fighting fire with fire….we are still a very young, immature and, yes, violently disposed species.  I think that being lost in a cloud of suppositions, projections, as well as unconscious experiences (transferences) that still have a powerful hold from the past, and also the very human tendency to see others as two dimensional objects and inferior because they are different, is so common that it is seen as the normal way to be.  There are lots of rationalist out there, but how many are actually rational.  Logic can be used in many ways and, yes, abused.  In the end, we belong to our own choir and listen to those who sing the same tune we do.  They speak for us, be it from the right or left or center, or from different religious perspectives or from a secular stance.

Doubt and faith go together, no matter what that faith is.  If there is no discernable doubt in my belief system, then I have to erect a lot of barriers to protect myself from being anxious.   This leads to a defensive attitude, with lots of pretentiousness and defensive behaviors.   I have Christian friends who at one time were open to atheist dialogue, but after being burned a few times, now actually have animosity towards all atheists and no matter how I try to change them on this, I fail.  I am sure that some atheists have had the same experience with believers and in the end also have deep anger against all believers.  We are still very tribal and perhaps that will be the death of us in the end, making the majority in any system responsible for the contempt shown by the outspoken few.  I struggle with this of course, for in the end, I speak from my own struggles and from my observation, I know I am not alone in this.

To attack is to invite an aggressive response, equal measure, tit for tat; childish nonsense that leads us nowhere.  I wonder if there are actually any real adults in the world, by that I mean in the best sense of the word.  The answer may actually be ‘no.’  Our personalities are simple masks that we wear to cover up and perhaps hide what is underneath.  What is that?  Well I believe that our societies truly mirror back to us our own inner struggles, our fears, angers and our propensities towards violence.

I know that in much that I say, I am actually guilty of doing it. I do in fact fall into the very same pitfalls that I am complaining about, for if there are real adults out there, I am not one of them. I have two much inner chaos to deal with on a daily bases.  It is my relationship with God, something ‘bigger’ than what I am, that has over the years allowed my inner fragmentation to slowly move towards integration and inner healing.  Though by what I have written, I am still very much a part of the problem.  Real communication and real seeing are extremely difficult, yet I believe the struggle is necessary if we are to continue evolving, and in that process, I believe from my own experience, that a living faith, pondered over, which leads to the actual love of others who are different than me, is our only hope.  Ideologies are too close-ended to help in any real way, politics is corrupt, no, the only way out is to open our hearts to each other and that is made possible by allowing grace to flood our hearts.  We are God’s arms to help and heal; God’s legs to journey towards others…. without that, well, we are just isolated nomads moving towards death and oblivion.

Faith is not a weakness, it has the power to give those who profess it to face life head on, without the need to swerve in directions that may give temporary relief, but in the end is destructive.  Or if there is failure, the courage to get up and keep going, no matter how many times that has to be done.  Our life, I believe, is the seed that is planted that will bear fruit, or not.  Love is not a sentimental feeling, but an awareness of who and what we are.  How we answer that will most likely influence in a deep way how we actually live out our lives.  Before God we are naked, nothing is hidden.  I find that freeing, for since I am truly seen, I need not fear whatever I will encounter on my inward journey.

In the end, on some level that perhaps we may never see in this life, we really do choose.

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Mark Dohle

Mark Dohle

I am 62 years old and have lived in the Atlanta area since 1971.  I am Catholic and my faith is important to me, yet as I age the mystery continues to deepen, so I read broadly and try to keep things somewhat open ended. I work with the aged and the dying. I was in the Navy for four years and I guess I am life of center when it comes to politics, but not too far left. Actually, I am kind of a political moron.

I am the third of  11 children; ten still alive, one died in in 1958, three days after birth.