I want us to think about what provokes people into fear. Because I put it to you that the separatist instinct that we are seeing playing out across the country, dividing "us" and "them", is about fear and insecurity.
The election of America's first black president has triggered more than 200 hate-related incidents, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center – a record in modern presidential elections. Moreover, the white nationalist movement, bemoaning an election that confirmed voters' comfort with a multiracial demography, expects Mr. Obama's election to be a potent recruiting tool – one that watchdog groups warn could give new impetus to a mostly defanged fringe element.The article goes on to discuss that a sense of disenfranchisement in Southern and other whites leads to a potential for violent response against Obama and people of color. We can't forget that the Oklahoma City bombings were done by people "like us", and not scary foreigners.
The theologically conservative Diocese of Fort Worth voted Saturday to split from the liberal-leaning Episcopal Church, the fourth traditional diocese to do so in a long-running debate over the Bible, gay relationships and other issues. About 80 percent of clergy and parishioners in the Texas diocese supported the break in a series of votes at a diocesan convention.I know you know all about this, but really, from where *I* sit, it looks like desperately trying to hold on to the past, where women and gays both knew their places and father figures (always white men) channeled authority.
In a recent email urging supporters to attack the Governor for his comments, Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council had this to say: "Since Election Day, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has made statements supporting demonstrations against Proposition 8, and urging California 's Supreme Court to block the amendment's enforcement…Condoning street protests and supporting judicial activist scams to overturn a popularly approved state constitutional amendment approaches advocacy of anarchy. Gov. Schwarzenegger is playing a dangerous game, and it needs to stop. Now."Attempts to suppress peaceful dissent is a major symptom of fear, wouldn't you say? I told you that their next attack would be against free speech.
So, what is it that is so ingrained in the human instinct that some of us need to feel "above" someone else? That people feel threatened by change, or inclusion, sufficient to use acts of violence and words of hate to support their views?
Is it that if someone else is special, we aren't? This sounds like the jealousy of a small child when a new sibling comes home from the hospital--only with the weapons of adulthood.
Some time ago, I wrote here about ambiguity, and argued that fundamentalists respond the way they do because of their discomfort with things ambiguous. Here, I will add that I think fear is also a component.
In these undeniably frightening economic and social times, it is a natural instinct to barricade the doors against what we see as the marauding hoardes. Yet it is precisely now that we need to take the risk to open the door and realize that the "hoardes" are just starving neighbors, and people like us.
With gun sales on the upswing, right wing groups advocating the elimination of free speech, these are indeed perilous times. Now is the true challenge, of living our humane values in the face of fear and violence--not by excluding the fearful, but by trying to reach them.
How do we do this, with the threats of political and social violence?
Updated: Cross posted with some editing at TPM Cafe and Daily kos