While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.

Leave a comment

The Bully’s pulpit

Anger is defined as a strong feeling of displeasure, irritation, frustration, or distress prompted by one or multiple causes.  Anger can be free-floating or precisely directed.  Anger can be held within or expressed outwardly onto the surrounding environment.  It can explode in a seemingly unprompted outburst or released as quiet, subtle hostility over time – both harmful and unproductive.  Anger can cause depression so severe that it disables or ends a life; it can fuel action to such a degree that it brings positive and needed change to a life.  It can be self-righteous and self-centered or sincerely altruistic.

Students of history are quick to point out that anger has been a motivating factor in important events that have changed the direction of societies over thousands of years.  Anger at injustice and inequity have fueled wars within and between countries.  Anger has been responsible for changes in religious practices that have historically ostracized, condemned, marginalized, or killed adherents whose expressed beliefs differ from tradition.   Anger has fueled elections that have changed the direction of an oligarchy or despotic government to that of a democracy or republic.  When examined with honesty and blended with compassion, anger can be the primary mechanism by which we create positive change in a negative situation.

In the United States today, we see anger surging to an alarming level.  Anger, and its underlying component fear, are normal and understandable responses to being bullied.  As most anyone who lived through childhood can easily explain, being bullied is all about power – power over someone who is ‘different’, power to be The Most, The Best, The First, etc.   But most telling is that bullies are motivated by their deep needs and fears.  Keeping that in mind has helped many children and adolescents learn to effectively deal with being bullied, and occasionally, to turn the bully into an ally or possibly a friend.

But how do we respond to the adult who bullies, especially when that individual has power over millions of people?  This is the dilemma we are faced with in our country today.  The current president has shown himself to be an admirer of dictators and despots who use strong-arm tactics, abuse, and murder to control their populace.   He appears to be motivated by an insatiable need for power, money, and adoration – in essence, motivated by deep needs and fears.  Is anyone around him helping him see the consequences of his actions?   Is anyone reminding him that this country – his country – was founded by immigrants, political, and/or religious refugees seeking the freedom to live their lives in safety?  From his pulpit, he appeals to deep-seated prejudices and misconceptions about individuals historically seen as The Other.  ‘Keep them out with a wall’, he says.  ‘It will be so easy to build’, he says,  ‘Mexico will pay for it’.  Does anyone close to him ask, “Who are the They that you refer to?”

And what of our elected officials who follow him?  They appear to be so intimidated by his bullying that they will bend to his will even while knowing the severe damage their actions will cause to their communities.   Specifically, the recent successful vote in Congress to ‘repeal and replace’ the ACA – this new healthcare bill will make insurance unaffordable to millions of Americans – myself included.   These elected representatives have chosen to ignore a very basic fact of history: when one group of the populace is hurt, all eventually suffer.  To allow themselves to be so intimidated by the small-minded, mean-spirited tactics of a bully is moral cowardice.

Our national parks and monuments are now under threat of being opened to development by the  very interests that helped install our current president into office.  (An aside – how many of us individual citizens have enough money to buy a politician to do our bidding these days?  None that I know of.)   These treasured spaces were protected for all people to enjoy and value, for generations upon generations.  Now these pristine lands are in such danger of being destroyed by drilling for oil and gas, being mined for the minerals they contain, and for the endangered flora and fauna they protect, that they possibly will change dramatically within one decade.  Lawsuits will hold off the assault for a limited amount of time, or possibly not at all, depending upon the court.

In this, one American’s, opinion, of all the damage done to our country – to our friends and neighbors and children – most harmful is the encouragement to freely express the most base, primitive, inhumane prejudices and attitudes that our species can hold.  Regardless of the language by which these attitudes are expressed – religious, political, national – condemning groups of people and denying them the basic human rights of safety, shelter, healthcare, and autonomy is morally abhorrent.  Basic civil rights that were hard-fought to obtain are in danger of being taken away by a bully and those who follow him.

The individuals running our country today claim to be Christian, they claim to base their actions upon the teachings of Jesus.  But if this is what their god teaches, if their actions represent the true teachings of Jesus, I want no part of this religion.  I want no part of a god who bullies.

We can do better than this.