As a world community, are experiencing increasing violations to our collective belief systems. The iconoclasts are running rampant. Violations of long respected social codes, values, mores are everyday occurances. Nothing is sacred, Nothing and no one is above derision. Hatred, extremes of verbal abuse, hideous senseless acts of violence abound. Indeed they are often applauded or subtly sanctioned. These acts are becoming so commonplace, we stopped defining these behavioral extremes as aberrant outliers. They happen every day. We’re getting immune to them. People who just a few years ago defined themselves as mainstream Americans have gone off the deep end. They put up with things they would never have put up with before. They tolerate even encourage abusive obnoxious language and laugh or clap, or stand up and cheer for it. Corrosive, toxic words and ideas are spewed, hateful, crazy actions occur and instead of people being appalled they applaud.
Through war after war, treaty after treaty, court ruling after court ruling, we as a global collective have worked incrementally to amass a broadly accepted set of social standards. Society has strived to achieve as ordinary, a reasonable standard of conduct, fair rules of social engagement, political correctness, respectful problem solving, restrained discourse, humanitarianism, cohesive cooperative government, environmental responsibility. In this country we’ve strived to achieve Equality under the Law, a Fair and Just Court System, Civil Rights for all Citizens…we’re not there yet but we have improved. We keep trying. Through generations civilization has assembled generally accepted social guidelines that strive to provide safety, maintain order and regulate themselves in accordance with some semblance of reasonableness.
We teach our toddlers to ‘use their words’ rather than hitting or spitting. We try to socialize, raise and train our children to be responsible and respectful, to be polite and considerate even if they disagree or play on opposite teams. Now, it seems without our knowledge, agreement or approval those social guidelines we struggled and died to achieve are being trampled.
Now, people say whatever they want without regard for personal, familial, legal, social, political, interpersonal, international or global consequences. Hate crimes are on the rise, the usual victims being are victimized, senseless urban riots, mass murders, terrorism, school shootings all on the rise. And in this election year, when we look to our would be leaders we see more of the same. Oh it’s masked a bit, perhaps it’s a tiny bit more restrained, but if you scratch around a little you’ll find it’s not different. If you heard even one of the Republican debates what you heard was acrimonious, rancorous, hateful, disrespectful and vitriolic language. The candidates demonstrated bullying, ruthlessness and a profound lack of a moral compass mixed with profound narcissism, ego-centricity and quite possibly a general sense of lawlessness.
The thing about our divided nation that astounds me is who many ‘good old Americans’ formerly Nixon’s Silent Majority are cheering for politicians who would have been laughed off the stage a decade ago. The electorate is wearing blinders. They are cheering in the face of destructive candidates who if elected will regress our society to the Dark Ages. Those cheerers at their core are cheering because something about those ruthless, egomaniacs resonates with them. Those vindictive politicians are speaking for their audiences so they feel they have a voice, they feel someone understands them. But whatever makes these screaming audiences so excited is the same essential raw material that has thousands of young men and woman joining ISIS.
Yes, that’s what I said. The quintessential core, the nucleus the basic raw material that constitutes the basic raw elements of these groups is the same.
I’m not saying they believe the same things but their feelings of rage and hatred are the same. People who are marginalized feel rejected, excluded and in turn they reject the social mores or norms of the group. Whether we’re talking about school shootings, inner city riots, Red State Trumpeteers or US kids traipsing around Syria with AK 47’s, these people feel isolated from their ‘home group,’ discounted, unfairly treated whether by their parents, their classmates, their elected officials or their social structure. Collectively they have a shared sense of being an outsider, of being rejected, extruded or disadvantaged for some reason, whether it’s the color of their skin, their religion, the jobs they have, their country of origin or something more personal. It boils down to this… people who don’t feel they are liked, appreciated or a have sense of belonging accumulate a resevoir of unrestrained rage resulting in a desire to destroy something, even if it’s the world they live in.
As strands of social fiber are torn away these outcasts feel less bound by the constraints that would have kept them in check years ago. Individuals have greater access to a host of weapons, even weapons of mass destruction and extremist groups are scouring the lands for lost lambs, offering them comraderie, a home, a warm meal and a vest filled with bombs. The thing is with the except for conditions with genetic components, we can theoretically have influence over the direction of some of this and all of us have a role to play in creating a world that is kinder and manifestly more reasonable. One place to start is in your own corner of the world, joining with others to create better balance. Another place to start is in the voting booth. Think before you pull that lever. Think beyond one single issue, your guns or teenage pregnancy, think beyond your own ego or anger or the candidate’s sound bites and remember whoever sits in the oval office needs to have the personal qualities needed to reach across oceans and continents. That person needs to have great intelligence tempered with restraint, the willingness to listen to the wisdom of others and the social skills to connect with people of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds.
Life is fragile, the West African Black Rhino and the Javanese Tiger are extinct. We did it to them … think about it.