Resisting The Urge to Demonize

Gathering_StormYesterday I drove over to central Vermont to met with a long time friend I haven’t seen in a while. Just before I came to her village, I saw two very young deer standing close together near the road, watching the cars go by. I slowed down so as to be able to respond to them should they bolt into the road. No need, as they stayed exactly where they were.

Sunrise now comes about an hour earlier than it did in late-December. This morning there were dense clouds to the east and breaks in the cloud cover over the lake to the west. The weak late January sun struck the western most clouds, bringing on a soft pastel glow. We have just enough snow cover to enhance the effect.

This past week has been fraught with challenges and echoes. The president placed a portrait of Andrew Jackson on the wall of his office, then proceeded to bar Islamic refugees from the country, stranding people in airports here and abroad. (My heart goes out to them, even as my stomach churns.) Not surprisingly, there has been an international outcry, much of which seems based on the likelihood that his policies will only empower extremists, and thus misses the point. Fittingly, his executive orders came on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Here in the U.S., and around the world, there is a large and growing movement of resistance to his actions. Sadly, the president is only a small part of the problem. Congress has led the way in undermining social and ecological programs, and rolling back civil rights gains. They openly praise the reign of Jackson, who cared little for law, and nothing for people. The vice president seems little better, if a lot more politically savvy, so much so that he publicly came out against the president’s actions. Of course, he used much of the same rhetoric against women and gays when he was governor of Indiana.

It has long been the task of healers and spiritual leaders to stand up to evil, which is, too often, embodied in groups of politicians and religious leaders who seem all to eager to do its bidding. May we stand together against evil, remembering that we, too, are human and may be seduced by evil’s promise of wealth and power.

I wonder: can we remind one another evil does not exist solely in one person, no matter how visible s/he may be, and agree to hold all politicians, and others, who seek to do harm as they enrich themselves and their allies, accountable? Can we consider together how we may do this without demonizing those who abuse power? Surely the last century has taught us that demonizing others dehumanizes us and lays the groundwork for more evil.



9 thoughts on “Resisting The Urge to Demonize

  1. Really good post. It is so easy to become self-righteous when we know we are on the side of good and to see the other as evil. I am working on speaking out when I believe an act is wrong without demonizing those who do what I believe is wrong.

  2. I saw a photo recently that said” Turn back your clock 3oo years” pertaining to the inauguration. It hit me. We will repeat mistakes over and over until we get it right. I want to go to an airport and protest, to resist. This is not normal, Michael, but it’s becoming really horrific. Much love to you always.

  3. Thich Nhat Hahn’s FB page posted a quote of his the other day reminding us that acting out of anger is not the best practice. Acting out of compassion is the goal. Clearly, Mr. Trump is suffering from (at least one) mental illness. The Republican Congress is acting out of anger. I do believe there are better ways to be, and I don’t believe that humans are demons. We are all humans.

  4. Such wise counsel, Michael. The choice is not an easy one to make, but it’s true that what we focus on – fighting evil or building compassion and connections – profoundly affects what we do and who we become.

  5. Been looking on aghast at what is going on-and he’s only been in office a week! I think that maybe there will be legal challenges to what he’s doing, though I’m not politically or legally savvy to know for certain. Maybe wishful thinking? Wishing for peace.

  6. This time is very difficult to handle correct. Even I do believe in love and compassion, I find it so difficult not to think and compare, how Hitler got his power from back then. People actually voted at him, just like now, and he promised to build up a new and strong country, just like now. What will happen next? When will people get enough? Then what? I have lots of questions, but don’t know the rules well enough in US to know, how all this is possible to avoid to repeat.
    I will continue to send out love and healing and do my best not to think negative.

    1. Irene, I often awaken in the middle of the night, wondering where all of this will lead. I find it increasingly difficult to avoid negative thoughts and anger/despair. Yet, I also know they may not be useful.

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