We are such fragile creatures, and no matter how civilized our societies become, when it comes to simple existence, it always boils down to ‘only the strong survive.’ In a struggle between harmony and discord, it is natural for tension, bitterness, or restlessness, to win because it needs only a ripple to do so. One evil person can destroy a hundred good ones. It only takes one drunk uncle to destroy Thanksgiving dinner, one angry voice to bring down a chorus of cheer, one school shooter to rip out the heart of a nation, or one terrorist to induce the mourning of the whole world.
I like to people watch. It’s like watching Animal Kingdom. So many different shapes and sizes, temperaments and tempers flaring every time our ego is pricked. It is a beautiful dance when enjoyed by an observer, although not so beautiful in the moment as the experiencer.
We are completely trained in how to act, products of our environment, there is rarely original thought, as much as we like to pretend that there are geniuses in our midst. And when we see how alike we are to everyone else we become caricatures of ourselves latching on to our most unique features and making sure that we are defined by them. We are just so damn domesticated – domesticated animals playing house.
We all love to play until the bully arrives. From the schoolyard to the corporate office, from the head of state, to guerrilla warfare, there always seems to be room for a bully to impose their will.
And being the complex creatures we are, we do whatever it takes to win. You can’t beat guerilla warfare with traditional old-school army tactics, so you change it up. It is an ‘only the strong survive’ world after all, so we latch on to those that can help support our own personal views of righteousness. We are all the heroes of our own story. We are all fighting for justice – not justice for all – but justice for our – our family, our race, our country, our dignity. Even those who are fighting for human dignity utilize the bullies with like minds as their own. How else can we balance the scales of power?
We are such fragile creatures believing we are invincible. Forgetting that just a virus can take us from feeling perfectly healthy to broken in minutes, or that a simple tool can go from adding to our luxurious existence to ending it.
Almost ten years ago, I lost a friend to an electrocution accident. He walked past me and I casually said hi to him, not knowing that two minutes later I would be carrying his lifeless body to the hospital, hoping that it wasn’t too late. If I allow myself, I can still hear the screams – I can still hear my screams. Everything changed for me at that point. That’s when death not only became real, but also became omnipresent. Now every time I pick up a power tool, or a knife, an image passes through my mind of how that simple object could be the final thing I, or another person, touch.
We all take ourselves so seriously, as if in the big scheme of things we are not all going to end up dead. Some of us are playing for another world, and death is a part of that process, while others are totally dedicated to this world and trying to figure out how to make the best of our short time here. Whatever our focus, death is awaiting us all. But, you would never know it from the way we treat each other.
Locked in my room, on my computer, or listening to music, I am wrapped in a world where I love people; I love humanity. As soon as I step out, and have all of my likes and dislikes trampled on by others, while listening to their endless complaints, I quickly change to being fed up with all of existence. But I am a creature of extremes with only moments of equilibrium. And when I stumble onto those moments of contentment, I hold on to them for dear life, begging the world not to do anything that will trigger my downward spiral into the abyss of dissatisfaction.
I am weak, attached to order and common sense. It is hard for me to see the strong impose their will on others and be ok with that. It is hard for me to hear about drone strikes and not think that it goes too far, that it surpasses the universal laws of fairness in warfare – of course there is no fairness in warfare, the romanticizing of bloodshed is always done by those who are not on the battlefield. It is hard for me to hear about kids locked in concentration camps and accept that as politics. Why are the qualities of humanity not part and parcel of humanity?
As Americans, we are obsessed with the struggle between equality and freedom, between taking care of all of humanity and the need to indulge our fighting spirit, a spirit that has sustained humans for thousands of years. And we go on pretending we’re civilized, but when we feel threatened we always resort to tribalism. How else can we explain the brutal separation of families as a government deterrent to illegal immigration? We were so desperate to send the message to immigrants that they were not wanted, that we didn’t even think out a proper policy for separating parents from their children. Instead, we just let our brutal, barbaric, animal instinct take over and demanded the separations in the shadows of a policy-less system.
Caitlin Dickerson of The New York Times has been investigating the family separation of immigrants on the Mexican border for most of the past year. In an interview with Renee Montagne of NPR she tells us that when family separation started, border agents would first process parents and their children as families and give them a unit identification number, but when it would come time to separate them, “… they would re-designate them in government computers. So, they would not appear in government computers as a family. Once they were separated, they would appear in government computers as unaccompanied minors and individual adults. And this identification number, which was the sort of a crucial link to be able to track the two later, was deleted.”
You may have noticed that earlier I said, we let ‘our’ brutal, barbaric, animal instinct take over, and not ‘their’ animal instincts. That is because it is not them, but us. It is all of us. The actions of our government are our actions. Even if we as an individual didn’t put Trump in office, we as a nation did. We, as a nation, are filled with tension, bitterness, and restlessness, so it is only fitting that we as a nation elected such a leader.
We, as individuals, have to contemplate on what our vision of a beautiful world is. This is an animal kingdom after all, with all shapes and sizes, temperaments and tempers. It is a beautiful dance when enjoyed by an observer, although not so beautiful when we are tearing each other down. We should ask ourselves, what is our responsibility, if any, for the upliftment of humankind. If we choose to not take a side, then we side with the bully in charge. We cannot pretend we are against oppression if we don’t speak up against it. This may be an animal kingdom, but even animals protect their weak. We are such naturally fragile creatures that only when we stand together are we able to hold each other up.