Malice Is A Sign Of Ignorance

Presume ignorance before malice. Don’t take it personally.

I am hopeful that our country has an awakening from the last four years. I see both sides pointing out malice in each other in nearly every dispute. The liberals claim to see malice in the conservatives and vice versa. Liberals claim to see malice in Trump supporters and Trump supporters claim to see malice in the actions of liberals. What is missing from the political discourse is that everyone is really doing the best they can. There are no exceptions in any venue, on any scale. I believe that if we all could do better, we would.

I have encountered people who believe that Trump and his supporters are acting out of spite. I have also seen evidence that people who support Trump have sincerely held beliefs that Trump would have, or has, done much to make America a better country. I have also seen evidence to the contrary. Either way, I don’t make any party out to be evil. I assume that they are sincere in their desire to do the best that they can.

In my encounters with people, here in the real world, I do the same thing. Yes, we may have disagreements, and yes, people have done things that I could have taken offense to, but I don’t assume they’re evil. I assume that everyone I meet is acting out of a sincerely held belief that they’re doing the right thing. I don’t call them names. I don’t objectify them for their beliefs because that would make them less than human, for I’ve seen people filled with contempt for those they have objectified. People who allow themselves to feel contempt for others have another problem: a sense of impunity.

Impunity assumes that one has a license to do awful, terrible things to others, without consequence. When people act with impunity, with power, upon others in spiteful or hateful ways, they assume they have a license to rage. Life is so fragile. Everyone is vulnerable. There are no exceptions here. Impunity is a myth, for everyone is connected in some way or another, whether we like it or not, believe it or not, we are all dependent on each other in some way. Our interdependence compels cooperation. In every case where I’ve seen people act with impunity against another party, group, individual, or class, I’ve seen the same thing over and over again: reprisal.

Majorities don’t last forever. Majorities are difficult to maintain. People change their minds. Often their thinking matures. Often their allegiances change. The more mature among us are aware that they could be among those who are persecuted. They might be next, and that means fear.

So when I see people persecuting other people, I’m thinking of these things. I’m reminded that I could be next. I’m aware that not everyone is capable of managing their impulses. I am aware that many people act on subconscious impulses, of which they are not aware. When I see people acting out, in protest, in demand, as if they have some power that the rest of us don’t have, I’m reminded of the following verse from the song, Witch Hunt, by Rush:

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand
Ignorance and prejudice
And fear, walk hand in hand

That is us today. That verse was written for a song released in 1981 with the album, Moving Pictures. I believe those lyrics to be more than prescient, they describe a continuing human condition. So often, I’ve seen people acting with malice, as if they believed that punishing another human being for some failure, some perceived offense, will compel them to change. But as anyone who has ever tried to change another’s mind with insults, rapprochement, or ultimatums, the recipient of such abuse will only dig in their heels with even greater resistance. This is the state of our country. Rather than have a logical conversation, with the facts, we ignore the facts and assume that the other side is evil or incompetent.

Until we can set aside our prejudice, our contempt, and our sense of impunity, we will not have peace. If we truly want to have peace, we must listen to the other side. If we disagree, we must refrain from calling people names and just state the facts. If we are met with disagreement, then we must consider the facts stated by others and acknowledge when we are wrong. We must stop playing the contrarian. We must find common ground for compromise so that we can make progress.

There isn’t much time here. Our time here on earth is very short relative to geological time. What a gift we have to live on a planet that supports intelligent life. No matter what we choose to think, our existence here, and I mean the existence of all of humanity, is temporary. So we might as well make the best of it by sticking with the facts, finding common ground where we can, and live in peace while we still can. Malice is a sign of ignorance of our connection to each other, our fragile condition, and just how little time we have left on this planet.

I have considered the alternatives carefully, and I really don’t see another way. We will find common ground and peace or perish in our thirst for disagreement, and the imposition of our will upon others.

Write on.

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