You’re picturing me naked, aren’t you?
So anyway, flash forward to yesterday and I scroll to a news image on my Facebook feed showing the most recent police reaction to the protests at Standing Rock. Morbid curiosity being what it is, I skim over some of the comments. One in particular, a visceral and hate-filled single sentence of vitriol raging against the “pigs” stood out, so I hovered over the commenter’s name and found this:
I had to sit and stare at it for a few seconds. I might’ve even blinked. I felt like one of those robot twins from Star Trek (TOS) that are foiled when Kirk uses the Liar Paradox on ‘em like a boss. Not upset, just gobsmackingly confused. After checking out his profile, I discovered he refers to himself as a “police accountability activist” and specialises in confrontation, accusation, and presumption of evil-doing. Those are my words, not his. He’s also from Portland, Oregon (fucking hippies), but that’s neither here nor there. Somewhere along whatever extremist journey he was on, he’d gotten his wires crossed and thought that antagonism and hatred were valid tools in his work to become a better person.
Notice I didn’t say anger. Anger, a perfectly valid emotion, has its time and its place and should not be discounted ad-hoc.
Who defines what being a better person is? Is it completely subjective? Is it something we pick up along the way, or is it inherent in us as humans, only to be bastardised and twisted by experience along the way? I tend towards the latter, but I really had to think about it for awhile after seeing this.
Hate is learned behaviour, not emotion. It’s born from long simmering acrimony, unprocessed trauma, lingering resentment, and just as often nurtured through long exposure to those that hate when we’re most pliant and vulnerable. It’s not a tool (though often those that use it are), and it should not be part of anyone’s standard modus operandi. I think I’m pretty safe in saying that when you use crap materials to build your house, whatever well-intentioned foundation it may sit on, it’s not going to be a better house. Compassion is a much better insulator. Understanding makes for a stronger frame. Tolerance – the real kind, the kind that doesn’t tolerate intolerance, tends to keep the rain out better.
There’s a guy, an old boss that I deeply respect, who once, in a moment of minor personal crisis, put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re a good man.”
I wasn’t sure why he chose that moment to say it, and to be honest I can’t even remember what the circumstances of my little freak-out were (they happen so often, you know), but I do recall that it was one of the first times when I instinctively did not question and just let myself feel it. It was a soothing hot tub in the middle of a December Norwegian forest, and I climbed in naked as the snow fell to just soak.
You’re picturing me naked now, aren’t you?