Last week, something heinous happened in Charlottesville, Virginia. Media is still replaying the most shocking moments and politicos are busy demonstrating how much they hate hate, and accusing each other of not hating hate enough.
Also last week approximately 192,000 people died of hunger and hunger related disease. About 211,000 children perished during the same period of time, 70 percent from preventable causes.
No one protested, or changed their Facebook profile, or signaled their virtue on social media.
“Who are these people, these protesters?” We ask ourselves. We worked sixty hours last week and barely had time to go to the bank and the drugstore. After the bills are paid there isn’t going to be a lot of money left over – certainly not enough to drive to another state and carry a torch, or shout at someone carrying a torch. Protesting must be some kind of privilege that we don’t have. We would protest our inability to protest, but again, we don’t have the time or the money.
Most of us, privately, when we’re not virtue signalling and restating the obvious that racism is bad, hate is bad, and bad is bad, simply wish that the protesters would go away. All of them, the extreme right as well as the extreme left.
But they’re not going to go away unless something changes. The extreme right is infected by a disease of the mind that becomes viral under the right conditions. Misery loves company, and people who are miserable and afraid often seek someone to blame for their misfortune. They reinforce each other’s fear and prejudice until it becomes hatred.
It is a sad irony that such hatred wrapped in nationalism is simply another form of the very socialism that the extreme right claims to hate, but it wears a brown shirt instead of a red one. We thought we had cured the brown shirt sickness of Nazi Germany, but it never completely went away, just into remission.
On the extreme left another movement rises up to confront the sickness like the body’s own immune system responds to a pathogen. Unfortunately the movement’s combination of totalitarian political correctness, insufferable arrogance and extreme hatred of its own is not a cure for the ailment.
What we saw in Charlottesville, and what we are seeing in college campuses, in social media and continually aggravated by mainstream media, is an autoimmune disease. The national body is attacking itself, and as the disease spreads, government is ready with its own toxic drugs of control.
“So doctor, just how bad is it?” It’s hard to say. If you look at the numbers, we are still well within a decades long trend of decreasing violence, but incidents of violence have ticked up in the last couple of years. The level of pain we perceive may not be a good indicator of how sick we are. For example, a little toe is a very small percentage of total body weight, but it seems to contain an extraordinary number of nerve endings when you bash it into the leg of the coffee table in the middle of the night.
If we run with that metaphor in the dark, our old friend mainstream media seems intent on putting things in our path to trip over, and some of us are inclined to kick the coffee table in pain induced anger and break a foot. This is how little problems become bigger ones.
The best cure for a jammed toe is to leave it alone or put some ice on it. Those who suffer from autoimmune diseases have to be careful not to consume things that aggravate their conditions. An old Hiawassee, Georgia story comes to mind that suggests a possible treatment for our current ailment.
Some years ago a long time Hiawassee resident told me the story of an incident that happened back in the 1970’s when the KKK came to town. I asked him how the town responded and he said, “Well, we didn’t. Hardly anyone showed up to watch, and the few that did just shook their heads and laughed. After a while they just went away and we forgot all about it.”
Some would say that ignoring a disease risks letting it spread. But what we have done so far in the echo chamber of social media and the scab picking of mainstream media has been to aggravate the condition. By confronting racist fear with violence, we feed that fear and strengthen it. Perhaps our response should be more along the lines of benign contempt.
I’ll leave you this week with the words of Martin Luther King, who said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.”