Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hatred Arises

As if it weren't enough to have another sunny day, and the first daffodils about to bloom in my back yard - already in bloom I'm sure where stones or concrete warm them - today is the vernal equinox. It means that all over the world, day and night are equally long. That seems auspicious, doesn't it?

Sheba is particularly glad to have me up. I've been sleeping longer, maybe nine hours, and she is not in favor of changes in the routine. But I am at the computer where I'm supposed to be. And she is under the desk lamp, so it's pet the cat, type, pet the cat, type.
Shift to a subject.

There was an error in our grocery bill yesterday, and it got me to thinking about a couple I know who always check the grocery bill before they leave the store. The woman told me triumphantly, "There's always an error, and it's always in the store's favor."

What is going on here in this very Us/Them rendering? It starts there, a concept of an uncivil world, a society in which These Other People are cheats and liars, not to be trusted, and presumably different than me. I found myself connecting it to an unpleasant incident that happened here the other day in a protest calling for health care, which was attended by that new anger movement called "Tea Pary." These seem to be people who want to be entirely self-sufficient, and want you to be too. No government, certainly no universal medical care.

A friend of ours was sitting on the ground (of necessity) holding a sign about his own health problem; he has Parkinson's disease that has come on young and very strong. Parkinson's makes his lips stiff, so he doesn't speak clearly, and has not been able to teach recently because of that.

Some of The Haters got into reviling him. One of them had the media-savvy idea of throwing money at him, one bill at a time, and saying, "Here, you want a handout? Here's your handout." How ugly can people be? Here he is in the video below, my friend Bob, using it as an opportunity to urge us to political action.

What is it about Haters? What is the source of that anger? We are told that hatred rises endlessly, as if it comes from some well in us. But haven't you noticed that the longer you do a spiritual practice, the less likely you are to feel anger, and to get stuck in it? I have.

My father would have loved the Tea Party during his last years. He went from being a regular conservative racist to being really verbally ugly during that time. These were years of suffering for him, trying to take care of a wife whose dementia was gaining, who did less and became more difficult. I remember going to the mall with them, how she wouldn't really walk, but take a step and stop. Nobody ever figured out why she acted this way, but later she could walk normally if being evaluated by an occupational therapist. She had learned to say "No," and did it often, with the simple delight of a two-year-old.

As for my father, his life was on that downward trajectory that old age can be. Friends lost - I remember when his best friend died. Siblings dying one after the other. Kids and grandkid all moved out of town. What to do with a wife who was no longer the woman he knew. I think he was afraid. He used to say often, "I'm not going to change her diapers," obviously foreseeing that dreadful future. At the same time, he became panicky about his "estate" being eaten up in nursing home bills, and tried to get at least some of it in his kids' hands. Worst of all, a surgeon who had viewed his liver, said he had cirrhosis, and had to stop drinking. My father did quit, though alcohol was the medication he had used all his life. So often after that my father seemed just plain miserable.

He might not have acted like the ignorant bullies who verbally abused my friend, but he would have loved to see it. I imagine him chuckling. It's easy to hate people. Take your own vulnerability, and fear of it. Insist on finding a cause for your helplessness and the sadness of later life. Find that cause, it can't be your actions - ah, it's Those People! - and blame them. Work the judgment so it turns the blame into anger. Let it solidify, you have hate.

Anger feels good - if you don't know that you probably need to try it some time. It comes from a deep energy center in the body, it is like fire, warming you, making you feel alive. You are motivated to risky actions like throwing money at someone. You feel empowered.

Recently I read somewhere that if you hate someone, you have not imagined deeply enough their situation. I can imagine that when I went home for those dreaded family gatherings during their last years, I could have just listened or not listened to my father, and not taken his rantings to mean anything. Not been appalled. I remember one time I was calm until he began reviling about Mother Theresa. She was a fraud, he said. Then I tried to argue with him. Well, that was our last Thanksgiving together.

I didn't have to sit and listen to him. Could have gone into the living room. Should have taken a book with me, some kind of nice fiction I could get lost in, I guess. But I always wanted to find some way down under the ranting to the real person I remembered. There you are. Maybe it wasn't a mistake, my own delusion rising endlessly. I don't remember a thing I ate that year.

1 comment:

  1. I had to step into a crowd of Tea Partiers the other day to retrieve my bike. The office of our Congresswoman is below the coffee shop I frequent, and so I was leaving after a nice cup of joe, the newspaper, and a blog post. I found the whole experience confounding. I'm no fan of this insurance reform bill because I don't see a private industry ever "reforming" enough to entrust our health with (which is what we end up doing to a great extent right now), but I find the Tea Party to be such a morass of fear and hatred, and poorly informed about the specifics of the health care bill, as well as most other things. They seem powerfully reactive, but barely touching reality.

    I had no idea, upon seeing these people, how to respond. I tried to smile, tried to remain calm, but mostly I felt a mixture of anger and sadness at the prejudice and misinformation being spewed. Part of me wanted to say something, anything, but really nothing seemed of use. I was one guy and they were 30+ men, women, and children with a loud message. So I just walked between them, unlocked my bicycle, and walked off.

    To me, the most disappointing thing is that there really hasn't been much honest, intelligent discussion about health care and where we might go as a nation. The moment ideas come up, from whatever party, they seem to get mired in pundit double speak and politician ribbons designed to smooth out disagreement and ensure re-election.

    I hope your friend, and people like him and us can provide something to spark a shift. I actually think that even within the Tea Party, there are people accessing some wisdom, and maybe could be part of making things better - if they could crack through the crusty, nasty coating on the outside.