Reason To Believe

Ignore the 70s hair…

“If I listened long enough to you, I’d find a way to believe that it’s all true…knowing that you lied…straight-faced while I cried…still I look to find a reason to believe.”

Those lyrics always spoke to me, spoke to me about betrayal, about the reality of people knowing they lied, and looked at me ‘straight-faced, while I cried’. Still…I looked to find a reason to believe.

This explains so much of what is going on in the country right now, how more than a few people continue to deny the violence of the January 6th events at the U.S. Capitol, how so many continue to believe TFG (The Former Guy) was cheated out of re-election, that current guy (a.k.a. The President) is illegitimate. That Black Lives Matter = antifa = ruination of the country. Still looking to find a reason to believe.

I have been dismayed, disheartened, but strangely resigned to hearing more than one elected official claim the insurrection was merely a peaceful protest, that video and eye-witness accounts of violence are false. They lie. Straight-faced while police officers were screaming in agony while crowds beat them, tased them, hurled invectives toward them. They lied, and still many look to find a reason to believe.

Because I cannot understand this propensity to deny truth, when it has been unequivocally proven, when there is valid evidence proving otherwise, I am going back in my own history for times I looked to find a reason to believe. When I could see the evidence, but still wanted to believe that someone would not be so cruel, would not knowingly lie while seeing the harm done. When I believed that if I just listened long enough, I would find a reason to believe.

For me, this has translated to some of the darkest times in my life, when the feeling of betrayal dominated my every thought and brought me closer than anything to bringing it all to an end. The pain was tremendous, brought me to my knees, powerless to make it stop, even more powerless to change the source of the displeasure. Powerless. Not a pleasant realization. How can I not have any power? I have a driver’s license and a check book, credit cards, the power to participate in society, no way can I be powerless.

But indeed I was powerless, because the reality of the human condition is that I cannot control any other person. I may be able to influence them, convince them to use their power in a way that agrees with me, that coincides with my best interest, but in reality I cannot “make” them do anything. They decide.

Until I realized that, and conversely that nobody can “make” me do anything, I felt like a victim. I felt that life was a joke, and I was the butt of it. There was a parody of the inspirational “Desiderata” years ago called “Deteriorata”. It said:

You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
And whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.

This I believed. The Universe was laughing behind my back, and everyone else knew but me. Everyone.

Believing that everyone was in on the joke caused me to be angry at everyone and everything, caused me to fight rules and regulations and status quo in any and all cases. Just because I could. The rage and the fight allowed me to feel alive, feel that I had some power, no matter how futile the battle. The feeling of being alive, rather than maddeningly numb, was everything. It was the desperation of a dying woman, struggling to keep her nose above the rising waves.

So, I believe that i understand some of what these insurrectionists, and the political base that continues to support TRG (by any means necessary). I’m sure there are folks in that mix who are merely cruel and convinced of their own superiority, but I would contend they are in the minority. The larger demographic is in pain, feeling powerless, feeling like the Universe is laughing behind their back.

A while back, I started to realize that everyone is raised with certain expectations of how life is going to turn out. Work hard, don’t get into any trouble, do the right thing, drink your milk to make strong bones. If you do all that, you’ll grow up strong and get a job and get married, have your own home and be a respected member of society. You’ll have your own children and they will have grandparents and life will be good. Just work hard. Don’t get into trouble. You’ll be rewarded.

For so many people that’s not what happens. Some of us have always known that. But for some others of us, that’s what has been happening for quite a long time, for many generations. Why would you not expect that to happen for you? When you see that it’s not happening, after you’ve followed the rules and doing what they told you to do, how could you not be at least slightly irritable? How could you not feel that something has been unfairly taken from you?

The issue gets more complicated when everyone has to admit the reason some are feeling they are being robbed of their just due is systemic. The systems that gave you reason to believe these were the rules, that if you complied you’d be rewarded. The systems you’ve believed in all your life, that you believed were the guard rails of civil society and our nation. The systems that provide those rewards you were promised. Now you want to tell us those are racist, and false, and damaging to some other people, and … and…we played by the rules??? WTF?

So, I get the sheer emotionalism of all this. That’s not supposed to make sense. Emotions are not rational, and no amount of empirical data is going to suddenly deflate those feelings of betrayal. No amount of logic is going to remove the reason to believe. For every day that circumstances prove things are not reverting to “normal”, to the expectation that was set long ago, there is more desperation. There is more flailing, more struggling, more kicking and screaming. But still, the water is rising.

If you’re drowning, and someone comes along with a rope and a life preserver, you grasp at them frantically, with all the strength you have left. The “rescuer” is presenting to you a chance for survival, and that’s all you can think about. Survival. If they are the only possibility of survival that you can see, you’ll comply with their orders. If they tell you they are you only hope, and you see nothing on the contrary, you’ll believe them. If they tell you they understand your plight, and your terror, you’ll believe them. If they tell you anyone else who comes along is not going to help you, you’ll believe them.

When you are safely on the shore, or at least able to propel yourself there, you are grateful, relieved, angry at the circumstances that nearly caused you to drown. And sometimes…you feel indebted to your rescuer. You never want to feel so desperate and powerless again. You will do whatever the rescuer tells you in the future, because you trust them implicitly – they saved you from that horrid feeling of hopelessness. You will follow them anywhere.

This is what binds people to TFG, I believe. They do not ever want to feel powerless, and hopeless, like everything they were taught to expect in their lives is a lie. If he’s the only one who understands that, well, they will put all their eggs in his basket without realizing there’s a false bottom there. Many of the eggs drop down to a chute that leads to his private stash. What remains visible is for “the common good” but look out, because unless you produce more eggs, the common good will be underfunded. So, pick up the pace, you barnyard foul.

However one chooses to look at racial inequity, I contextualize it with the proven notion of the economy moving primarily by brokerage of labor. Somewhere, somebody is physically toiling to produce something that someone else can sell, or trade, and that’s what constitutes movement. That’s why there was a Civil War, not over the morality or ethics of slavery, not over the cruelty of it, but over the economic and industrial complex of relegating humans to property status, for purposes of producing domestic product. The notion that certain people have still not been elevated to the status of full human is what fuels the police complex, which is the same old slave patrol of yesteryear, which continues to serve the purpose of cheap or free labor to produce a product that someone else can sell for a financial profit.

Given all that, I remain somewhat mystified by the level of heartlessness, cruelty, depravity still present in efforts to ensure compliance with this social paradigm. Why is it necessary to drag a man across paved roadway by his feet, when he is already restrained? Why is it necessary to shock a restrained man with a taser, repeatedly, other than to assert base dominance? Why is it necessary to kneel on a restrained man’s neck other than to assert control? None of those responses is necessary for the enforcement of any law, or for protection of any person or property.

So, why the meanness? Why the depravity? Back to feeling that you’ve had something precious stolen from you, something you were told all your life was yours. Something you were led to believe was promised, and you need only follow certain rules to receive it. But now, that is no longer true, and you are left with only your anger, and rage, to cope with the confusion of this. If you have a level of responsibility and authority in the system, you just might find yourself blaming some folks for all of this. It has to be someone’s fault. And someone needs to pay for your discomfort.

The notion of placing blame seems to be a human instinct. If something negative befalls you, and you don’t believe you caused it, it has to be someone else’s fault. Look at that person over there, doing the same thing you just got nailed for, and they are walking away without consequences. It’s THEIR fault. They have caused all of this, and they should pay. Next person you see that looks like them is going to get it. And frequently, that is exactly the case.

I don’t know how, or if, we can overcome that instinctual need to shift blame, to explain the unexplainable. This is where mythology comes from, attempts to explain what we cannot understand. We couldn’t quite understand the seasons, so a myth was conceived that explained winter and summer as the result of a dark underworld figure kidnapping a beautiful maiden, whose mother happened to be a goddess. When all was said and done, the maiden was returned to the land above the ground, but only partially, so while she remained a captive of the underworld, the sun doesn’t shine. When she is above ground, the desolation of winter gives way to spring flowers and blooms. Simple. All explained now.

Perhaps racism has created a mythology about non-white people that is exactly that simple. Black people are demons, animals, uncivilized. They are super predators, and crack heads, and can’t be trusted with anything. Indigenous people are demons, animals, uncivilized. They are drug addicts, alcoholics, and don’t want to work because they are lazy. Asian people are demons, animals, uncivilized. They eat live animals and do some unChristian kind of magic on people with plants and potions. Only white people are civilized and close in temperament and attributes to the Creator, so…white people good, colored people bad. Simple.

It just seems like we have, collectively, become so dumbed down that simple mythological lore such as this is effective. In many cases, it is effective, and white nationalists in particular decry any effort to impart true stories of the colonization and settlement of this nation. They refuse to admit that only by means of genocide did Europeans take permanent root in the New World, and refuse to admit – as George Carlin spoke in “Dogma” in his role as the Archbishop when questioned about historical Catholic conquests and conflicts, – “Alright, mistakes was made.” Indeed. Mistakes was made.

Mistakes is still being made. Even more to the point, in these times of instant video documentation, nearly instantaneous news relay, we still deny the actual evidence of those mistakes. We can look our neighbors in the eye, straight-faced while they cry, and still…look to find a reason to believe. Still. Just as when Emmett Till was viewed in his casket, brutally beaten to an unrecognizable pulp, there were still people who denied. Denied that good Christian men could have, would have, done that. Denied that whistling at a white woman could be justification for such a heinous attack. Denied that an all-white jury could possibly have acquitted guilty perpetrators.

Denial is a powerful thing. The old joke is “Denial is not a river in Egypt.” It may not be a body of water, but it’s an incredible excuse for not doing the right thing. It’s now part of the bedrock of our nation, of our society, and allegedly our civilization. Do civilized people allow a 14-year old boy to be beaten to death, for any reason? Do civilized people cheer for public hangings of people who have done nothing wrong? Do civilized people turn their heads when someone is being mistreated, manhandled, raped, killed? We’ve seen our civilized fellow citizens do this and more. We’ve also seen them join in on the abuse, to amplify the suffering, to prolong the death.

That’s not civilized behavior, at least not in my book. That’s depravity, plain and simple. I do not honor nor respect that. Neither should anyone else. There’s no justification or rationalization for cruelty. None whatsoever. There are, unfortunately, punishments and consequences, but even these are not for the enjoyment of the enforcement authority. Even in the case of a penal system execution (which I have MANY problems with, mainly because it’s inequitably applied), the punishment is not intended to cause pain or be “cruel or unusual”. We have codified the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment from our national contract, but it is alive and well under the radar of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The problem with rendering oneself as equivalent to the Supreme Divinity is this – you are responsible. If you are God, you may get more than your fair share of honor, glory, and praise but you will also get more than your fair share of blame for war, pestilence, poverty, suffering. A divinity can probably handle that, but a human cannot. A divinity has greater foresight and infinite resources, We do not. Humans cannot plan interrelationships or consequences any better than we can plan the hurricane season. It’s not all up to us, no matter how great and might we perceive of ourselves to be.

From everything I’ve seen in my years on this Earth, left to our own devices we can screw up a wet dream. Because we can’t see very far down the road, we’ll take the first turn promising even unknown respite. Our need to escape is immediate, because we don’t handle our discomfort very well. Sometimes, the first turn proves effective, at least for a while, but more often it does not. We can’t seem to understand that life is not a straight line, and turns are more likely curves and more curves and rounded arcs of a circle that connect to other circles. We’re not always going to know what’s around every change of course.

The not knowing. That’s our work. Continuing the journey without being sure where exactly we may wind up. Tossing the best laid plans up in the air when nothing seems to be working, and going it alone, on faith. Knowing that mistakes will not be the end of the world, but intentional actions for the wrong reasons will. Knowing that we can’t know some things, and that not knowing is not a death sentence. Bringing ourselves to be human, without pretense and without delusion about what that means. Coming to the table of communion with others, staying there even when you’re still hungry, and blaming no one for your rumbling stomach.

Blame is highly overrated, and it changes nothing. If I am still in need, that doesn’t change because I find out where to place blame for not having what I need. It may cause me to feel better, temporarily, but I’m still in need. I’m still hungry. I’m still thirsty. And I still don’t know what to do about any of that.

Geologically, this is a fault. Where things are pushing together or pulling apart, and don’t match up. It has nothing to do with blame.

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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