Though I never claimed to be a patriot, especially in its current disgusting and violent iteration, I have always respected the individuals who did join the military* and wanted to aid in the protection of the people and way of life of this country.
I find it intolerable how many of the very same people in the military are protecting hold so little regard for that service, especially for those who are black or brown. I am white, so I cannot even imagine what the nonwhite experience is like, but I find myself moved to anger at those who, without thinking, will denigrate a nonwhite at the drop of a hat and justify it with ignorant and irrational excuses biblical quotes out of context and some twisted understanding of individual constitutional rights. Over time my anger at my white male brethren has made me cautious and suspicious of people in general, mainly white people. I find that I have slowly become demeaning of my whiteness as though I belong to a sick group of humans that seem incapable of redeeming themselves, though, at a deeper level, I know this not to be true.
Over the years, I have personally known maybe a handful of black people, men, and women all of whom exhibited a remarkable commitment to their lives and the lives of others. One, a close friend when I was in the Marines, was killed when we were in Vietnam. Others whom I worked closely with in various capacities also gave of themselves in very profound ways. I hate that their contributions were denigrated every time the whites decide that they are better than the black population in general. I’m embarrassed by general white behavior and constantly wonder what can be done to turn around this negative ground between white people and black people.
I know the only one who I can change is myself. To that end, I have looked at my prejudices, i.e., prejudgments toward black people specifically and all people in general, and worked on changing my internal narrative. It’s a slow process because most of these prejudices are unconscious and only float to consciousness on a piecemeal basis. Not all lend themselves to a quick resolution because of long-held conditioning, but I’m dedicated to doing what I can in the name of becoming more whole and more supportive to myself and others. This doesn’t make me better than others; goodness knows I am as flawed as anybody, but I also know that these flaws will be dealt with within the open light of day instead of keeping them hidden in the caves of my unconscious. It’s an ongoing process that I’m pretty sure will not become anywhere near complete during my lifetime.
This process of becoming conscious of my unconscious motivators and shadow aspects is a prolonged process fraught with pitfalls and social-emotional landmines. It can often undermine my sense of self-esteem. I’m a trained psychologist who prides himself in his willingness to become vulnerable as a way of opening to reality and ferreting out where I need to change. I am also quite clear that this is not for everyone, especially those who have sought out like minds to justify their points of view and feel like they belong and are accepted by their peers. How do I know this? Because I do it too. Belonging and acceptance and the love of those around us are potent motivators in forming our beliefs and behaviors that are empowering and those that denigrate.
Carrot and stick diplomacy meted out fairly and consistently seems to me to be the best way of beginning the process of collective attitude change, i.e., rewarding the desired behavior while punishing the undesired. The Chauvin case is an example of a fairly applied “stick” consequence to someone who didn’t seem to believe in the sanctity of all life, and if this were consistently used across the board might help to shift the collective point of view but will only do so if there is an equal shift in how we reward the desired behavior of treating all people as equal under the law that I believe is the real meaning behind the phrase and declaration that all men are created equal.
Of course, no effort, no matter how well-intentioned, will ever be embraced by everyone, but those who just can’t see their way to treating others with respect need to be treated consistently and held accountable for their actions regarding their treatment of others.
Hate and mistreatment should not be a matter of opinion or a sanctioned right by any ruling, legislative, or law supporting body. Hate and mistreatment are wrong and should never be tolerated or endorsed in any form, nor should philosophies or points of view support hate, mistreatment, disenfranchisement, the demeaning of others, and sanctioned division and polarization. That’s how humankind throughout history has dealt with those who were different. But that is caveman mentality, and I would hope that along with our technology and political systems, we would have matured beyond the neanderthal mentality of domination, disenfranchisement, banishment, humiliation, and death as a means of controlling a point of view. I think we have. There’s so much of the opposite being played out across the world so that the positive changes get lost in all the sound and fury of the fearful minds that want to close off the march toward equality and justice for all because it threatens its sense of dominance and power which they have for generations construed wrongly as leading to safety and security. It doesn’t and never has over the long run.
Free speech, independence, and so-called “state’s rights” that lead to the disenfranchisement of people should never be accepted at any level. We will never become the country of our Declaration of Independence if we accept hate and disenfranchisement of any of its people.
We ultimately must learn how to confront our shadow side and deal with it honestly and openly.
*In the interest of full disclosure I was a Marine and served 13 months in Vietnam between Nov 1967 and Dec 1968.