I’ve been reading a book called Sapiens, a nonfiction accounting of human evolution and the growth of culture/religion/industry for all of humanity. It’s actually quite good and informative, and reminded me of what I used to know from my Anthropology classes in addition to those things discovered since I branched off from the field. Part of what is so interesting about it is the idea of “shared myths” which have been the basis for every culture since the start of conscious thought. You would think that would mean shared religious mythology, and it certainly contains that. But what struck me most is the shared myths that have been perpetuated toward the formation of every empire, democracy, etc. That is, the existence of everything in culture is formed as a response to enough people sharing the same imagination as to what it means to be Us. Is paper money worth anything more than the paper it’s printed on? No. But we all believe it is worth something and have based our entire economy on that belief. We have believed it into being.
Now onto our current predicament. When I hear lies told by Kellyanne Conway and Trump, I laugh. I point at it and say “omg no one is going to believe this shit, it’s ridiculous.” But see, lots of people will 100% believe it. Because at the heart of everything we want to see evidence that justifies our views and validates our prejudices. We can look at a mountain of evidence, a tidal wave of stories that tell us “these are people and they are the same as you and me.” Still when all you see is Us and Them, that suffering over there sure is sad, but it doesn’t affect Us so it’ll be ok.
I used to be like that. I grew up with a lot of other white people in a nice friendly white bubble and would think “I don’t get why these black people are so mad” and “I don’t know how I feel about Affirmative Action” and “why can’t everyone just forget the past and move forward?” Until I started meeting more people and realizing so many do not have the same opportunities I have taken for granted. And once you see inequality in one instance, you see it everywhere. That’s not because inequality is suddenly everywhere, it just means that you are now seeing what has been there all along.
Now when you see people taking to the streets, horrified and terrified of new executive orders targeting their family, and Trump tells you “it’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” do you listen to him? Do you ignore what you are seeing and turn away? Do you question why you want to do so? Next time examine your knee jerk reaction and ask yourself whether you would react differently if someone you knew and cared for was directly affected.
Open your eyes to see everyone instead of forcing people into a false dichotomy that you are terrified to lose. Privilege feels good, but that doesn’t make it right. This is not Your America. It’s all of ours. I know you think you don’t have anything against Them. But try to recognize when you do. Be honest with yourself even when it’s uncomfortable. That’s how seeing begins.