I had determined not to answer any work emails, or to be as fixed on the daily news cycles, as has become the pattern for many of us in the weird reality of 24/7 news panels and daily Twitter storms. I more or less managed the former (just the odd, "this is urgent"). The latter was more difficult. At one point during our vacation it seemed like we were on immediate course for a nuclear war! It's difficult not to take notice of such. And then came Charlottesville with Neo-Nazi, fascist, White supremacist bully-boys (and girls) looking for a fight—and getting one—in a liberal Virginia college town. It has been gut-wrenchingly painful to be a United States citizen over the last year. I wish it were other, but this seems to be the new normal. I've seen many folk get angry. Others have become depressed—don't they say that depression is anger turned inward? My predisposition is of the second kind.
I'm looking out on a beautiful, warm day, the sun through the trees causing a myriad of dappled greens on the lawn. Nature is flourishing. But I'm not at ease.
I suppose Obi-Wan Kenobi would call is "a disturbance in the force." I think of it as a cognitive-emotive disequilibrium in the collective unconscious, a "not-quite-rightness." And I don't feel "right." It might be something I ate last night, but I don't think so.
The turn to incivility, hate speech, and "telling it as it is" is producing a harsh culture. People seem free to accuse, to name-call, to objectify at the merest whim. It has the effect of pulling you down, and you either get angry or depressed—neither of which is ultimately healthy. In all of this I'm looking for kindness, and on some days I have to try really hard to find it.
Jesus said, "What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles." Cruelty and hate come from the inside and produce words and speech that hurts. We're seeing too much of that. So what to do? For myself, I am resolved not to return hate for hate, cruelty for cruelty, and unkindness for unkindness. That requires a lot of inner work—dealing with my own propensity to hate and do violence. It requires, too, a carefulness with words—to use words as healing balm, rather than weapons of violence.
Yet is can't remain as a merely personal response—not only contemplative. We are all connected and I am resolved to use my connections with others for good.
Next week I start my fall teaching: War and Terrorism, and The Ethics of Love, back to back—the juxtaposition of humanity's worst and best impulses, and Jane and I will be helping foster carers and caseworkers think about working nonviolently with kids in care. Besides this I'll be working with others at the university on a series of panels and events under the title "Bridges not Walls." I'll see, also, Palgrave Macmillan's publication of my book "The Fragility of Tolerant Pluralism" that, hopefully, will add something positive to the mix of discourse in social and political philosophy.
There is much work to be done, both inner and outer. The more of us resolved to the task, the better will be the world.
Be kind today!