Friday, July 31, 2009

An Open Letter to Liberals

A must read, for if you do not read it, yo won't know what it says. Thank you

An Open Letter to Liberals

By Robin of Berkeley
Hello, my name is Robin of Berkeley.  I was left but last year turned right, and, if you'd like to know more, you can read Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Robin (But Were Afraid to Ask) by clicking (below).

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter which I've been meaning to pen for a while.  I just had a provocative conversation with my editor extraordinaire which has prompted this piece.

He informed me that I'm getting more attention from liberals, though not the venerating kind. Luckily, he spares me the real ugly missives  (the main reason, by the way, that I don't post my email address; opening e mails that read, "Hi, I'm looking forward to your tribe being exterminated," would not make my day.  I can barely stand the ones that say, "Hello, my name is Niger, and you have just inherited big money from Ethiopia.")

But in this strange new world, more hate mail is a compliment.  It means I'm generating more readership; therefore my Homeland Security risk level has gone up from green to orange.  I'm no longer just an aging, working stiff in Berkeley, but I'm considered a planetary threat on the level of carbon dioxide.

Most of the nastygrams are in the form of trolls. The concept of "trolling" is  news to me, as is everything these days.  I have to admit that the idea of people cyberspying and then posting insults is a bit creepy.

But more than this:  growing up I loved trolls.  Adored them.  (For you young un's, trolls were these ugly beige dolls that resembled little cavemen.)   I had several, with flaming green and blue and yellow hair, and I carried one everywhere.  So the idea of my precious childhood dolls invading my work place is a tad unsettling. 

Maybe I should just be grateful because I always wanted to be popular growing up, to be in with the in crowd.   But back then, the pay off was more dates not more hate.

So I'm writing to ask a burning question: Why are liberals still so angry?   Given that you own almost everything, how come you're not just chilling on the couch, gaming and partying, rather than posting and trolling? 

Now, I shouldn't even ask the question given that only last year, I was you.  I blew a gasket every time I heard the words "Bush" or "Cheney."  But the difference is that my party had lost.  Defeated underdogs tend to be all pissy and indignant.  How could any of us survive bosses without being able to sit around at lunch and vent about how stupid they all  are?

But it's different when the winners are on the attack.  If the top dogs go ballistic, all hell can break loose.  When the boss spies on you, calls you a  c___t, wishes you were dead, and curtails your free speech, well it's time to hightail it out of there.

Some people say this is politics as usual, but I don't think so.  I've never witnessed this level of anger from the party in charge.  When Clinton was elected, for instance, I was happy as a clam.  I really believed in the dude.   So I could snooze in the back of the car, not paying much attention to Washington, confident that my beloved (at the time) Democratic Party was in the driver's seat.

My gut tells me that three factors are at work:  One is power;  that by remaining hypervigilant, like hawk eyed sentries,  your movement won't lose a moment of traction.  

My second theory is more troubling:  that the Left is motivated by revenge, so pissed off about George Bush that many liberals are still foaming at the mouth.

On one level, I get it. Anger  releases pent up frustration, and it's an adrenaline rush.

But pretty little Carrie Prejean was trotting off to high school geometry class while Bush was waging war.  Sarah Palin was cleaning up Alaska -- which thrilled the liberals at the time -- while Cheney was crafting policy. 

That's the problem with revenge; it rarely hurts the true miscreant.  Bush, of course, is whacking weeds happily  in Crawford, and will rake in the bucks on his memoirs.    As the old adage warns  "an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind,"  because  revenge only create more destruction and new wreckage.   

But the deeper reason for all the animosity is, I think, the indelible and searing power of trauma.  We are a traumatized nation. World War II offered some redemption to a country reeling from slavery, the Civil War,  WW I, the Great Depression.   It produced the "Greatest Generation'" and the pride and honor of defeating fascism.  

But Vietnam devastated families all over the country, including my own.  I don't know if you're old enough to remember, but people sat transfixed in front of their TV, waiting to see which numbers would be picked. When my brother's number was called, I thought my parents would collapse.  When he went off to the front lines of Vietnam, I wasn't sure how we'd all survive.

He did and we did, but he almost died, and our family was never the same.  People spit on him when he returned, and his personality went from happy go lucky to bitter.

Many Baby Boomers are still traumatized by the specter of Vietnam and loathe this country and the "older generation" who sent them there.  But, though understandable, bitterness makes old wounds fester. Rather than grieve, learn, and move on, we remain mired in the past. And our nation loses something vital:  a new older generation who models forgiveness, unity, and national pride.

And then there are more recent traumas: The Gore/Bush election debacle that fostered deep resentments;  9/11, of course, which shattered our illusions of safety and invincibility; and the Iraq War with body bags and national division.  Now we have a broken economy that threatens our status as a world power.

Trauma, unacknowledged and unexpressed, ravages not only people, but whole nations, because trauma can harden into aggression. And so the Palestinians kill Israelis, and the Israelis kill Palestinians, and it goes on and on forever, and it will not cease, not with new leaders or new money.  

It will never end until we get so sick and tired of it that we scream "Enough," not just at each other but at ourselves; and we stop the war within. We heed Martin Luther King Jr.'s counsel, "You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him."

And trauma will not stop until we see that there is a deeper, more pernicious reason why we keep fighting each other:  that government, any government, whether left or right, likes it that way. The politicos want us battling,  and afraid, and inattentive. And at the same time that they're dividing and conquering us, they're raiding the Treasury for themselves and friends like Goldman Sachs.  

So we can continue with business as usual, as foot soldiers and serfs for the elite, battling each other for scraps like lab rats in a cage.  Or we can declare a truce like a group of British and German soldiers did during W.W. I

Sick to death of warfare, they announced an armistice for Christmas.   Instead of blowing each other's brains out, they drank together and sang Christmas carols; they played football; they exchanged small gifts like chocolate and whisky, and even shared their addresses.  They held services where they mourned their dead together and read from the Bible.

For a brief time they became who they really were -- young boys, barely out of their teens,  more brothers to each other than the old men who sent them there.

I've discovered as a therapist that human beings are all basically the same.   We try to be happy, to avoid suffering, and to carve out a little place for ourselves in this bittersweet world.  We crave love and respect and to feel that we matter.

And deep inside of us, in those places we keep hidden, we know the Truth:  that our lives are short and fragile, and they hang by a single tattered thread.  And in the end, everyone we love and everyone we despise will be gone, including ourselves;  and all our joy, and hurt, and hate will pass away with us,  for our lives are as fleeting as a brief summer storm. 

So I write to you,  one struggling,  flawed mortal to another.  I write as someone who is bone weary of fighting, and afraid of where all this anger will lead.  And I am tired of my government manipulating me into hating one group this year, and another the next.    And I offer this prospect to you, as articulated by the ancient poet Rumi in the 1200's: 

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
There is a field.
I'll meet you there.

What do you say?  Is there really any other alternative?

A frequent AT contributor, Robin of Berkeley is a recovering liberal and psychotherapist.


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