by Ryan Dalton
I hope this letter finds you in a moment of rest amidst your busy schedule. I think it is hilarious, wonderful, and bizarre how well I feel I know you, even though we have only physically been in the same room a handful of times. I guess that boasts in the positive inverse of the pseudo-sharing I spoke about in my letter to James, since most of our many interactions have been of the cyber nature.
However, I will never forget the fun and hospitality of the first time Cirvant and I were invited over to your house for a lovely grilled cheese dinner; instantaneous offerings of drinks, hand-made-and-facilitated games with the kids, good food, great conversation, tears (mostly yours) over the Wikipedia page of a story of an Amish community’s forgiveness, and much laughter, amusement, and deep sharing; Ubuntu in its purest form.
And after hours and hours of terrific communion, and several mentions by all parties how it was, “probably time for us to go,” around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, Cirvant and I were on the edge of our seats about to stand to leave, and right there, from your sprawled-out-flat-on-your-back-on-the-carpet position, with your eyes closed, you sighed a weighty sigh and said, “Alright. But one more thing before you go…What is your take on the war in Iraq?” The laughter in the room was probably amplified more by the fact that we could all tell that you were absolutely sincere in your query. That memory will surely stay with me forever.
Anyhow. I’ve been thinking about one of our recent (cyber) conversations where I asked you, “Why are [certain people] so nasty, self righteous, and mean?” Your response was simple: it’s fear. Though my question was more rhetorical than not, and there are probably plenty of other factors that also come into play in some situations, I think you really hit the nail on the head. So many people are so driven by fear in most everything they do. We live in such a fear mongering culture; and if Yoda is correct in his famous quote, then it is obvious that this fear mongering eventually leads to hate mongering, and all of that to our greater suffering. According to the philosophy of Ubuntu, even if only one of us is suffering, then we are all actually suffering.
In this case, I’m not sure who suffers more, the one fearing or the one being feared.
Fear is undoubtedly one of Ubuntu’s most destructive adversaries, for it not only convinces us that we do not need each other, but it further enables and empowers us to be cynical, distrustful, and suspicious of one another. All too often, instead of using our likenesses and similarities to bring us closer together, we use our differences to push each other farther apart; race, religion, class, nationality, sexuality, age, gender, and the list goes on. We set each other up as “the other”, and whisper twisted lies into our comrades ears about how “they”, “the other”, will taint, ruin, or take away what we have.
Fear tells us diversity is to be avoided at all cost, treated discriminatorily, kept at arms length. Fear makes up lies to rationalize the avoidance of “the other”. And we hold those lies as “truths” in our tightly clinched fists, until they fester and turn into hate. Then, we feel completely justified in our hatred for “the other”, because we have convinced ourselves that what they “stand for”, or who they are, or how they live threatens our tiny, little world, our bubble, our warped reality.
I guess it could make us more compassionate with regards to the haters when we realize what a tiring and terrible life-of-fear they must lead; when we realize that behind all of that hate and intolerance, they are just really sad and scared people.
The racist, shooting racial slurs like lasers out of his eyes at “the other”; behind his hate, you’ll find fear.
The religious zealot, shouting fire-breathing messages of condemnation at “the other”; behind his hate, you’ll find fear.
The homophobe, waving a hate-filled sign, foaming at the mouth, chanting meanness about “the other”; behind his hate, you’ll find fear.
The member of a higher class, snootily making rude and incredulous remarks about “the other”; behind his hate, you’ll find fear.
The member of a lower class, snootily making rude and incredulous remarks about “the other”; behind his hate, you’ll find fear.
All of them, just fearful for no good reason, using that fear to widen the gap between them and “the other”. Meanwhile, no matter how convinced they are that they are right and “the other” is wrong, individuals from “the other” are just as convinced to the contrary, only making the gap even more overwhelmingly unbridgeable. How do you think we can combat such fear? Do people even realize how driven and controlled we are by fear? I’m interested to know your thoughts.
As usual, I have prattled on and on. Please send all my love and greetings to the wife and kids. I thoroughly enjoyed your letter to whom it may concern, and look forward to future letters of yours. I always enjoy your words and heart behind them.
Peace and no fear,