In a blog I wrote months ago titled "The Devil 2.0 (They Ain’t Us)”, I shared how I was working on a book focused on the topic of why there is so much division and polarization in our country and the world, and what the possible solutions are. I noted that much of the polarization originates in the need to create an enemy, and that adversary manifested in the invention of the "devil" – something that originated in religion. Although it is a challenging subject, I occasionally share some of my thoughts, musings, and preliminary drafts of what I’m writing in this space. Today is one of those times.
This past week, two juxtaposed events reflect how polarization and the need for an enemy have shown up. One event is the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The other event was a tragic shooting of three people at a Dollar General Store in Jacksonville, Florida, in which the gunman also died. The Jacksonville Sheriff reported that the gunman had written "several manifestos," including one to his parents, in which he detailed his "disgusting ideology of hate." The Sheriff has described the shooting as racially motivated and a hate crime.
Doubtless, much progress has been made to bridge the racial divide in America since Martin Luther King's iconic speech at the Washington Mall in 1963. However, there is still much to do. A relative of one of the Jacksonville victims said when interviewed, "It's hurtful. I thought racism was behind us, and it's not." Apparently, humanity still needs to create a demon. In this instance, it's not a religious devil, but a secular one. This made-up adversary is “The Devil 2.0.”
The two events conjured up memories of my own. Many of those memories I have not consciously thought about. But such events, both the March on Washington, which was positive and helpful for advancing humanity, and the shooting in Jacksonville, which was dangerous and detrimental to our evolution, trigger memories. And here's a portion of a draft of a book chapter tentatively titled "Are We Screwed?”:
The sign said, “Whites Only.”
I had read and heard about such things. But I never actually saw them in real life. It was for bathrooms reserved for white people. It is one thing to know about America's version of a caste system; it's another to subject its citizens overtly and blatantly.
It was the summer of 1963, the same year as the March on Washington. Although the courts chipped away the Jim Crow laws that began in 1865, racial division and segregation were still a way of life in America.
My father, stepmother, brothers, and three sisters were journeying from Freeport, Long Island, New York, to Miami. When I encountered that sign, we traveled through Georgia to a state that may as well have been a foreign country to me - Florida. Legalized racism was blatant and unmistakable in the South; it was subtle, less obvious, and insidious in the North.
W.E.B. Dubois prophesied in 1903, "The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line." But Dubois was only partially correct. Polarization based on race was the most obvious, but the divisiveness and polarization problems we face run more profound than the color line, as significant as that is. It is only a symptom of a deeper, more profound disorder that appears in many other ways.
The Us vs. Them divide runs deep, and it appears there is no common ground -culturally, economically, religiously, and politically.
What’s behind the division? What’s below the surface and the root cause that has led human behavior to pull us down a path of such polarization? It’s incumbent on those here and the emerging generations to imagine, articulate, and build a completely different world.
No one is coming back to save us. But there is good news - we have all we need to save ourselves. Our job is to uncover what that good news is.
More to come.
Peace and Blessings,