"Calm and Quiet"
- At the Desert Retreat House -
This morning’s New York Times described last night’s Republican presidential debate as “A two hour rumpus that frequently devolved into unmediated bouts of shouting and pleas to the moderators for chances to respond to the latest insult.” In fact, at one point during yesterday’s shouting match, the woman who was translating what the candidates were saying into “closed captions” for the hearing impaired got so frustrated with the cacophony of voices that she simply threw up her hands and described what was happening as unintelligent yelling.
It seems to me that unintelligent yelling may actually be an apt description for much of what goes on in our society nowadays.
Our nasty politics, the way we talk to one another in the social media, perhaps even the way we treat one another in everyday conversations often devolves into a rumpus in which people do everything they can to shout louder than everyone else in the hopes that their voice will be heard above the rest. I sometimes wonder if the phrase unintelligent yelling may indeed be how our own contemporary times will be remembered in history?
The thing that bothers me most about today’s political scene is that all that shouting seems to be effective. The more outrageous Donald Trump is, the more support he garners. He, and others like him, wage war on immigrants, pledge to cleanse the country of Muslims, hurl vicious and crude insults at colleagues calling them “idiot,” “liar,” and “basket case,” and people “eat it up. The louder someone like Trump shouts the more the crowds cheer.
There are many today who say that Trump and his ilk have become so successful because people today are angry and want some sort of radical change. Personally, I think people nowadays are more afraid than they are angry. People are afraid that they are losing jobs, they are afraid they will not be able to afford health care, afraid of of terrorist attacks in the homeland, afraid that the American Dream they hoped to achieve is no longer attainable. People are afraid and politicians like Donald Trump cleverly play upon and manipulate that fear,
The author Paul Coelho once wisely observed:
If you want to control someone all you need to do is make them feel afraid.
Some 80 years ago the people of Germany were gripped by fear. They were afraid because the economy was failing and unemployment was rampant. Hitler used that fear promising to make Germany great again. He ascended to power blaming Jews as the reason for all the country’s trouble and promised to cleanse the nation from Jewish influence. The louder Hitler shouted, the more the people cheered. Ultimately the nation collapsed and millions of Jews were eliminated.
The philosopher, Bertrand Russell, once said
Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation
can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely
when under the influence of great fear.
In our own time, I am not at all afraid of Muslims or immigrants. I am way more afraid of people like Donald Trump. I am fearful of all the unintelligent yelling.
At this time of year many Christians are observing the season of Lent by fasting from certain food or giving up a favorite activity like watching TV. I Just came across a great piece of advice about how any one of us might observe the Lenten fast.
Fast from anger, feast on patience.
Fast from discontent, feast on gratitude.
Fast from pessimism, feast on optimism.
Fast from complaining, feast on appreciation.
Fast from criticism, feast on praise.
Fast from jealousy, feast on love
Fast from selfishness, feast on service
Fast form bitterness, feast on forgiveness
Fast from fear, feast on faith
It seems to me that this advice about fasting and feasting offers some important wisdom not only for Christians during Lent, but for each and every one of us living in these troubled times of unintelligent yelling.
While I can’t control how other people vote or think or what they may say, I can control my own choices in my everyday life. The tiniest and seemingly insignificant little acts of kindness and compassion, patience, service and forgiveness ripple out into the universe, calming the thunderous waves of fear and quieting all the loud shouting.