The nature of the human brain has taught us to investigate, analyze and conclude. Ultimately, we all seek to determine what is happening around us and to choose the path which we consider “right.” For most people, that choice is based on their moral perspective. In the process of searching for the right path, we generally look for others who agree with us and create a society of our own in which we can exist with like minds. We affirm our values through our religious choices, our political choices, our friends, our education, and if we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity … through our career choices. This is the essence of who each of us “is.”
If communication was difficult before the Coronavirus, for many – it is severed completely now. Here in Israel, the level of animosity demonstrated against Prime Minister Netanyahu and his supporters at protest gatherings in Jerusalem were heartbreaking to see. The demonstrations in the United States which are hate fests are far worse. Blacks are yelling at Blacks. Whites are yelling at Whites… everyone is yelling at the police and elected officials. The solutions for the problems endemic to the anger appear far beyond reach.
There is no question in my mind, that the US President has missed an opportunity to help a nation in pain. He simply is not capable of the sensitivity required. He is what he is, but he is a vast disappointment when times get violent. He is certainly a part of the problem, but he is not the problem itself. It was there before… the riots under President Obama were horrid as well. Each time they re-occur they become more and more extreme and result in more societal damage.
Why does being “right” not matter? Because no one is listening. Communication has been severed. Conversations are not being held. Accusations are hurled and will result in more and more pain if nothing changes.
The timing for discord was inevitable. One cannot take 400 million Americans through months of isolation and “lock-down”. 100,000 deaths from Coronavirus, various forms of government excessive control, loss of businesses, loss of employment and income… and expect a peaceful way forward. Everyone is angry, either with their governments, local and national… and definitely with everyone who does not see the cause and effects of injustice as they themselves do. The current protests and riots are only partially about police racial injustice. They are in a greater sense…about injustice of all variations. Hatred is exploding as everyone looks for someone to blame. Is it Trump? The Police? The Jews? The Chinese? The Russians? Surely if we hate enough… we can rid ourselves of the problem?
When looters destroy storefronts in order to enter and steal merchandise from the likes of Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior… the glaring division between the “haves” and “have-nots” appear to have created a new crime-wave. In fact, these violent offenses had little to do with the issues at hand. The criminals waited for opportunity and it arrived. Be clear, that not all of those events were not spontaneous. The perpetrators fuel the flames but their goal is simply greed through crime. Why steal a pair of sneakers when you can steal a $4,000 handbag?
The week before the Los Angeles Rodney King riots in 1992, I was invited with Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center to attend a briefing with the Los Angeles Chief of Police. We were informed at that time that organized gangs were waiting for the announcement that the four officers would be acquitted for using excessive force in the arrest and beating of Rodney King. They were prepared to create havoc in Los Angeles. The information was correct and owning a store (as we did ) in Los Angles during those riots was extremely distressing. Watching the city you love in anarchy is beyond painful.
A new book is about to be published by neuroscientist Professor Rene H. Levy from the University of Washington in Seattle, entitled “Mending America’s Political Divide; People over Partisan Politics.” It is a fascinating analysis of what has happened to communication between Americans in specific, and the people of most Democratic nations in general – in the recent months and years. He has taken a scientific approach to understanding the core of the problem and finding a specific solution to the what he calls “the science of Hatred.” He explains that “hatred destroys human empathy subconsciously and instantaneously.” His previous published book “Baseless hatred. What it is and what we can do about it” also deals with the polarization of the American population. Both books offer solutions which we can implement… but they require our personal effort and application for success.
Before we can talk about solutions, we must first recognize the problem. At the core of it all…is an inability to communicate with anyone other than those who agree with us. Without talking… listening… considering ”the other’s “views we will continue down a path which will become more and more virulent. Being unwilling to discuss issues …. Means they fester and relationships disintegrate.
We are living in a very difficult age. Technology has encouraged us to talk in “sound bites”. We are so short of patience that we cannot even bother to write complete sentences or spell words completely. We use a few letters to express a sentence, and Emogi’s to express how we feel. Words have somehow become our enemy and those who use them are suspect. Hence communication of any real value has been stymied.
Thus, in the over-charged, emotional environment in which we find ourselves… does it matter if we are right or wrong? Not one whit. What matters is that we are not talking to one another. Families, communities and friendships are being destroyed through anger and intolerance. When the riots and protests calm down, we will see the ashes of what has come to pass. That will be the time to begin talking… and it really will not matter who is “right.” What will matter will be our ability to hear what the other has to say. With a change of approach, there will be potential for wounds to heal.