Former US Senator Bill Bradley, speaking on Ron Owen’s radio show, tossed out the phrase “Enemy Deficit Disorder.” They were discussing the fear-based politics currently being used to hold onto virulently anti-Gay (or Gay marriage) stance in the Republican party. Some people seem to need a defined “Enemy.” It seems to me such people fall into two groups; the cynical opportunists who exploit the fear it generates for gain; and those whose rigid sense of self and purpose make them ideal for such exploitation. Without an enemy, they can feel lost.
As a Gay married man, when I hear or read the often nasty rhetoric about Gay marriage ruining marriage, corrupting children, threatening religious freedoms and destroying Western civilization, I recognize they are making people like me their enemy of choice. The temptation to return the favor (!) is great, whether speaking of Republicans, Fundamentalists, Mormons, Catholics or Muslims. To do so, however, would push me to a similar spiritual and political bankruptcy.
Living one’s values is a struggle. Understanding that we are all an expression of God or Buddha Nature, reminds me not to simply mirror those who oppress me. While anger and fear are natural reactions to such abuse, it is my responsibility not to act in ways that passes on the abuse.
While opportunists with no moral compass will use whatever they can to get their way, most people who buy into the fear they dish out do it from ignorance and limited perspectives. Rigid thoughts and belief systems are difficult to maintain in a world of diverse thought and experience. It seems easier and less threatening to blame an evil Other than to recognize the limitations of the systems or beliefs one follows.
Positive, flexible people and belief systems do not need an external Enemy to assert their faith or understanding. If we can remember not to demonize even those who oppress us, we can learn how to challenge such distortions with reason and caring values our own.