When I was a kid, I remember studying World War II, and asking my Dad how so many people could have united behind Hitler’s horrific vision. He told me, with tears in his eyes, that it was much easier to unite people in hatred than in love. I walked through the world for many, many years, with a deep belief that human beings are not “basically good,” as Anne Frank wrote. According to history, human beings are basically suggestible. The loudest, angriest voices seem to have had the most sway over the masses.
Over the past few years, I’ve watched the group-hate mentality screaming all over this country. Whether people are united in hatred of other races or other socio-economic statuses or other educational levels or other religious beliefs – it is unity in hatred of the other. Not me. Not the way I think or look or act or believe. Not me. The others are wrong. The others must go.
I recognize that I am someone else’s other. I represent something or someone that somebody hates. I’ve certainly read it at times on the internet, and I was reminded of it just last month. I was having some yard work done for my mom in Oklahoma, and one of the guys working recognized me from television. He was so excited to tell me that he and his wife loved my character, Mary, on The Ranch. I thanked him, and told him I felt honored to have been trusted with playing her throughout her story – first as awesome, filthy comic relief, and then, as her addiction progressed, as a woman in hopeless terror, hurtling toward self-destruction. He said “Yeah, in most of your tv shows, my wife and I are rooting for your rich bitch character to DIE and just, I don’t know, get choked to death, and then finally we’re all hoping you DON’T die. You know? We were just so used to hoping you’d DIE. That was so cool how much we DIDN’T want you to DIE!” Call me sensitive, but hearing, face to face, that two people had snuggled up in their living room, hoping I would DIE was a little unsettling, even if it was just a character I played on tv. I was off kilter for the rest of the day, thinking how easy that was for him to say, and how innocuous it seemed to him. He didn’t wish ME dead, but he wished MY KIND, the kind of people I had portrayed, dead.
I, too, have wished people dead in the past few years. I felt justified, because they were spewing hatred and violence and anger. But am I not guilty of the same thing by screaming with my friends and family about them and wishing their leaders and their ways of thinking dead? THEY preach hatred. THEY preach violence. And yet I lie awake at night, imagining “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” ringing out across the land while flags fly at half-mast, and dancing around a funeral pyre of books about the art of the deal.
So I am guilty as well. The hatred dripping off the people I hate has infected me too. Feeling justified does not make me feel any more peaceful when I lie down in bed at night. This morning, I read “It is plain that a life which includes deep resentment leads only to futility and unhappiness. To the precise extent that we permit these, do we squander the hours that might have been worthwhile.”
So today I will try to do better. I will try to remember that we are all in this together, even when we are diametrically opposed to one another. I will drive along a crowded street and recognize the absurdity and deep delusion of my perpetual inner monologue, “everyone ELSE is traffic.”