Can we see the enemy?

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2016

We have lived through an awful campaign, fueled by fears, lies, assumptions, gossip, and a whole lot of misinformation. The obvious conclusion is that the road to getting elected is to tell the voters what they want to hear, whether it accurate or completely false.

As tribal people, we rally around and support what we believe; we will fight to the death to protect our ‘family,’ our support group. It’s the same with herd animals; we stick together for survival. We might let another sort of person enter our ‘family,’ though it will be necessary for that new person to be integrated into ‘our ways’ so that eventually that new person will look and act just like us.

The best way to bind a community (the larger family entity) together is to come up with a common enemy. It’s the basis for nearly every war; without a common enemy, there would be no soldiers willing to fight. All of you who are reading this are old enough to know what I’m talking about. We’ve spent many hours in history classes learning about the expansion and fall of the Roman empire, the crusades, our Revolutionary War, our Civil War, World War I and World War II.

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We are also old enough, and hopefully wise enough, to know that the real underlying cause for war is money and power. Many people make lots of money during and after a war, and with that comes power all of that money and power gained at the expense of many lives, families, hopes and dreams. And all was made possible through magnification of fear, whether real or imagined. Fear of losing our community, our family and friends, and the life in which we feel comfortable and secure – that fear will push us to do …

In Sunday School this week a friend said that he had been listening to many post election commentaries and had come to the conclusion that there are probably two endangered species on the horizon: Christianity and white males. I did not say anything at the time, but I beg to differ. My first thought was that we are far more likely to run out of clean water long before we run out of those two entities.

Then I looked up at the sky and added another one to the endangered list: clean air. And why are we in danger of losing the water to drink and air to breathe? It’s because of us, the white men (and women) that we love, creators of our culture and profitable capitalistic society.

Historically we have become wealthy through some form of slave labor, from Jesus’ time on. Child labor could be put in the same category, as well as any low cost labor such as we get through Chinese, Korean, African, South American imports.

But the real money comes from a slave that has no voice at all: the environment.

Oil is free. All we have to do is pay to have it pumped out of the ground. Same with coal and natural gas. The trees for paper are in the same category; we pay for the processing but they have grown on their own. The reason America has been a rich and powerful nation is not because we are so great. It’s because we came upon a continent overflowing with natural resources for us to use as if they were ours.

And we have done just that! We’re smart. We know how to make money. We honor our forefathers who dug the coal and made millions in the oil business. We respect rich people because they are rich.

Here comes the hard part for us all. If we admit that indeed our most endangered species are clean water and clean air, what does that say about our forefathers who whole-heartedly consumed natural resources to get ahead and build the society that we live in now?

We are comfortable. Life is good for us because of what those forefathers did years ago. When slavery ended after the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution brought prosperity back to America, using coal and water and oil and trees and bulldozers.

We’re the richest country in the world. Could that be a direct result of the fact that we are the newest nation with the wealthiest environment? Remember from those history classes there used to be trees and green growth in the fertile crescent where there is now only desert. Northern Scotland used to be covered with trees before they were cut down to keep our ancestors warm. The ocean around Maine used to be teeming with codfish; now there are none.

The only way to reconcile these facts it to admit that our forefathers made mistakes. They did the best they could with the information that they had at the time. We do not have that excuse. We are faced with the dilemma that our wealth is at the expense of humanity as we know it.

The most endangered species is not Christianity or white males; it is our home and our life. The enemy is not someone that we can shoot or imprison – it is us. It is our inability to say “No” to luxuries to which we have become accustomed, to a lifestyle that takes, takes, takes, yet does not want to spend time or money to plant more trees, use solar power that might not work when it’s dark outside, stay home and drive less … you can make your own list.

We are all guilty, each and every one of us. The enemy to fear is within. That does give us that advantage of being able to fight the enemy, if we can simply come to see it. If we can do that, there might be hope.