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How many ways have we heard of that humankind can be eliminated? Tectonic shifts, super volcanoes, massive tsunamis, nuclear war, robot rebellion, zombie apocalypse, alien invasion, desertification—and there are more. As side dishes, we serve mass murderers, serial rapists, sadists, and evil geniuses sworn to domination—and we even depict their likenesses for entertainment! What wonder that we start feeling vulnerable and even depressed? Idealistic hope is on a starvation diet. Add to that the titanic shift against tolerance and the rights of the individual that large segments our population have experienced recently, and we begin to wonder if ALL America’s water is poisoned.
When I was researching my last novel THEY’RE IN YOUR MIND, I came across a warning by a Hawaiian holy man who was as serious as death. I was desperately searching for any excuse for the alarming decline in compassion and integrity I had seen in certain public figures. He said aliens who look like praying mantises are injecting humans with tiny invisible beings that thrive in the brain, turning good people bad by encouraging negative decisions and hatred while stealing away creativity. The only vaccine is loving kindness. (The little buggers can’t stand it.) No one would argue that humans who hunger only for personal power aren’t hugely irritated by compassion. I’m reminded of a line from GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman when the demon Crowley is standing beside his friend the angel Aziraphale as they watch Jesus being crucified. Crowley asks something like, “What did he say that so offended those around him?” and the angel replies, “Be kind to each other.” Crowley nods knowingly. “Oh, yeah, that’ll do it.”
Perhaps it’s the tendency of nature to seek balance, but as certain people have sunk lower and lower, defiling standards they once espoused, obscure others seem to be rising. Our democracy has survived thus far this past year not because GI Joes with their assault rifles fought off people who looked suspicious (although for groups such as the Proud Boys, looks have been weighed more heavily than accomplishments when identifying enemies). Many citizens lack a clear concept of what democracy is, much less why we’ve sacrificed so much to preserve it, so they’ve been easy to convince another form of government would be better.
Ironically, our democracy has been saved by dedicated security forces who suffered grievous injury opposing someone’s seditious neighbors and, just as dramatically, by stalwart grandmas and mothers as election workers who are consequently being terrorized, government officials who wouldn’t abandon their values, and a young female assistant who dared to tell the unvarnished truth because she was disgusted as an American. People we barely noticed are holding the line at great personal cost. Anyone who doesn’t feel humbled isn’t paying attention.
If the country turns away from the forces of self-destruction at the polls in November, I just might take another look at the warning of that holy man. Those who hold doggedly to love—love for their best selves as well as for others—are the ones who are able to stand before these winds of fascism that are being pumped up by members of the court we had relied on to be responsible and unbiased. In the H.G. Wells’ classic WAR OF THE WORLDS, humankind is saved from becoming food stock for aliens by the tiniest warriors on Earth: “…germs of disease.” Love has no size at all yet is limitless. No wonder it’s so powerful when deployed. Any one of us can be the energy that makes a difference.