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A popular plot in film, books, and TV involves someone depended on to be trustworthy who is not—a boss, a friend, a spouse. Friendly neighborhoods can secretly be filled with vampires or devil worshippers or zombies. Even children and toys can suddenly turn on their loved ones with murderous intent. Mirrors suck people in and houses, hotels, or apartments can imprison, torture, and destroy lead characters. And those are the fun plots that proliferate!
In real life today, we commonly toss around terms such as traitor, hate monger, or mass murderer. Strangers we will never know (if we’re lucky) hack social media, ruin computers, and create havoc merely because they can. Once, those of us whose bank accounts were anemic could count on being left alone because there wasn’t enough profit to make crime worthwhile. No longer. Crime seems to have entertainment appeal. Little old people and people on disability and veterans who’ve suffered enough are popular targets. Shooters choose to kill little children or party-goers, and protestors blow up babies in daycare. No wonder we’re a suspicious, conspiracy-addicted population. Victims are chosen for being vulnerable…period.
But wait. The biggest losers in this environment are the good guys. We’re afraid to love and trust ourselves and our good instincts…or anyone else…in case we need to hate ourselves later for being gullible. We’re afraid to give anyone the benefit of the doubt. We’ve cowered in our homes during lockdown, conjuring visions of evil beyond the door. In the impactful BBC series BROADCHURCH (Season One), a good-hearted old man is destroyed by rumors. Allowing those who are poisoned by distrust to mistreat humanitarian service workers proves our loss of courage and critical thought. We don’t stick up for them IN CASE they’re not as good as they seem…or maybe because they are as good as they seem, and we’re not.
One of the most effective strategies for control is to turn people against one another, because unity and community make us powerful. We need broad perspectives to make wise decisions. But the goal may not be wise decisions. Women who have not reached a point where they aspire to moral rationality—such as certain politicians—are being promoted as role models precisely because of their weaknesses. They fit the old stereotypes of self-absorbed females. Well educated women or minorities who care about serving civilization have been scary to the insecure for a long time, but recently as women begin to band together to insist on common sense, they’re attacked. Likewise, men who aren’t violent and LGBTQ are depicted as soft or evil instead of steady and thoughtful, regardless of their contributions to the welfare of others. Paint them as villains. Take not their breath but their voices away.
Distrust helps create mobs—inside institutions and in the streets, and mobs don’t think. They surrender to herd mentality so that only the one in front chooses the course of action. People parrot what’s being said without enough questions. Listen to the interviews of participants in the Insurrection. Suspicion becomes a way of life, an automatic response to anything unfamiliar. But we don’t have to live there, even if we take time to counter modern threats. We can remember that we’re connected whether we like it or not, and we can make that connection feel like family or infinite conflict. One character in Louise Penny’s mystery series is a brilliant poet who writes a book titled I’M FINE—meaning “fu—ked-up, insecure, neurotic, and egotistical.” When we admit we aren’t meant to be right all the time and listen to one another, we can release our fists and work together.
Thanks for shining a light in the dark corners. Tough topic, beautifully expressed…