I’m musing on the evidence of polarization in both a post by Doug Plummer on his Dispatches blog and some of the responses. Click here to read them. Two things come to mind, M. Scott Peck’s definition of evil: (From Wikipedia, originally from Peck’s book, People of the Lie) An evil person:
Projects his or her evils and sins onto others and tries to remove them from others;
Maintains a high level of respectability and lies incessantly in order to do so; . . . Is unable to think from other people’s viewpoints.
I’m reading a door-stop-sized book by van der Hart, et al, The Haunted Self, about trauma and dissociation in which the authors describe how nearly everyone automatically splits their "Apparently Normal Personality" apart from uncomfortable "Emotional Personality". Often times the uncomfortable parts are seen as "not me". And if it’s not me, it must be you. Cultures and leadership often exploit this. Either extreme side of political divides can exploit this tendency to see the "other" as evil. As the step-child of a Holocaust survivor, I know the worst that can happen. In my 51 years, I’ve seen the worst many times, Rwanda, Cambodia, the Sunni vs Shia, Darfur, and daily, the extreme child abuse that I treat in my work. I see much of our "liberal" vs "conservative" political discourse holding the same kind of evil. As a psychotherapist, who is gladly obligated to deeply connect to every client, the labels fall off within minutes. And as a psychotherapist, I’m deeply sensitive to any person or group disowning the evil inside and projecting it onto the other(s).
How about we see each other as reasonably well-intentioned human beings who have different opinions? What if we confronted our leaders, on either side, if they dare promote anyone as unhuman and worthy of contempt? What a different discourse we would have!