America Beyond Reason
BY JON FOREMAN
Originally Posted on HUFFINGTON POST
“The hatred of mankind and the hatred of reason are sprung from the same source.”
As a songwriter, I often embrace metaphor and melody over prose. But these times call for clarity. So let me state exactly where I stand.
I am an American who stands against white supremacy.
Against the poisonous ideology of the KKK.
Against these racist, fascist delusions that are so unworthy of what America might yet mean.
My grandfather fought against the Nazis in WWII. He was shot down in Germany and held in a POW camp until the war ended. To see white supremacist Nazi flags roaming American streets is an insult to my grandfather. An insult to a nation who’s creed is equality: “With liberty and justice for all.”
Over the weekend, I got a text from my friend Charles Marsh in Charlottesville. Charles is a professor at UVA, an authority on Bonhoeffer and non-violent protest, who live lives a few blocks away from where these acts of violence occurred.
While peacefully protesting against the white nationalists, he had been teargassed. The words on his shirt said, “Love is the Final Fight” a reference to a book written by civil rights leader John M. Perkins. Years ago, Charles was the one who introduced me to Dr. Perkins, and his outlandish love for even his white oppressors.
After talking to Charles and brooding over the news, I felt such anger for the senseless violence that seems to be building up momentum across this nation. So many deep emotions triggered by the events that transpired this week. Hatred. Fear. Frustration. Bewilderment.
And a part of me wants to respond to violence with violence. To find some sort of sweeping move that eliminates this kind of racism and hatred from the planet. To silence the voices of racist, fascist Americans.
But this knee-jerk reaction is a playground move. No matter how righteous my anger may fee], acting out of anger will not bring about peace. And silencing the ones you disagree with is itself a form of oppression. So instead of silencing and dismissing these troubled individuals, I began to think about the root of their emotional state.
These white nationalists are driven by feelings of anger, frustration, and fear. They feel unimportant, unwanted, and threatened by a society they do not understand. Traumatized by a society that wishes they didn’t exist. There are many seemingly logical reasons why these white males shouldn’t feel the way they do. But reason is not driving these illogical actions- emotion is steering the ship.
Logic cannot make you un-feel what you feel. You can’t tell someone what they should or shouldn’t feel. Our emotions are not logical. Even though fearing a car accident would be a very logical fear, based on statistics; and yet, shark attacks and plane-crashes terrify us far more than texting on the freeway, Fear transcends the facts. Emotions transcend reason. And in heated moments emotion takes precedent over logic.
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No matter how irrational, the feelings of these lonely, frustrated individuals are finding their way to the surface. And these troubled souls have found acceptance and a sense of solidarity in dark and destructive places. ISIS and the KKK memberships are fueled by accepting the marginalized males who have deep seated feelings of anger and inadequacy. The acts of terrorism are done by deeply troubled individuals who are looking for a way to matter. These white nationalists feel accepted by the KKK. They feel strong and brave flying a Nazi flag. These young men are very literally dying to matter. And anger, not logic is driving them.
Heather Heyer was a victim of this anger. Killed in a moment of ignorant, senseless violence. She was a voice of peace, standing up for her belief that white supremacy has no place in a nation whose credo states that that all men are created equal. And yet, a rant on social media is unlikely to change anyone’s world views. And a punch in the face will do less. No, neither logic nor violence can change the hearts of angry men.
So if logic cannot combat the actions of these troubled individuals, where can we turn? In this fog of anger and fear, I look to a man who has weathered these storms his whole life with love and compassion. I look to Dr. Perkins and his life of non-violent protest, loving the marginalized irrespective of color or creed. Love alone can combat hatred. Light alone can expel the darkness. Love can go where logic cannot.
Dr. Perkins has lived a life of love, saying that the healing of our nation will not come from violence. As cathartic as violence may be, it cannot heal the deep dark wounds of our nation. Now is the time for all of us to call out evil for what it is. Churches we need clarity: condemning white supremacy, racism, Naziism, and the KKK. Our haunted nation casts a dark shadow. And the specters of the past will haunt the present and the future until we bring them into the light.
By hating the haters, I enlist their tools. I become one of them. I create more of the very thing I wish to remove. These troubled individuals who have turned to racism and violence will not be persuaded by my angry words on twitter. These misguided souls who have found solace in the camaraderie of hatred cannot be won over with violence. And yet, by choosing peaceful resistance, we offer an alternative to the path of the senseless violence that took Heather Heyer’s life.
Think of the words of Heather Heyer’s father, Mark Heyer: “I include myself in that, in forgiving the guy who did this. I just think about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” Such a powerful statement from a man who lost his daughter because an angry misguided soul chose a moment of violence. The road to healing is a difficult path. But it’s paved with forgiveness and compassion. Not hatred and violence.
I refuse to hate the haters. I refuse to join into the violence. I join with John Perkins in declaring that hatred cannot heal our nation. Love is the final fight.