I think many people in America are exhausted right now. I know I am.
Hateful people will do that to you.
You see, it’s difficult enough on our best days, to get out of bed knowing that there will be all sorts of adversity out there; unexpected challenges and unanticipated conflicts that we could never foresee or predict. It’s a Herculean undertaking just to be willing to brave that likelihood. It’s another thing entirely, to know for certain that you will experience spectacular hatred simply by choosing to participate in this current version of America. It is a given now.
When hateful people have power (as they now do), they embolden other hateful people, giving them license to unleash the God-awful things that they’d otherwise keep concealed and subjecting the rest of us to a regular cavalcade of horrors. This is what our country is experiencing in these days: a Renaissance of open bigotry—and it will level you if you have a working heart.
The other morning I saw a picture of a middle-aged man at a convenience store with a t-shirt that said, GRAB AMERICA BY THE PUSSY. My first thought was, “What on earth is wrong with him?” My immediate follow-up questions were about his wife or children if he had them; about his parents, friends, boss, pastor or church. I wondered how someone becomes the kind of man who would see a GRAB AMERICA BY THE PUSSY t-shirt and think, “This is just what my wardrobe is lacking!”
And I grew weary.
Then, I happened upon some Twitter trolls with MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN hashtags, harassing a Muslim-American woman with vicious, vile messages about “going back where she came from” and taunting her with images of bombed out Syrian villages. I started to engage them, and they quickly commented that being a “filthy Jew libtard,” I should leave as well. I considered breaking the news to them that I’m not Jewish, but would feel no shame if I were—
But I just became tired.
Later I read our President’s Twitter feed; a seemingly endless parade of angry, nonsensical ramblings, wild accusations, unhinged conspiracy theories, and mischaracterizations of the Press, women, immigrants, Democrats, protestors—most of America. I began responding to him.
But I grew exasperated.
I surveyed the latest monstrosities manufactured by Jeff Sessions, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Steve Bannon, and Mike Pence; all their racism and bigotry and misogyny and warmongering. I considered an opposing response, but soon gave up.
I felt drained.
I happened upon a Facebook post from a former church friend back in Charlotte; a bitter, racially charged tirade about “lazy people living off the Government, finally having to be responsible.” Knowing he was a Christian, I started to reply with some quotes from Jesus that I wish he’d consider.
But I quickly became fatigued.
I overheard a conversation at a local coffee shop, with a woman going on and on about how much Donald Trump, “clearly loved his wife,” and how she had “zero respect” for Barack Obama as a husband and father.
I nearly went into a coma.
It was barely 11 AM.
I strongly considered going back to bed.
Lately, many Americans are enduring such days with stunning regularity, and coming to terms with this irrefutable truth: Hateful people who are bent on being hateful will wear you the heck out.
They are thoroughly frustrating because they do not respond to facts, data, honest questions, personal stories, heartfelt pleas, civil discussion, or any of the things many of us grew-up believing people wanted when engaging in disagreement. They are fully entrenched in their heavily fortified position of contempt and they are not budging. And so, even if your instinct and intention is to build a bridge or have a conversation or find common ground with them, they have little interest, if such things mean having to relinquish any of the hatred their hearts have become so set on harboring. They seemingly would rather retain rightness than entertain reality—and this is fully tiring to encounter every day.
Now six months into perhaps the most openly hateful Presidency in our nation’s history, I confess that I am profoundly exhausted; of lazy racial stereotypes, of alternative Fox News facts, of hackneyed narratives about Muslims and gay and Jewish and brown-skinned people, and of a President who is mortally allergic to decency.
The Scriptures of my religious tradition often mention Jesus withdrawing to the solitary places to pray (Lk 5:16, Mt 12:15, Mt 14:13, Lk 22:41.) I imagine this is how he was able to sustain himself while encountering hateful people while not becoming hateful himself—how he was able to keep being the voice of love surrounded by so many bitterly opposing voices. I am trying to find this healthy rhythm of withdrawing and engaging, but it is hard to come by.
Like the vast majority of this country, I want it to be the place where equality, diversity, and decency find sanctuary, and though I am fully committed to the aspiration, I am feeling the cumulative weariness sustained from a small but fierce portion of the population (including far too much of its leadership) whose narrative about the world depends upon acrimony for so much of it. I know that I’m not alone in this emotional depletion and physical fatigue.
But it will not consume me and it will not change my heart toward the world. It will not derail my path or alter my convictions.
I will be a person of love here or I will die trying.
If you find that you are similarly weary today, be encouraged. Rest and resist and fight to remain loving.
Hateful people are exhausting—so refuse to become one of them.
Originally Published on JohnPavlovitz.com
Photo: Getty Images