Do You Have Enemies?
In the wake of 9/11, the conversations of our leaders, our media, as well as our own private conversations, have become filled with the idea of the enemy, and often the word itself.
Unfortunately the idea of the enemy is nothing new for us.
It was 60 years between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the domestic terrorist attack of 9/11, but the time in between was not empty of war.
The United States has been in many wars throughout the years, large and small.
If war is a regular visitor to the United States, it is a resident in some countries.
The world remains full of war.
And there are no wars without enemies.
There are times when there are others who want to destroy us, others who seem deserving of the name enemy.
At other times, those who we do not understand, or who oppose us, are too readily called enemy.
Sometimes we make enemies of those who have different beliefs, languages, or skin color. In recent times, the bitterness that often colors the conversations between Democrats and Republicans has become a conversation of enemies, rather than a discussion of ideas.
It doesn’t matter what my politics are, or what your politics are.
Let’s both resist the urge to mindlessly support our own side, and say that it’s the fault of one side or the other.
Both sides are equally at fault.
There is an overwhelming bitterness that colors many discussions, on both sides of the aisle. It’s like an ancient feud between two families that is just waiting to break out into open war.
Each side just waits for an opportunity to attack the other side.
I’m sick of it, and I hope that you are too.
If enough of us refuse to support this politics of enemies, there is hope that we can get our leaders to change.
If our politicians put that energy into real work, it would be a different world.
Public and Private Enemies
As our involvement in wars rises and falls, the idea of public enemies comes in and out of our conversations. These are countries or ideologies that are said to threaten our country, way of life, etc.
And public enemies are not the only kind of enemy.
Each of us have private enemies.
Sure, we’re uncomfortable with using that word, but we think of them as enemies nonetheless.
For some of us, our enemies are those who have inflicted us with great physical or emotional pain.
When we start thinking about the enemy, hate follows along like a shadow, poisons us, and makes life bitter.
Maybe there is some purpose in forever holding hate in our hearts, directed at those who have nearly destroyed us.
But I don’t think so.
Hate does not empower us to protect what is precious in our lives from those who truly threaten us. It makes us stupid, and it darkens our hearts.
And, while there are people who truly threaten and harm us, privately, or as a country, there are many other people who we only pretend are enemies.
Enemies and Blame
We’re introduced to the idea of blame at a young age, and it’s reinforced as we grow.
We don’t like to think of ourselves as flawed, and full of conflict.
We don’t like to admit that we’ve made many mistakes.
And sometimes it’s even simpler than that.
We face a challenge, and we find that we don’t know what to do.
We don’t like to admit that we’re fallible, and imperfect, and sometimes clueless.
We don’t want to feel embarrassed.
We don’t want to return to that feeling of being a little child, with a world that’s too big for us to handle.
Rather than face our discomfort, and work hard to find a solution, we settle for an easy way out:
It’s his fault.
It’s her fault.
It’s their fault.
We pretend that the only reason that we have a problem is because of what someone else has done wrong.
We sidestep the truth.
We take a real challenge that we could work hard and grow from, and turn it into blame.
We don’t have challenges.
No, we have problems.
And those problems are someone else’s fault.
What is the truth when we find some difficulty in the midst of two sides that blame each other? Most likely, both sides have some share in causing that difficulty, and both sides probably have a role to play in finding a solution.
People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies.
In other posts I’ve discussed the first four methods of persuasion (see links to these articles below).
The last method is help them throw rocks at their enemies.
Politicians, and people at every level of society, often slip into the easy way of enemies and blame.
Find, or manufacture an enemy that you can share with those that you wish to influence, and attack that enemy together.
It’s frightening how effective this is.
And it’s so sad to see how hard it is for many of us to build ourselves up, without tearing other people down.
When marketers use this idea to influence or manipulate their customers, they don’t typically demonize groups of people.
Instead they talk about the forces or limitations that get in our way and stop us from getting what we want.
And they promise to help us attack those obstacles.
Of course, they want to sell us the perfect product.
Some products are wonderful, and can truly help us.
And marketers rightfully speak of common difficulties/enemies that we share.
Other products are useless, and the marketers are only manipulating us.
We’re used to thinking of unscrupulous salesmen as the most manipulative people on earth, but even the worst salesmen don’t spend their time teaching us to hate.