Readers of this column might be aware that I also write about food and cooking for Examiner.com. Sometimes the two general areas cut across each other in a startling way, as when I was struck speechless by something that I read on the Huffington Post over the weekend.
If you have never heard of Rev. Lillian Daniel, she is an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ and a published author. In connection with her latest book she had an article on HP, which was where I saw it. The article was fine, but it was one particular thing in it that brought me up short.
You can take care of your health in many ways--and I hope you do--and our conversation after church never strays far from that subject. There are several foodies in the Latino congregation at the Episcopal Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Tucson, and we have lunch after church every Sunday. This morning I completely forgot the orange pound cake that was sitting in a plastic box in my dining-room table, and now they are waiting for next week in my freezer. But other people brought stuff and we were talking about cooking and what to eat, as usual.
In fact, we talk much more about that than we discuss religion at the Coffee Hour, which suits me fine. But we do all know that negative emotions do things to you, like raise your blood pressure and cause excessive secretion of stomach acid. People who live in a state of emotional disturbance have more heart attacks and strokes, and this has been known for a long time. It isn't even unusual to read about it.
So what Rev. Daniels mentioned in her column was a stunning one-sentence summary of what you are doing when you indulge your Inner Child in hate and anger. She put it like this: Resentment is like swallowing poison and then waiting for the other guy to die.
Wow. This was re-echoing through my mind as I watched a two-hour program about the establishment of democracy in South Africa this evening, and I saw the connection to the people who lived through that turbulent time and saw their dream of a democratic government realized. The white and black South Africans who dreamed big and kept their moral compass were the ones who triumphed over a right wing that sank so low as to train the anti-white black South Africans in bomb making and guerrilla warfare because they sought to use the blacks as their shortcut to...well, just killing more blacks.
But it didn't work. Nor did it work in the American South, as we bear witness to this weekend with the anniversary of the civil-rights struggle in Alabama. It isn't going to work in Arizona, although those who use Arizona's government to persecute the Latino minority are gambling for very high stakes indeed. It seems that encouraging racial animus is worth it to our officials, who have forgotten what I used to call the first rule of human stupidity.
The stupidest, most self-defeating idea that one can have is: there's no tomorrow. No matter what I do today, there won't be any consequences. This is the kickoff for the chain of events that we call addiction; it is the source of unintended pregnancies and sexually-transmitted disease. "I want what I want when I want it."
"There's no tomorrow," is the mantra of the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, who are taking it down as they imagine that the Teabaggers are going to dismantle the United States government. The Stupid Party now thinks that anything to get votes will be fine in the long run, and they have never been more wrong. And for the wing nuts, the idea of beer-bellied "preppers" holding off the Armed Forces, or even the National Guard, is laughable. Can you imagine the crack-head amateur militia, whose livers are the biggest organ of their bodies, trying to put enough beer into their bunkers so that they can survive an Apocalypse?
Well, they think it's doable. If you are still steamed about Ruby Ridge you might remember how one-sided the actual conflict was. And you might want to check your blood pressure; in case you don't know it, all bets are off when the tanks show up.
When you are considering what people say when their opinions are radically different from yours, there is an important question to ask yourself. Are you really prepared to make a major change in your life as a result of things that you learn? Or are you just waiting for them to finish their sentences so that you can launch into your rant?
This is why there is little point in discussing religion with an atheist. If a person has made up his/her mind that the circular argument answers all questions, you might as well buff your nails as join into a conversation in which a believer or unbeliever is defending against competing points of view. When it gets down to, "I don't believe in God because there is no God," it's time to go home.
As a former entertainer (on a very low level), I listened to two women discussing their "beauty secrets" not long ago. As they discussed treating their hair with lemon juice and their faces with olive oil or Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, I sat silent. I wasn't about to tell them that I search high and low for fine personal-care products and use nothing else; were they ready for that? I don't think so; they were chuckling about how clever they were to make an end run around the beauty industry with their ill-conceived brainstorms.
So if you are simply not open to new ideas, you can sit out a conversation and keep your blood pressure lower. I was thinking about this when I saw the interviews of the white South Africans who had voted in the momentous first election there in 1994. They were so excited about democracy and fairness--quite unlike their counterparts in South Africa's right wing that was firebombing and assassinating members of the African National Congress. Those white Afrikaners had changed their minds; they had learned something about the black Afrikaners and they were prepared to change the paradigm there through the election.
As our country might be building up to another civil rights crisis, which will rush over us if the Supreme Court votes to overturn the Voting Rights Act, we all need to think about religion and morality. We need to assess whether we truly have open minds. The African Americans who fought the bloody battle of Selma, Alabama are, for the most part, still living. And right now America is a powder keg of increasing poverty and perceived injustice--witness the Occupy Movement, which will rise again out of nowhere if the situation becomes sufficiently extreme to warrant it. A new coalition of black, white and (in the case of the Southwest) Latino Americans is on the horizon. Whether they will feel the need to get into the streets remains to be seen. But I think that it will be seen--not long from now--and we as a nation will reach another watershed moment when we see new leadership pick up the torches from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others like the heroes who are still living, like Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rep. John Lewis.
Some of them are out there already, in Phoenix and Washington, D. C., and elsewhere, watching the situation closely. Mixing the dangerous cuts in government with civil-rights injustices is poisonous Kool Aid, and I wonder how sick we have to be before we are mad as hell and we won't take this anymore.