Unmaking Enemies, Unraveling Fear

Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
Photograph © 2017 Peggy Kornegger
We are living through adversarial times in this country. People want to blame others for whatever they believe is wrong with their own lives. Immigrants, gay people, outspoken women—choose one or all of the above, and you have an instant “enemy.” It’s a behavioral pattern that can be traced back through centuries of human relationships on this planet.

Political groups—whether liberal or conservative; left, right, or center—have historically often based their identity on a perceived common threat or enemy—usually another group of people who epitomizes everything they think is bad or wrong in the world. Within small social groups, sometimes even families, people tend to single out one individual as problematic or unlikable. Religions founded in love often don’t extend it universally. Even heaven has been imagined as a place for some and not others (“sinners” are condemned to hell). Why do we do this? Why do we include some and not others, even in the afterlife? On the face of it, it seems ridiculous, an exercise in absurdity, as if humans could somehow control their own ultimate destiny—and who shares space with us on the journey.

We don’t begin our lives that way. As young children, we model our thoughts, feelings, and behavior after the adults who are close to us. The lyrics about racism in the song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” express this well: “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late—before you are six, or seven, or eight—to hate all the people your relatives hate.” Each of us receives that conditioning to one degree or another, wherever we are in the world. For some of us, mistrust and hatred become a way of life, and it dominates everything we say or do. Surely there must be a way out of this vicious cycle of hostility and aversion, based in fear of the “other,” that we are seeing so much of now.

What if we flip the paradigm and make a conscious effort to create a radical shift in this old conditioned behavior pattern that shows up everywhere, within us as well as outside of us? Awareness and intention can interrupt the toxic cycle of otherness, of “us” versus “them.” Let’s “unmake” enemies in this world by unmaking them in our own minds, our own families, our own social networks, and our own communities. Muslims are currently being targeted, along with a whole long list of others accumulated over the years. It’s time to intervene and make friends with those who the haters tell us to hate. Time to choose love instead of fear. Compassion instead of blame (for the haters as well, whose hatred often stems from their own self-hatred).

Just for a moment, imagine what the world would be like without enemies, without anyone to point a finger at and blame for the world’s ills. What if we were all friends, all family? Actually, anyone visiting from another planet would assume these tall two-legged creatures were all related—we look remarkably alike to an outsider. We’re the ones who make up things to distinguish ourselves from one another: skin color, eye shape, religion, politics. That’s how countries started. Separation, boundaries. Then petty grievances gradually turned to wars, and we forgot who we really are, that we who were born on Earth all came from the same vast energy source or consciousness (God, if you will), and we will return there. When we’re on our deathbeds, it all falls away. Nothing matters but the love we’ve shared.

Can’t we just do that now? Pretend we’re dying (because we are) and just love one another. Just love one another. Until the word enemy falls out of use completely, and universal friendship and cooperation is the only accepted behavior. Let’s agree to live love instead of hate, in every moment, every thought, every action. What else could possibly matter as much? Especially now.


2 thoughts on “Unmaking Enemies, Unraveling Fear

  1. I really liked this,Peggy. It made me think about how often I carelessly put someone in a category that distances me from them. Yesterday, Dorothy and I had a lovely Valentine’s Day lunch outdoors where we watched white pelicans, brown pelicans, egrets, herons, gulls, and crows. Then we walked over to a dock nearby where an older, grizzled couple were catching clams. The conversation we had went places I never would’ve imagined, and although we were markedly different in so many ways – he “never goes anywhere without his weapon”- we ended up clearly growing fond of each other by the end of the conversation, which ended with them wishing us a Happy Valentine’s Day.

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