Just a quick observation: I’m deeply intrigued at the number of people who occupied Wall Street, protested the secrecy which shrouded the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, and railed against Guantanamo who are now longing for the murderous call-it-terror-so-you-can-drone-execute-it regime of President Obama. Giving him the aspirational Nobel Peace prize only to see the expansion of citizen surveillance, contracted murder by remote control, and other horrific acts of treachery hardly validates those who now lament the transparent inhumanity of the Trump Administration. The America that Trump promised to “Make Great” is an America that is illiterate, Evangelical, and “believes” as their primary source of moral confidence. When the Prince of Peace is white, white-robed, wearing the 70s hippy length hair or nailed to a cross – it’s no surprise that his sycophants will celebrate the denial of human rights to brown-skinned immigrants from Palestine who were trained in Egyptian schools! Tragically, if you get this last line as a joke, you’re admitting a literacy that most of the Trump electorate will find too complex to grasp.
I grew up in a world of RIGHT. There was a RIGHT way to think, act, live, engage in the world. And RIGHT was curiously defined by the selective application of Biblical literalism… almost. Never mind that the Bible itself was codified by the same church that declared modern-day Evangelicals heretics and burned them at the stake, drowned them in rivers, and subjected them to being drawn and quartered. But “divine inspiration” – the same justification that fuels all modern fear-based inhumanity – somehow makes this group of white men sitting in the Mediterranean breezes RIGHT. I could be told the “truth” at church on Sunday about imaginary rules made up by a zealot but would be punished for lying about what I saw or imagined. RIGHT had to be enforced through violence, separation, and isolation.
To say I didn’t fit in is the understatement. I was advised against living the way I chose to live. I was warned about the evils of associating with the WRONG people. And off I went and did it anyway. And against the backdrop of RIGHT, I’ve just crossed a WRONG chasm of my religious upbringing from which there’s no return. I’ve spent the last year formalizing my several year estrangement and separation from my wife of nearly 30 years – a process now finally, mercifully completed. Ironically, I am doing the “RIGHT” thing by doing the “WRONG” thing rightly! Countless women have surrounded the woman I loved and have encouraged her to “stand up for herself” and not tolerate my behavior. Ironically, none of these women – nor any but a few men – saw the life I gave in service to a person who I chose to love and protect. What’s RIGHT is their indignation. And now her friends have the facts they need to be RIGHT! I’m the man that “left”. That’s all her lawyer and her friends need to know despite her reported vain efforts to explain that they may not be integrating all the facts. Whether it’s the perversion of divorce or the building of a wall on the Mexico border – the certitude that comes with RIGHT encourages the mindless acquiescence to a consensus of fear, pain, and separation. No dialogue required – we “know” what is RIGHT.
Being RIGHT always comes at a cost. By definition RIGHT dictates a duality in which someone or something “else” is “wrong”. RIGHT is incapable of surviving on its own as it takes energy to maintain the vigilance around those who would challenge or the evidence that would contradict. Not surprisingly, RIGHT invites conflict with others who hold their alternative views of RIGHT. I’ve been intrigued at how many narratives of all-powerful divinities apparently need ardent zealots to keep their worship obsessions sated and their egos inflated enough to stay at their helium-induced remoteness. And RIGHT conveniently obviates the need for that inefficiency called thoughtful conversation and dialogue. RIGHT also extinguishes the impulse to gratitude. Because with RIGHT comes its evil step-child, EXPECTATION. When the “right thing to do” becomes the “expected thing”, callous neglect for humanity is just around the corner.
Donald Trump’s exercise of Executive Order is precisely what adherents to RIGHT desire. It’s far easier to have dictatorial paternalism than to engage in the messiness of thoughtful inquiry. However, like so many sociopaths before, Donald Trump is playing his hand too fast. Because mobs of the RIGHT can get down-right vicious when they stop being pandered to by their overlord. “Hail Messiah” can become “Crucify” in about 3 days, I think. Abortion and immigration in one week? Seriously! This should have been a first 100-days gig – not a first week. Because before long, President Trump is going to have to start doing things that are WRONG. When is an ex-wife or girlfriend going to do the tell-all (maybe even including a salacious abortion story)? Does anyone actually believe that a paid non-disparagement is anything other than the opening bid for a publisher? And when he does, the knives that will be sharpened on his hate-filled friction may very well turn against him. The half-life of RIGHT is only as long as it satiates the ravenous appetite for hatred, fear, and a sense of disempowered victimization. But like every other parasite, RIGHT will consume its host and by the time the host knows it’s been had, it moves on leaving an empty shell behind.
What does the notion of RIGHT have to do with the economy? Well, the answer is quite simple. Economies are built on the exchange of value and, at its core, or modern sense of economic value relies on “a willing buyer and willing seller being informed of all the facts.” Now, to be certain, no one reading this blog has been fully informed. We know, for example, if you are reading this on an Apple device (computer or iPhone) that the metals contained in your product may be sourced from areas of active genocide as Apple continues to enjoy the dubious commitment not to sign pledges to source metals ethically. And frankly, if you are among my Apple-using friends, you probably don’t give a shit about that! You can be informed and, even with the information, you don’t care that a 12-year-old is packing an AK-47 and learning to rape and maim so that you can have longer battery life and faster video! You can watch Oliver Stone’s Snowden and be indifferent that Google and Facebook are overtly and covertly used by the CIA and countless clandestine organizations to map and target you as a potential threat as long as you get “free wi-fi” at Starbucks. In the interest of saving a buck, you’re willing to shop at Walmart paying no heed to the carnage it has done to local community businesses. And frankly, informing yourself would actually take effort, time, and discernment. After all, how do you know what is RIGHT? Am I right?
Let me propose an alternative narrative. I’ve spent my life traveling the world connecting people who didn’t have the means or the opportunity to connect. From the steppes of Mongolia to leprosy communities in Nepal, from volcanic ridges in Papua New Guinea to sweltering monsoons in India, from laboratories in Moscow to Presidential palaces in Iran, I’ve been able to carry perspective around the world and from that weave an elastic, resilient network of humanity. Vodka bottles became greenhouses, torpedo tubes became essential oil distillation chambers, nuclear technologies were transformed into medical diagnostics not because it was the RIGHT thing to do. It was the suitable thing to do in a fully informed context. That fully-informed context could only be accessed by genuinely loving and respecting the divergence perspectives that make life interesting.
What I found on that journey is that in every instance where my life has made an impact – it’s never been because I was RIGHT. It’s because I was there and in fellowship with others who were also there. Whether its Trump and his wall or a divorce lawyer and her defense of a woman against me – I’m equally un-phased. Both survive when they’re fed fear. Both thrive on “alternate facts”. And neither can evidence a better world rendered by their actions. Thankfully, I have been privileged to see the fruit borne of a different approach. One that presumes that eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is just eating fruit! Talking snakes and fiery sword-wielding angels are merely distractors to see if we’ll fall for the binary illusion. Trees are just trees. Gardens include weeds. And being naked doesn’t mean that anyone has to be ashamed. When you start your cosmology with an imposed lie of separation being RIGHT is the only solace you can hope for. But it’s an itchy fig leaf and it makes your bits scratchy. I’ll choose life’s alternate facts.