America has had a tough week. Never mind that MLK was an American. Never mind that we went from segregated schools and “colored” bathrooms in the 1950s to electing an African-American President roughly 2 generations later. Charlottesville is where we are now. And where we are now doesn’t look very good.
The enemies of the will are walking about.
The will: it’s a posture, an attitude, a way of living. A willing person takes life as it comes and doesn’t keep count of what they deserve, or whether they’ve gotten a fair shake. A willing person looks at the hand they’ve been dealt and fights tooth and nail to turn it into a winning hand because they know the alternative is not acceptable. People are counting on them. Life is precious. And every minute they spend being un-willing is a minute not truly living.
So what does it mean to be un-willing?
Bitterness is that ultimate killer of the will. Bitterness says, “I’ve got a bargaining chip in the game of one-upmanship, and the only way it’ll be taken from me is if it’s pried from my cold, lifeless hands.” The thing is, every moment we hold onto that chip, our hands get a little bit colder and less lively.
When have we seen bitterness this week? If the photo of the crowd of men carrying tiki torches is not an example of mass bitterness, then I don’t know what is. That image is an incarnation of bitterness, a terrible visual representation of the attitude that grasps for bargaining chips in every imaginable nook and cranny of this life, and spreads its sickness wherever it goes. That attitude does not help create a healthy society.
Honesty is the ultimate ally of the willing; it’s opposite is present wherever bitterness thrives. Dishonesty enables us to create fictions that venerate us and our kind, and to spread lies against an enemy that in reality does not have the power to harm us.
What has been dishonest? We, the members of the majority culture, have been caught up in a seemingly benign dishonesty for decades, that has allowed us to think we can save face, and avoid the consequences of our history of sins against the minorities living among us.
Willing people don’t back down from the truth because they know they can’t. The truth is just another part of life that they take by the horns, just like everything else. But they take it because they know that if they can face their history, they will not be doomed to repeat it.
Fear is the enemy that dooms us to inaction. It takes our dishonesty and bitterness and uses them to encase us and cement us down — ensuring that no matter how bad our situation becomes, then one thing we will never, ever do is change.
Where is fear? Fear is the barrier that keeps us from seeing past the next step. Fear prevents us from seeing that living people are more important than stone and metal, and that another type of will — good will — at times is more valuable than the gold domes in our capitols. It paralyzes and prevents the chance of a step in the right direction.
Honesty, courage, and action — those are the allies of the willing. Those are the things that we need now, more than a statue, more than a carving. Regardless of how we got here, this is where we are. Individually, we’ve got to find the will to let go of the things that hold us back, and take hold of a future that will bring people together.