Category Archives: Agression

I am an Evangelical

Augustine

Well, not really.  But I was one.  I was raised a Methodist, and had a profound conversion experience into a Pentecostal denomination.

Yes, they were evangelical.  Evangelicals tend to take the Bible literally and have traditional beliefs about sexuality, marriage, abortion, and politics.  I hold none of those views.  I’m a liberal of the kind vilified on Fox News.  I retain some Christian beliefs, but am a practicing Buddhist.

I have an extensive library on Christianity.  Most of the books are about the relatively new thinking about Jesus and the Bible, most of them anathema to an evangelical.  I do accept the historical reality of Jesus, but that is about as far as it goes.  I tend to view it all from an historical perspective.

Regarding God, nobody knows for sure.  Most every culture deals with God in some fashion, but my view is he was extrapolated from the spirit world, entities who exist, but in my view are no more deities than we are.  Like us they would like to be gods, but only Donald Trump has made it.

I am from a milieu steeped in the old time religion.  It is ironic that the concept of original sin came from Augustine, a Catholic Scholastic.  His idea about the event in the garden leading to human depravity rather than free will leads directly to the idea Jesus assumed our sinful nature to release us from God’s curse.  John said God loved us and freed us from sin on the cross, but Augustine said God let Jesus atone for our depravity.

John Calvin

American evangelical Protestantism adopted Augustine.  Conservatives: we’re bad.   Liberals: we’re good, but need help because the event in the Garden gave us free will.  We can choose, a coyote can’t.  But, we sometimes make bad choices.

For several reasons, deep down I believe I’m bad.  I am engaged in overcoming that belief, with limited and intermittent success.  Sometimes I feel good about myself, sometimes I don’t.

I really don’t like Augustine, Calvin, and their wrathful God.  My father and grandfather had that Scots Presbyterian Calvinist outlook even though they were not religious.  I caught it from them.  The underlying attitude was nobody could ever measure up, including me and them.  There, ladies, and gentlemen, is a prescription for an unhappy life.  My mother was raised Congregationalist, another Calvinist denomination (no longer, however).

Grandfather, Father, and Mother were pretty nice people, which revealed their true natures, but under it all they thought they were lost souls.  As our current self-appointed deity would say, “Sad.”.   I’m afraid some part of me will always believe I am really a bad dude, which I caught from them.

Our culture remains contaminated with the evangelical attitude.  I sit here in the coffee shop next to Denver University, started in 1864 as a Methodist school.  The Methodists have never been quite as infected by Calvinism, coming from Anglican roots, but that need for redemption is still there.  The idea behind DU was to bring the gospel to the wilderness.  That was fine, but there was an underlying belief those naked heathen Indians were beyond redemption.  John Evans, the Methodist territorial governor in 1864 and a co-founder of DU, and John Chivington, a Methodist minister and Colonel of the Third Volunteer Cavalry Regiment decided those murdering heathens had to go.  Thus, the Sand Creek Massacre.

The streets at DU are Methodist, starting with Wesley, the Anglican who founded Methodism.  Looking west from Evans Avenue one sees Mt. Evans, both named after an Indian killer.  I live between Evans and Asbury Avenues.  Asbury is named for the first Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop in the United States.  I don’t seem to be able to get away from it.  The current DU students, however, don’t seem to be as infected with that stuff as I am.  The architects designing buildings at DU don’t seem to have gotten the message.  Even the big athletic field House has a bell tower. The old part of the campus has several spires and bell towers.

The University of Denver has, to its credit, recognized the tragedy of Sand Creek and the role of the Methodist founder of DU in the act of genocide.  DU is no longer evangelical, but has the history.  I am no longer evangelical, but I carry the history.

Cops and Repression

Cops are a constant presence in our lives.  When I was a young kid, the town marshal in Fruita drove a red Ford pickup with no lights or siren.  It wasn’t long before there were real police with a cruiser.  I have a lot of interactions with police officers because I am a lousy driver.  
Cops

Cops

The first really negative interaction was during all the demonstrations following the invasion of Cambodia in 1968.  We peace creeps stood across the barrier from helmeted Fort Collins police officers who could hardly restrain themselves from bashing heads.  They were putting up with a lot of verbal abuse.  The cop across from me was hyperventilating.  Fortunately, nothing happened. 

Cops today are shooting people and getting shot.  Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore showed the nation how the police are an instrument of repression in some cities.  Fortunately this is not always the case.  After 9-11, Denver Water placed armed guards at the gates to the water treatment plants.  Most of the guards were retired or off duty Denver Police Officers moonlighting.  They usually worked one shift per week, and I got to know many of them at the plant where I worked. 

It was a shock to me to discover that most of them were really nice guys.  That did not fit my stereotype of cops.  A couple of them, however, were not nice guys.  They were right wing bullies filled with fear and anger.  The hate they projected was almost physically tangible.  They did not make eye contact and their speech was formal with an undercurrent of menace. 

I am sure every police department of any size in the land has a contingent of those fellows.  They are the enforcers, using violence to deal with undesirables.  They are relatively safe form reprisal because of the need for police to provide mutual support to one another.  There is a code of silence and even lying to cover for a fellow officer.  This is more common in some departments than others. 

These men serve as instruments of repression, usually to minorities.  Their self-appointed job is to keep undesirables in line, using any method they think they can get away with, including murder.in the USA, their targets are usually black, with Latinos and other minorities as alternate targets.  

Ferguson Riot

Ferguson Riot

At one time, most of the racial repression came from groups like the Ku Klux Klan, with their cross burnings, beatings, and lynchings.  Today, those groups have waned, and another means of repression has replaced them-rogue cops and rogue police departments.  Cops and police departments have always been part of the system of racial repression, but now they are the default lynchers.  There are no cross burnings on South Table Mountain in Golden these days. 

This system has run into trouble because almost anyone with a smartphone can record police violence and get the recordings to the media.  The code of silence is broken.  In times of unrest like today, the violent incidents are on the television screen every evening, just like the atrocities in Vietnam were in the 1960s.  Change in technology has made those conducting the new lynchings vulnerable.  The old system of other cops and prosecutors allowing the lynchers to get away with their brutality is not gone, as  Baltimore has recently shown, but it’s days are numbered. 

It may be that one factor creating the Trump phenomenon is the breakdown of repression.  The white working class, already hit by the loss of industrial jobs, is facing competition from people who were once sentenced to remain at the bottom.  White working class men once had those minorities to look down on.  Now the minorities are on the City Council and the police department.   

 

Aggression and Fear

baby fearFear is part of life.  We are wired to react to threats in a number of ways.  Fight, flight, freeze, hide, cry for help.  In our society, there is little to fear.  In most of the country there is little violence.  Sometimes we experience a flash of fear in traffic, or when we slip on the ice.  For the most part, however, we are safe.

Why, then, to we have a culture of fear?  Gun and ammunition sales are booming, security system companies are busy, people are taking self-defense classes, and living with fear and anxiety on a daily basis.

Within our generally safe country there are acts of violence.  School shootings, workplace violence, robberies, gang shootings, random killings, on and on.  These acts, if horrific, are but a small part of life in a country of 314 million people.  They just do not affect most people.  The only time I have been truly terrified was when I was caught in a lightning storm when hiking above timberline.   I have never run so fast as that day.

The most important fear creator is television.  It is hard to get good video of a drop in the unemployment rate, but easy to show police cars, fire engines, ambulances, yellow crime scene tape, and bodies on gurneys.  The longest running TV shows are cop shows and doctor shows, with lives hanging in the balance every week.  “If it bleeds, it leads”, the mantra of local TV news.

Yes, they are showing real violence, but I have personally never been a victim of violence.  As a volunteer firefighter, I did see the aftermath of terrible accidents, but we were there to respond to those events.  In my daily life in the same area, I never saw an accident.

Life has always been marked by violence.  We are wired to deal with it.  Adrenalin, anger, the need to assemble in groups for mutual protection, all are part of our DNA.  In watching elementary school children in a park, I was always struck by the boy’s tendency to pick up a stick at the first opportunity.  The girls would respond to aggression from boys,  but tended not to initiate aggressive behavior.

Agression

Agression

Are the boys hunters or warriors, or are those behaviors modifiers of the same thing?  I am currently reading about Ancient Greece.  The tales are of war or the challenges of dealing with a dangerous world.  Very few cultures have not been violent to some degree.  There is always peril, whether from the neighboring tribe or the saber-toothed tiger.

Fear has always been a part of life.  Today, despite all the turmoil in the world, in this country we enjoy one of the safest countries and times ever.  The prevailing mindset, however, is fear.  Growing up in the 1950s I ran all over town and always walked the seven blocks to school.  Today children are accompanied by an adult when on the street.  It is more and more unusual to see unaccompanied young teenagers out on the street.

Because of some events in my early childhood, I have never felt safe.  I always have a strategy for dealing with a threat (back against the wall).  I have never in my threescore and ten years had to deal with a threat.  Because of my impulsivity and deep-seated anger I have sometimes initiated aggression, but usually calm down before getting myself in big trouble. I do seem to be getting better at letting go of the anger.

Is that the answer?  Aggression breeds aggression?  Especially with childhood abuse?  The old Johnny Cash song, A Boy Named Sue, is an example.  Father knew he would abandon his son, so he named the boy Sue in order for him to be abused and have to fight back to survive.  Abandonment and the target of aggression became that boy’s life.  He grew up to be angry and aggressive.  The song implies that is a good thing.  It is not.

When children grow up in a loving, fairly safe home with the knowledge they are loved and respected, they are able to deal with threats in a healthier way, knowing they will always have a refuge.  We need to provide love, compassion, support, and respect for all children.  A lot of that exists here, but how about the Sudan?  It is a sad world.  Work to end injustice and violence everywhere.  Foster compassion.