I woke up this morning intent on throwing down the hammer on people who I have dismissively been calling political parrots. In fact, this article was initially titled “Bizarro Resistance: How Political Idolatry Makes Pavlov’s Dog Look Like Che Guevara” ; I could not wait to throw rhetorical Molotov cocktails at people on all sides who idolize the rich and powerful. A day’s worth of debating ideologues who were doggedly defending Trump or Obama inculcated in my heart a deep sense of frustration that was going to be exorcise by demolishing partisans and loyalists who insisted on perpetuating this farcical two-party pyramid scheme.
But one thing after another kept coming up this morning that prevented me from taking to my laptop. Instead of forcing the issue, I decided to get in my car and head out to Tyson’s Corner still harboring in my heart the desire to screed against the die-hard apparatchiks who slavishly identifying with the very politicians and pundits who are perpetuating injustice throughout the world and right here in America. Stuck in traffic on the Dulles Toll Road, I started to reflect and a calm washed over my indignation. I realized that I was doing the very same thing I said I would not do; as much as I preach about love being the only way to fight injustice, I still manage to get drawn into antipathy and the need to get the last word.
The most bedeviling and cunning of foes is this thing called ego. It is ego that drives people who enter politics to give their hands to the excesses of our government. It is ego that motivates once idealists who enter journalism to speak truth to power to end up giving allowance to power. That same ego is what makes us look up to the rich and powerful and idolize them as though they are gods who walk on water. As I was listening to jazz on Leesburg Pike, it dawned on me that I myself have a long way to go before I can lecture others about civility.
How can I be mad at people for holding tight to politics and believing in politicians when I myself was the most ardent loyalist of them all. A few weeks ago, I saw a man wearing a Make America Great Again hat on and I initially snickered and called him an idiot under my breath. But I realized my own hypocrisy a few minutes later when I thought back to the time I was organizing for Obama wearing his t-shirt and chanting “yes we can” during his primary speech [YouTube evidence of my once hackery]. I was one of Barack’s most loyal volunteers in 2008; so much so that I was invited to Chicago after his election to take part in the brainstorming session for the launch of Organizing for America. If it was not for the mugging of reality and the education of privation, I would still be viewing this world through the prisms of ideology and identity.
I am thus writing this open letter to everyone irrespective of your hue, ideology or religious beliefs. I hope all of us really pause and look inward. Though there is a carnal pleasure that is derived by crushing people who don’t look like us or think like us, in the end all we are doing is adding logs to the fire. Most of us, irrespective of politics or complexion, yearn for love, justice and happiness. Too often, we let our differences get in the way of these very virtues we all desire. Technology is getting in the way of our humanity as we turn people who suffer just like us into abstract enemies who need to be conquered. But if we only pause and think, we would realize that our fates are intertwined and we would understand that only love can overcome hate.
The man I was calling a political stooge last night through the wonders of Facebook is most likely a father who is worried about keeping up with the rent. The woman who called me a nitwit because I dared to criticize Obama and who I subsequently called a hack, she might be a mother who is trying her best to provide for her children. The minutia of what makes us who we are—the unique traits we all have—have a way of being washed away by the 1s and 0s of the internet. Fellow brothers and sisters fade into the ether and what pixelates are foes that need to be defeated. But in the end, the person who we are lashing on the other end is someone who bleeds and struggles just like us.
Next time, before you lower the boom on someone who thinks differently than you, just pause and reflect as I did. I’m not saying there is not a place for condemnation; there are some who truly perpetuate injustice and are at the core of the iniquities of this world. But these people are apart from the mass majority of humanity who are struggling to feed their family and keep shelter over their heads. I wrote a long time ago that pain, even more so than love, is the universal language of mankind. We are all in this together, we will either endure hardship divided or we can overcome through togetherness.
Memes and hashtags will never deliver redemption. As long as we are fighting over separable grievances, we will forever remain mired in oppression. I choose the word oppression deliberately; few of us on this earth live a life free of apprehension and distress. We are a land ruled by the lawless as we are being dispossessed of our earnings and wealth in order to feed the opulence of the 1%. Most of us are living paycheck to paycheck; even those who make six figures are not able to decamp from the clutches of economic anxieties. In this paradigm, the only hope we have is if we unite—the only weakness of this global system of repression is solidarity.
The tribulations and dreams of the masses in the Appalachians are connected to the tribulations and dreams of the folks in the inner cities. These artificial constructs of race, sex, and politics are thwarting us from seeing our similar journeys. We are here on this earth only but for breath; are we not better off holding hands with fellow sojourners instead of vilifying our brothers and sisters? The status quo and the elites keep inciting hatred and animus in our hearts because they are getting paid handsomely in order to sow dissension between us. Injustice only flourishes because we refuse to see each other’s oneness.
It is my hope and prayer for the world that we stop declaring wars on each other and be more about love. Let not ego be what drives us; instead let kindness and grace be the guiding light for us going forward. As I aspire these things for for others, let me first sow this hope in my heart. A wise man once said “be the change you want to see in the world”; I shall reflect on these words and be less inclined to repay antagonism with yet more animus in the future. Progress is not instant; the path to wisdom is incremental and I shall be patient with others as I am with myself. #FromTheHeart
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” ~ Jimi Hendrix
If you appreciate the message behind this write up and you too want to speak for justice with love, share this article on social media using #FromTheHeart
Check out the Ghion Cast below where I discuss how a few are trying to set us apart and incite hate among us.
Check out the Ghion Cast below where I share my testimony and how hardship led me to this path.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.