The Politics of Bitterness

Why have we allowed ourselves to become such bitter people?

The families of the South Carolina shooting victims offered forgiveness to the shooter, but what about that flag? #racist

Your school is horrible but it’s not your fault. If you had what they have over there, then it would be fair. #inequality

If you are not handsome, beautiful, thin, rich, white, or any of the things that set you apart as the privileged in society, then you are at a disadvantage. #privilege

Elections can be won or lost with the help of a trending hashtag ‘cause’ that isn’t really a cause at all.

And here we go again. The early frontrunners in the race for the 2016 presidency, Trump and Clinton, have made bitterness a major portion of their platform in the form of perceived income inequality, women’s rights issues (again) and a general attitude of - life is not fair, let me fix it for you.

Seeds of bitterness.

Bitterness is like a dirty joke. It’s a short cut. Just like a dirty joke is a quick way to make people laugh, bitterness is a quick way to motivate people to do what you want them to do.

Garden of Eden before the fall of man:

“So Eve, why don’t you eat from all of the trees?”

“The only reason God doesn’t want you to is because when you do then you will be like Him.”

“Now, is that fair?”

Think about what might have been going through Eve’s mind as she listened to the serpent coax her into doing what he wanted her to do.

Maybe she was having a bad day to begin with and she thought, “You know he’s right. I deserve to know what God knows.”

“Who does He think He is?”

And maybe she was feeling a little self-righteous and taken for granted, like a woman that’s not respected by the men around her and she thought. “Why should God keep that for himself? It’s not fair.”

And you know the rest of the story. She does what the devil wants her to do.

Sowing the seeds of bitterness, a concept that is as old as time.

Even Saul Alinsky knew where it started. He dedicated his book, ‘Rules for Radicals’ to the original radical, Lucifer.

The devil himself used the same tactic.

Though I think Alinsky could have more appropriately described the devil as the first instigator rather than the first radical — because that is what radicals do. They instigate to agitate and agitate to radicalize and promote change — but bitterness is the is fuel that build’s their fire.

For those of us who have wasted any portion of our lives wallowing in bitterness it is a hard scene to watch.

It’s heartbreaking to see so many lives that are stuck in the mud of bitterness, spinning their wheels and digging deeper into the mess.

I personally wasted about twenty years of my life with a chip on my shoulder. I was bitter and hateful about the things I had endured in my life.

It took far too long for me to realize the struggles of my life are what formed the best part of me.

In 2009 I wrote my original post ‘The Politics of Bitterness.’ Having watched the political nonsense from the sidelines during my long career as a broadcaster I was clearly seeing a pattern that concerned me.

I had recognized the beauty of the moment as George and Laura Bush welcomed Barack and Michelle Obama on the steps of the White House after President Obama’s inauguration — It was a milestone for our country.

But I had an uneasiness about where his presidency would take us. I had paid close attention to the things he had written, the sermons he had listened to and the theology he had been taught during his lifetime.

In the original post, I wrote about how bitterness in my life had made me hate and long for justice for those who had hurt me and my family. I come from a mixed race family, my sister married a black guy in rural Kentucky in 1978, so I get it.

I pointed out the difficulties the Obamas most certainly had dealt with in their lifetimes. I imagined that a young man with a mixed heritage had felt very alone at many crucial moments in his life. I reckoned, ‘ there must have been times in Michelle Obama’s life as a young black woman, growing up in the sixties and seventies that were simply downright mean.’

All of us, at some point in our lives have dealt with stupid people whose stupidity manifested itself in bigotry, bullying and pure hatefulness. We’ve all experienced it and have had problems or setbacks that were unfair and often the result of situations beyond our control.

But far too often we let those disappointments define us rather than refine us.

We allow those moments of loneliness or anger to become the seed of bitterness that, if cultivated, will grow and fester into a longing for a “justice” so perverted that a lie becomes the truth.

I believe that is a very big piece of the puzzle we are seeing in our country today, the results of a country being defined through the politics of bitterness.

A sitcom is an odd place to find a profound statement on society, but years ago in an episode of Designing Women, the ladies were visiting an old black woman in the hospital. She was nearly 100-years-old. She knew she was on her deathbed and the women commented on the history she had witnessed over the years. As the old woman reminisced through the tragedy and joy of her life she said, “I know we are not what we ought to be and I know we aren’t what we are gonna be but at least we are not what we were.”

If we did not get past the things we have allowed to divide us, we would quickly find ourselves taking steps backward to what we were.

So what now? What I had hoped would not happen, has happened. We are not yet what we were, and thank God we will never return to some of the sins of our past, but many would argue we have again enslaved our population.

We violate freedom and defend the violations as perverted forms of justice. We turn a blind eye to pure evil across the globe after promising, ‘never again.’

But at least we are not completely what we were.

So I ask again, what now?

Now, we take a deep breath and we begin again.

Might I suggest we do so prayerfully and lovingly?

That we take our boot off the neck of those that we think have wronged us in any way, and learn to forgive and be forgiven. Pay very close attention to truth rather than trends — especially as we get ready to elect a new commander in chief.

And that we flick on a light here and there.

If everyone would reach out, find their own personal light switch and just flick that thing on — the light the world needs — the light we all need will be seen again from our shining city on a hill. And instead of sliding back into what we were or even ought to be, we will finally become what we were meant to be all along.

God Bless

LaVern Vivio

July 2015

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