by Berry Friesen (July 12, 2016)
If one wants to dominate others and exploit their resources, one must have justification. There must be a reason that legitimizes the violence and oppression; otherwise, it will not stand. This is the way the world has worked, ever since Jesus of Nazareth changed things forever.
Legitimizing violence and oppression: that is the first task of every imperialist. It is done by so deeply embedding lies in human consciousness that those lies become “true.” I use quotation marks because the kind of truth of which I speak is not based in empirical science or dispassionate historical accounts, but in the social realities that form around lies. In other words, when enough people act as if a lie is true, then it becomes “true” in the way life is structured and experienced.
Racial categorization is such a lie. Biologists tell us races do not exist, yet life as we have come to live it tells us otherwise. We (white, brown, black alike) have taken the lie and made it “true,” thus serving the imperial agenda of colonial masters who desire to exploit darker-hued people and find it advantageous for the rest of us to distract one another with quarrels while they carry out their nefarious schemes.
Enemy-fear is another such lie, at least in places such as North America where rivals live an ocean away and lack the capacity to dominate and exploit us. Yet, life as we have come to live it tells us otherwise. First it was the Bolsheviks, then the Fascists, then the Communists, now Islamic jihad. Again, we have taken the lie and made it “true,” thus justifying the militarization of our society and its purposes and legitimizing the exploitation of people and resources through war.
Of course, this deceitfulness is compounded when these two lies are brought together, as they have been in the tumultuous events of this past week. People with dark skin pose a particularly potent threat of violence, thus justifying the quick use of gunfire by police officers carrying out routine duties involving nonresistant black men. This threat is especially dire when such persons have been “radicalized” by subversive information. This phenomenon explains black Micah Johnson and his murderous attack on Dallas police officers.
Thus, police officers “have no choice” (I’m quoting numerous mainstream media outlets here) but to take on the methods and tactics of war. They “had no choice” but to execute Johnson in summary fashion, even though he had been neutralized.
This is the cycle of evil in which we all are enmeshed, the “slavery,” the “death” from which YHWH is determined to save us. It is the ugliness of making lies come true.
The resistance of Iesha Evans, the New York City nurse and mother who travelled to Baton Rouge to protest the murder of Alton Sterling, shows us another way. She stands serenely in the street as “peace officers” outfitted for war prepare to seize her. She embodies truth.
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman, Reuters)
Those who believe in YHWH—the god of the ancient Hebrews—refuse to believe the lie of race, the lie of fear. So how do we follow Evans in embodying our disbelief? How do we resist the power of the lie?
Answering this question is much more difficult than it would seem because when we resist a lie on its own terms, we usually reinforce its power. Johnson’s actions did just that; Evans’ actions did not.
Think of the pernicious curse of racism in my country (the USA). How do we demonstrate that race is a lie? Talking about racism a lot—defining life in racial terms—only serves to entrench the lie, making it worse. Ignoring the lie—pretending we are “above” such attitudes—is condescending and leaves the lie intact. What is needed are a manner of speaking and course of action that demonstrate the lie is a lie.
Or think of the militarism that has come to pervade the USA. How do we demonstrate it is rooted in a lie? Thousands of Americans have given their lives because they believe it, hundreds of thousands more have been physically or spiritually maimed, millions of livelihoods depend on this lie being “true.” Our actions to debunk it can prompt yet more fear, further entrenching the lie.
This is the desperate situation in which we find ourselves. The lies are bearing fruit, the fruit is bitter, the bitterness persuades us yet again that the lies are true. And when we do resist, too often our resistance makes it worse.
Yet we must resist, not because our resistance will produce specific results, but because witness to the truth is our calling, what YHWH has asked of us. It is why we are here on Earth, to be witnesses to the character of the Creator who is ever compassionate, ever forgiving and ever passionate about justice.
Yes, this is why we are here—to be part of YHWH’s saving Earth from ruin.
And this is why we must be wise as we speak and wise as we act, seeking always to embody the truth and delegitimize the lies. How can we demonstrate that race is not real? That fear of foreign conquest by Islamic extremism (or Russia or China or Iran) is not real? How can our lives tell the truth instead of making lies come true?