I was reading Mark Salzman’s novel, The Laughing Sutra, and had an epiphany. Salzman is a martial artist and writer, best known for his memoir Iron and Silk, which was made into a major motion picture.
The novel is a comic fantasy-adventure, about the life of a young monk who decides to travel from rural China to the U. S. to recover a Buddhist sutra. His traveling companion is Colonel Sun, a modernized version of a figure from Chinese mythology, the rebellious monkey king and slayer of demons. At one point, Sun tells the monk a traditional story of martial arts strategy. A General named Tso was camped in a walled city with only a few men, waiting for reinforcements. His enemies surrounded the city and prepared a surprise attack. Tso, instead of running, opened wide the doors and sat there, enjoying himself having tea. When his enemies got to the gate, Tso invited them to enter and join him. Instead, fearing a trap, they ran.
We, those of us who value democracy, value neighbors caring for neighbors, who value public education, equality under the law, and freedom, are now surrounded by an army led by a General who finds all those values a threat. I have in the past resisted thinking of the situation as a war, with DT and his followers as an opposing army of hate, but I am questioning that resistance. How do we open wide the gates and make them run?
My reluctance to use the imagery of a war is partly due to the fact that I grew up in a loving family, in a world of privilege, white and middle class. Yet what is being revealed to me now is a world I didn’t think about before and refused to consider. It is too ugly. And if I think of his followers as enemy soldiers, I might dehumanize them, as they are being taught to do to me. To dehumanize them, I do the same to myself. So how can we win such a war without losing our humanity?
DT’s followers have been called a cult, but it is worse than that. His rallies are choreographed rituals designed to stimulate resentment, hate, and violence and to direct that hate so they would do his bidding, attack his enemies, and wipe out anyone or anything that diminishes his control. The rallies are not about saving Christianity, or the right to follow a religion, as much as being religious. They are meant to build not just any army but a religious one, one of unquestioning belief with DT as their savior. Thus, his followers do things like jam phone lines during the impeachment trial and the Iowa caucuses or threaten to shoot Democrats like Adam Schiff. Or they attack immigrants, Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ, or people of color. Or they might try to prevent his constitutional removal from office after a four (or eight) year reign….
To read the whole post, go to The Good Men Project.