I once worked a playground at an elementary school during lunch to earn extra money (I was a substitute teacher in the school). The first time, I expected to see a bunch of cute kids running about and playing heartily. I foolishly didn’t anticipate the darker side of human nature. Lord of the Flies is not some abstract work of fiction–it is real. William Golding must have done the preliminary research for his book at the playground.
On any given day, fights, disputes, incidences of telling on somebody, crying outbursts, fits of rage and other such human ugliness would break out quite a few times. It was not some job to be taken lightly. I wasn’t exactly Holden Caulfield happily waiting at the edge of a cliff to catch any singing, prancing, skipping kids who lose their way; I was the peacekeeper, and if I wasn’t on my game, then things would get ugly quickly.
The hardest part of it all was not just yelling and telling kids to stop; rather, it was to get the kids to calm down, think things through, and hopefully put their problems with each other behind them. But elementary school kids aren’t that developed in their ability to think logically. Some of them get so blinded by emotional intensity that no logic or reasoning can get through to them. Over the months that I worked at that school, I went through many interventions in which I had to convince kids that fighting just didn’t make any sense. Some kids never learned that lesson.
To often, I see adults who are blinded by emotion, who make decisions in their lives solely based on emotional reactions without much use of logic. After 9/11, many people acted in this way. I did too. Immediately after the link to the Taliban and Al Qaeda came out, I was thinking, Let’s go get those bastards. But I was able to get control of my emotions and think rationally after I cooled off. Hold on, I thought, we shouldn’t start a war over this. Innocent people shouldn’t suffer in order for us to appease our emotional outrage. I remember my parent’s stories of growing up in Germany during WWII. My father’s mother died in a bombing raid some time before he was ten years old. My mother described to me what it was like to hear the bombs coming. It’s terrible. I wouldn’t wish it on any people, and I damn sure wouldn’t support any such action on another country.
As I came to grips with my anger over 9/11, I started to worry that politicians would use the incident as a tool to achieve new agendas. I had no idea how bad things would get. Since November, I have blogged about so much of this disgusting use of a tragedy to further issues of politics (i.e. money and power). How can so many Americans overlook the injustices of our day?
I think much has to do with emotions. Our emotions are manipulated by propaganda tricksters from all sorts of angles. Too often, we are encouraged to react emotionally and leave reason for later. Take Darryl Worley’s hit song that stirred up so many a few years ago:
- Have You Forgotten
I hear people saying we don’t need this war
I say there’s some things worth fighting for
What about our freedom and this piece of ground?
We didn’t get to keep ‘em by backing down
They say we don’t realize the mess we’re getting in
Before you start preaching
Let me ask you this my friend
Have you forgotten how it felt that day
To see your homeland under fire
And her people blown away?
Have you forgotten when those towers fell?
We had neighbors still inside
Going through a living hell
And you say we shouldn’t worry ’bout Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?
They took all the footage off my T.V.
Said it’s too disturbing for you and me
It’ll just breed anger that’s what the experts say
If it was up to me I’d show it every day
Some say this country’s just out looking for a fight
After 9/11 man I’d have to say that’s right
I’ve been there with the soldiers
Who’ve gone away to war
And you can bet they remember
Just what they’re fighting for
Have you forgotten all the people killed?
Some went down like heroes in that Pennsylvania field
Have you forgotten about our Pentagon?
All the loved ones that we lost
And those left to carry on
Don’t you tell me not to worry about Bin Laden
Have you forgotten?
Have you forgotten?
Have you forgotten?
Now, I love music. I wouldn’t want to go through life without it. There are some songs with which I identify that have influenced who I am. But the power of music is great. Like the Force, if it falls into the hands of the Dark Side, terrible things can be done with it. I don’t know that Darryl Worley changed a lot of people’s minds with his song (I bet he did change a few, though), but he certainly got people fired up and emotional and irrational. He even insists on showing the destruction of the Twin Towers every day–seemingly so that we all could get emotionally fired up again. But where does he sing about logic?
Well now I have this concept of a guy getting his sawed off going through my mind over and over again. I didn’t even watch the whole video–it’s not something I want to remember visually, although I have already read enough about it to give me nightmares. Will Darryl Worley be watching this one every day? Should we all watch it every day?
I have seen some bad things written on the internet in response to Nick Berg’s murder (for example, see the comments sections on these posts: Reactions to Nick Berg’s Beheading, and also The Butchering of an American). People are all emotionally worked up. Some are even suggesting nuking the whole Middle East. I feel like taking them aside, leaning over them, and giving them my playground violence intervention spiel. Quit being so damn illogical. Don’t let emotions cloud your judgement. Killing others in retaliation for a killing–even one so hideous as was done to Berg–does not make sense. And so on.
It might be a bit of a hypocritical lecture in that I still can’t get the details of Berg’s death out of my head. CW Fischer’s “Does Beheading Hurt? hasn’t helped matters.