We have become a national community motivated solely on avoiding the burden of shame or on being the driving force in shaming others. As with everything, that which we focus on will be what we experience.
In the American Revolution and the formation of the United States Government, which I am currently studying, via Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, the goal from which Americans could not deter was the idea of freedom from Britain. With an impenetrable focus, this was attained and, like many idealistic pursuits, sullied quickly by the real possibility of anarchy. This systematic decline is because humans are prone to revolution, as observed by our founding fathers, and that pure democracy is a flawed concept, based on Aristotle’s political theory. From this state of potential anarchy was born the Constitution, a document that was created with the flexibility to be amended. During the convention out of which the Constitution was born, leaders could not agree on many things, but one contended topic that is important to mention now: the concept of slavery. For the survival of a young nation, it was important to compromise so that our country could survive the biggest threats to its sovereignty at that time. Intentionally, the document was written ambiguously to allow equality to persevere in a free nation. The Constitution and American government was created with a single goal: to prevent anarchy through compromise.
When women fought for their right to vote, when civil rights were pursued for people of color and countless other victories for equal treatment of our brothers and sisters, one thing was sought as an outcome and that is what was achieved. What do we seek now? Is it liberty and freedom for all? I fear that this concept has become muddled and self-serving. Instead it frequently appears as “freedom to shame others into seeing things my way”. Which is, in all fairness, the right of a free person. But at what cost? To what end? Have we become a society of selfish doctrines masked by shame and fear with the intent to manipulate? Are we seeking fairness, equality and justice for all? This essay, admittedly, has more questions than answers.
Had we lost sight of what we wanted after the revolution was won, a sustainable form of government that provided the most liberties to its people while maintaining sovereignty, peace and civilized forms of conflict resolution—and we very nearly did—we would not be free today. Had we ignored the indisputable right to equality of women and people of color, we would not have leadership and strength pouring out of every facet of our nation.
Strength and equality is what America was built on and has fought for. Over the years, we have fought different revolutions for equality in different ways. And while it is noble (and necessary) to point out flaws in society, one must do so with as much tact and respect as they can muster. If you can not clearly articulate your logic, and repeat that process regularly, you will lose, even if you are right. Violence and fear mongering will get attention and temporary results. I do not argue that at all, but fear leads to unsuccessful revolution. Objectively, our freedom was born out of revolution, so I do not dispute its legitimacy, but the point I wish to make is that revolution should only come out of the most pure intent. If you are on the right side, do not do your cause the injustice of change by fear. Instead, prove your validity through education, logic and patience. At the risk of sounding trite, I truly believe this is the only way to create lasting and fair change for the most people i.e. the greatest good.
It is far easier to get angry and shame those with whom you disagree. It is easier to yell and become violent and to seek revenge masked as justice; which in itself violates the very basis for which revolution is valid, is inequitable and breeds resentment, fueling systematic inequality and further unrest. My observations in this piece are my own, and as I have realized in myself before, idealistic. Perhaps I am alone in my frustration of shame. Perhaps it is necessary to motivate people in this day and age. I will speak for myself then, when I advocate that I am tired of feeling shame. It does nothing but dissemble the motivation I have to advocate for myself and others, in any respect. Am I as tired as those being oppressed? No–and your point is valid. But the oppressed need the non-oppressed to not be tired, embarrassed or scared. Fear and shame is meant to deplete you. If we have learned nothing from those who have come and fought before us, if we do not wish to lose, if we have not yet thought about the next generation and how they will see us, how they will survive…let us then turn our attention to the force that has given every hero in our history their motivation: hope. And let us focus on that.