Sunday, February 28, 2016

A nation's soul divided

Black Goddess is a science fiction novel that explores the age-old concept of the human soul divided as the battlefield between good and evil.

In real life, nations are like that, too.  Ours certainly is, right now.  A populace fed up with the perceived ineptitude of governmental mechanics is currently doing on a national scale something which, a very short time ago, would have been considered science fiction.  There are bursting out of the narrow confines of established two-party U.S. politics and elevating to star status two candidates as unlikely as presidential aspirants as one could imagine:  A self-declared democratic socialist named Bernie Sanders, and a blustering, buffoonish  billionaire real-estate mogul/reality TV host named Donald Trump.

 In these troubled times, in which the gap between rich and poor seems to grow wider daily, the middle class rapidly becoming an endangered species, everyone wants to blame the current system and find leaders that can give us easy answers to our current dilemma.  But, which part of our collective consciousness must an aspiring leader strike to win the day?  Each of these candidates seems to reach a radically different side of the eternal duality of human nature.

Sanders is the good angel on our shoulder.  He appeals to our better nature.  To the capacity of the human soul to give, to share with our neighbors, to feel compassion for the oppressed and downtrodden, to open our doors to those in need. He appeals to the civilized enlightenment in us to believe in a woman's right to control her own life,  in the fundamental right of all citizens to be regarded as equal before the law, in society's ability to stem the tide of senseless violence by following the successful example of other nations in imposing sensible gun control laws, and in the value of science in measuring the very real threat of pollution-fueled climate change and in the need to change course before it's too late.

Trump is the devil on our other shoulder.  He's a primitive.  A schoolyard bully who embodies the dark side of the human soul.  The beast in the jungle that believes not in right and wrong, but only in winning and losing, in the survival of the fittest.  He calls himself a Christian, but advocates building great walls to keep out the hungry, the poor and needy, casting out those in need because they are of a different tribe, following the example of Sodom in refusing to share with wayfarers in need.  He would hinder a woman's right to choose in the name of protecting life while nuking or carpet bombing human populations at will.  He would deny two consenting adults the right to marry.  He shrugs off mass shootings as an inevitable fact of life and reaches for his gun.  Survival of the fittest.  He dismisses climate change as a hoax created by our country's economic rivals to trick us into hobbling our industry.  He's a demagogue for the cyber age.  He tweets the kinds of insults and belittling slights and cheap shots for which parents would take away their teenager's phone privileges.  He's Hyde to our collective Jekyll;  He releases those negative impulses we try to repress in ourselves, encourages us to live in a childish fantasy world where nothing we don't want to believe in exists, feeds our tribal ego by saying our nation is the best, and most of all, he appeals to our fear.  Our fear of the outsider.  Of the foreigner who, he says, is responsible for all our problems.

Both these candidates are products of our times, but they are also products of ourselves; our two distinct halves brought out in their purest forms by the crucible of challenging and frightening circumstances.  Which of them...or, others like them...come out on top will decide our place in history, for better or worse.