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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/23/20

The Sunset Gun: One Nation, Under the Influence of Hate

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Message Richard Eskow
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From Common Dream

The end of the world?
The end of the world?
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I recently found myself re-reading Walker Percy's 1970 novel, Love in the Ruins, a deeply problematic work by a writer with extraordinary gifts. Lately, I've found myself repeating these lines as I follow the news:

"Either I am right and a catastrophe will occur, or it won't and I'm crazy. In either case the outlook is not so good."

A catastrophe is occurring, of course. More than 220,000 people are already dead in this country. Millions more are out of work. Fires, storms, floods: signs are upon us, as if from an ancient book. But, like many people, I wonder if this isn't just a prelude. I wonder when the Big One will arrive, and what form it will take. Civil war? Economic implosion? Civilizational collapse? All of the above? Or will the pain of an unjust and failing society linger on for decades?

Either way, the outlook is not so good.

The Sunset Gun

In his essay, American Bloodlands, Chris Hedges wrote of the rage and desperation that consumes so many of us. "Violence is a narcotic," Hedges writes. "It fills the emotional void." That's true of other forms of political aggression, too, forms that fall short of violence but are nonetheless toxic.

In Percy's novel, a character refers to his alcoholic spouse's drinking as "the sunset gun," as in:

"It's 5 o'clock and she's firing the sunset gun." And these days it's like the saying says: it's always 5 o'clock somewhere.

People who refuse to wear masks are like drunk drivers, with the same reckless indifference to their own safety and the safety of others. Chronic drunk drivers are addicted to alcohol. Chronic mask-rejecters are addicted. to political rage, and to our country's deep-seated culture of toxic individualism. They hate those who ask them to wear masks, and they hate many of the people whose lives are endangered by the disease.

Then there are the hate groups -- the Proud Boys, the militias -- who openly preach racial, religious, and ethnic hatred while others, like the Republican Party, are less direct about it. Their addictions have always been with us.

On the left side of the aisle, hatred for Trump voters -- wishing a horrible death upon them, as this Democratic blogger did, or dismissing them as "deplorables" and brutes -- is the inverse of MAGA loathing for liberals and socialists. Hate and contempt are gateway drugs to political violence. They dehumanize, they make the stranger an "Other."

Twelve-step programs say that alcoholics and addicts have a disease, but they also say that the disease doesn't absolve people of personal responsibility for the harms they've done. That's true for our violence addiction, too, and for our addiction to hating and dismissing those we don't understand.

Opioids are the Opiates of the Masses

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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