I have been trying to write about the violence and death that has exploded in the United States over the last year or so, but I have failed utterly. I understand a bit better what Elie Wiesel meant when he said of The Holocaust that “To speak is impossible; to remain silent is forbidden.” And I remember Jung’s remark when talking about Love in Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “Whatever one can say, no words express the whole. To speak of partial aspects is always too much or too little, for only the whole is meaningful.” How does one speak the unspeakable? How does one utter the whole of this desecration? I do not know.
And yet, how can I, how can we, any of us, remain silent in the face of such a thing? How can we fail to rise up as one and denounce the evil that has been unleashed upon us? Four Demons named Hatred, Fear, Suspicion, and Separation ride unchecked across our beautiful land, laying waste to this blessed country. Their minions, Racism, Sexism, Homophobia, Xenophobia, Islamophobia, and all the others that ride under their banner, feed on the blood of the innocent.
The true tools of destruction they use are not guns. Guns are merely the means of wielding their true tools. Those true tools are rage, arrogance, hubris, cruelty. Those true tools are complacency, satisfaction, smugness, indifference. We could, and we should, deal with the guns, but if we do not address the true tools, the Four Demons and their minions will simply turn to other means.
We wring our hands. We denounce and march and demonstrate. We write impassioned editorials and speak out from forum after forum, pulpit after pulpit. And the Demons seem to retreat into the background where we can lock them off behind steel gates. But they are merely waiting, waiting for us to go back home, to go back home and settle back into the old ways. And nothing really changes. Those demons are a patient lot. They can wait for years, because they know what we forget. They know that eventually they will be able to lay their hands on those tools once again. And then, with all the cunning of evil, The Demons will crawl back out, and, finding the gate open, will pick their tools, and wreck their vengeance, their gleeful destruction. And we? We will look on in unbelieving horror, wondering how it happened, how The Demons escaped, not noticing that it was we who left the gate open.
A turning point in Rilke’s life was a visit to the British Museum. There he stood transfixed by a bust of Apollo, and it was as if Apollo spoke to him and said, “You must change your life.”
America, you must change your life.