When they go low, going high is not enough – video


I agree with the conclusion of this opinion piece, but it brings up a challenging and age-old question: at what point do you compromise your foundational values to combat a person or group who opposes them? That is, when do you go to war with warmongers? When do you give into your hate of the hateful? When do you exclude the bigot?

I’m not being rhetorical–in certain contexts you have to do all of these things. But these are exceptional contexts and the questions of when and whom are both important.

I started to consider this when I noticed a cycle in my own emotional reactions to inflammatory (relatively–I am highly flammable) opinions on ye olde internete. First I am angry, then I harbour deep animosity to the author/sharer personally (and write long, eloquent and biting replies in my head that I’m never going to post), and every time I begin to get over my strong emotions, I feel guilty. I feel guilty because I think that I should be angry and uncomfortable so that I will act. I want to harness my negative emotions for good (NB the head tirades don’t qualify).

I honestly don’t know what to make of this. In the extreme circumstances that I allude to above, yes, negative emotions can be used for the great good (the greater good). But when they are aimed at individuals or groups (rather than at ideologies), all they seem to do is to drag me into the precise mindset that I am trying to resist internally and externally (them=bad, us=good). Even when it is an ideology, can I indulge in the binary right-wrong scenarios that frustrate me so much when applied by people with whom I disagree?

There are definitely some things that are never right. But there are people who believe in those things. And some of those people have the greater power in society, and some feel afraid and some invincible. If I’m not as big a fraud as they are when they talk about justice and Jesus, I’m going to have to respect them as much as I respect people who are oppressed and marginalised by the power (and people like me who get upset about oppression while never encountering it much). I will find ways to support and fight for the rights of the powerless and privelege-less (so help me God), but I feel that I must not give into the hatred and scorn that breed these crises in the first place.

Okay, so I totally understand why that sounds like appeasement. And I’m in no way excluding active and passionate protest, truth-telling and resistance. I also could be wrong. 

But could it be that the moral high ground that will make a lasting societal change is not inaction and mannered debate, or the abandonment of the high ground altogether, but inclusive and radical love?


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