A Year-End Message About Making Things Better

Reading time – 2:21; Viewing time – 3:49  .  .  .

The latest Star Wars film is in theaters now and it’s terrific. Like all the films in the series, it deals with some universal issues, like good versus evil, acceptance of uncomfortable truths, the shattering of illusion and the complexity of human beings.

Nearly all the main actors participated in an interview for the New York Times and Andy Serkis, who plays the evil Supreme Leader Snoke, commented on the motivations of those with power. He said,

”.  .  .  leaders are fearful people, because when you’re in a position of maximum power, you can only lose power. And that fear drives nearly all decisions. That fear then makes you aggressive. It makes you want to destroy others. It makes you unable to see or care about others.”

While the interview discussion was about a character in a science fiction movie, can you think of a real life person who answers Serkis’ description? And how is that working for us? More on that later.

Adam Driver plays the part of a conflicted bad guy in the film and had some cogent remarks, too. He said,

”When I meet people who are unable to hear the other side, who not only think they’re right but they’re justified, then there’s no end to what they would do to make sure that their side wins .  .  . When you feel morally justified, that feels more long-lasting and more unpredictable.”

Here’s the hard part.

If Driver is right, that people who believe they’ve grabbed the moral high ground would do anything to ensure that their side wins, then if they’re on the other side of our politics from you and me, they’re dangerous. But what if you and I think we’re right and believe we’re holding the moral high ground and we’re sure that we are morally justified?

If we’re going to solve America’s problems, if we are to create a better tomorrow, every one of us is going to have to give up the absolutist views of our own moral purity, and that just isn’t something that’s easy to do. When we’re certain that we’re right, that we have the moral high ground, compromise feels dirty and makes us feel like we’re sellouts. But it’s the only way forward that isn’t self-destructive.

So, I ask myself if I can shed my certainty that I’m right. If I can’t do that, then I’ll continue to see those who disagree as wrong and, as Steely Dan puts it in their song Hey Nineteen,

  • ”No, we can’t dance together.”
  • “No, we got nothing in common.”
  • “No, we can’t talk at all.”

And that leads to still more polarization and a worsening of our problems.

I have a lot of confidence that Andy Serkis is right about people with great power in their hands, that they are fearful and that their fear drives their decisions, makes them aggressive and wanting to destroy others and they’re devoid of care about others. It is my belief that the drivers and behaviors he describes are exactly what we see from Donald Trump every day. He and his fear are wounding us and our republic.

When I consider Adam Driver’s words I can’t help but reflect on the demonizing I’ve done of, say, Donald Trump and his voters and supporters, and certainly of those in his administration. It’s hard to disagree with their actions and do it with the enormous force that feels necessary in order to resist what feels evil, and not at the same time succumb to judging and demonizing.

But that’s my challenge – and perhaps yours, too – if we are to make things better


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we’re on a path to continually fail to make things better. It’s my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That’s the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
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2 Responses to A Year-End Message About Making Things Better
  1. John Calia Reply

    Amen, my brother. Any New Year’s resolutions?

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      Yes, I do. I’m going to fight this encroaching evil much harder. I still believe in America.

      At times you and I are at odds over what we believe is the best path; however, my observation is that we are rarely at odds over where the path should lead. “Deconstructing the administrative state” to bring it “crashing down” is not a destination worthy of America, nor is a fawning autocracy or a corporatocracy or this return of the robber barons. That’s why I’m going to fight harder.

      My fondest hope is that Republicans will find a spine and manage to think beyond the short term welfare of their own hides. The rallying cry is for a return of Eisenhower Republicans – from before Trump, the Bushs, Nixon, Gingrich, McConnell and the various liars following them. I’m looking for Republicans from an era when “burn it down” was about a Boy Scout camp fire, not a legislative lever; when compromise wasn’t a dirty word, but was simply the way we worked together for the betterment of the country. I have no illusions that all was sweetness and light then, or that all of our legislators were honest and trustworthy. On the other hand, the business of the people got done and we prospered.

      Will you fight for that with me?