“This isn’t who we are” “Oh, yes it is!”
Since 2016 (and even before) media hosts and political individuals and groups have been repeatedly saying,
“This isn’t who we are” when talking about destructiveness in our world, and particularly in our country.
Each time I hear that, the words rush out from me aloud …
“Oh, yes it is!”
In fact, it is that interchange that called me to write my August 2018 book,
How Did We Get Here? – Our Refusal to Know the Truth About Ourselves.*
Over the years I’ve continued to hear many claim
“This isn’t who we are,”
and I’ve heard a number of people respond as I do
“Oh, yes it is!”
Most consistently the one I hear with that response is Eddie Glaude Jr.,
academic, author, faculty at Princeton University, and guest
on television shows relating to religion, politics and ethics, racism and society.
One recent morning I heard Eddie in this same interchange with
Joe Scarborough, co-host of Morning Joe.*
That conversation called me to share with you the beginning of the chapter from
How Did We Get Here?, entitled This Isn’t Who We Are: Oh, Yes It Is!
This Isn’t Who We Are: Oh, Yes It Is! … Mounting
Since I originally wrote this book and drafted this blog, this phenomenon has been mounting … again. there have been countless more mass shootings — some of the elderly, some of middle aged, and some of children … all heartbreaking.
The number of people who are still pretending
“this is not who we are” is still breath-taking.
The number of people has multiplied who are declaring …
“this is who we are.”
But not nearly enough!
Also since that time the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v Wade, demonstrating further that “this is who we are,” and
Threatening to continue that demonstration in countless arenas of our lives, including . . .
freedom of marriage
The vile prejudice against people of color
Rampant poverty and
Economic games that are rooted in trauma and create trauma
All over the country and the world. . .
Will you read this with an open or closed mind? An open or closed heart?
In my home study course Violence: Finding and Healing the Roots from the Inside Out,*** I make a series of statements and ask a series of questions. These all apply to the chapter and blog at hand about who we truly are.
The “Violence in our World” . . .
I invite you to witness yourself as you read this next section . . . to witness yourself both as objectively as you can and as compassionately as you can. What happens inside you as you read? What do you do on the outside? On the inside do you feel the pain? On the inside do you shut down your feelings and numb yourself? On the inside do you wish there were no such thing as violence in our world? Or that you could protect yourself from even the awareness of it? Or that you weren’t even reading this blog? Or do you transfer your feelings about violence onto me and feel angry at me that I included this section in the blog and in the book? Or on the inside do you normalize the violence you’re reading about as just something normal in our world today. Something we just have to accept, resign ourselves to?”
This Isn’t Who We Are: Oh, Yes It Is
“The Little Fascist”****
When I began my training as a depth psychotherapist, the first book assigned for reading included a profound section by Eric Berne about “The Little Fascist” in every one of us.
Before reading the assignment, when I thought of a “fascist,” I thought of someone who is aligned with the philosophy of a political party or government that puts the nation above individuals, the authoritarian leader above the members or citizens, and allows no opposition to its opinions, beliefs, or policies, with threat of punishment. Many today still think of a “fascist” in that light.
Berne’s understanding was very different – unique. It was not political or governmental as the common understanding was. His definition was filled with insight and meaning about the depths of the human psyche, and, as a consequence, the human community.
I felt such relief to read that someone else, Eric Berne, knew about this part of everyone’s psyche, had a name for it, and was telling the whole world about it in his book What Do You Say After You Say Hello? I was so relieved because I had witnessed and experienced the pain of “the little fascist” in so many of those around me. And as a consequence, I had also experienced it in myself at times, which was, perhaps, even more painful.
In putting his understanding out into the world, Berne gave words to what I had known without words, even before reading his book. I knew there is an aspect of each one of us that tortures others and enjoys it. That this part not only enjoys the torturing, but most especially enjoys the vulnerability, the helplessness, the powerlessness of the one we torture. That there are plenty of people who don’t even use the guise of being civilized, who torture right out in the open with no pretenses and can’t wait for the opportunity. And that there are others of us who, while claiming and pretending to be civilized, have this part of us buried beneath our civilized masks. And we wait to rip off permission from those who already act out their “little fascist” in the open. We wait to fantasize or actually act out those fantasies. Those of us who have no pretenses about our “little fascist,” actually have more control of this part of us than those of us who deny its existence to ourselves and others. Once denied, it is our “little fascist” who is in control, and we remain its victim until our denial ends.
This is happening in the U.S. today and in other countries all over the world. There are those of us who act out the “little fascist” without any pretense or compunction. Those of us who have pretended to be civilized, who rip off permission from the ones who act it out openly and without cover. And still those of us who are completely unaware of or completely deny the “little fascist” in us, saying: “This isn’t who we are.” Oh, yes it is! And every time we say, “This isn’t who we are,” we collude with and feed all the other “little fascists,” those who are denying and hiding it and those who are acting it out overtly, blatantly, even proudly.
I understood all this conceptually right away. I knew awareness and understanding made it possible for healing. And I utilized this understanding with people over time, helping them explore the “Little Fascist” in themselves, the “Little Nazi” in themselves, the “Little Terrorist” in themselves…as part of their healing themselves and as part of healing our world. Yes, this healing is possible … but only if we include the healing of the destructive sides of ourselves.
© 2022, Judith Barr
*Barr, Judith. How Did We Get Here? Mysteries of Life Publishing, 2018.
**With thanks to Eddie Glaude, Jr. for having this conversation aloud and publicly so it can inform, inspire, and call to healing.
***Violence: Finding and Healing the Roots from the Inside Out, Home study course, www.judithbarr.com, “The Violence in our World.”
****Barr, Judith. How Did We Get Here? Mysteries of Life Publishing, 2018. This Isn’t Who We Are: Oh, Yes It Is! “The Little Fascist” pp 8-10.