About two years ago one of America’s greatest dilemmas was resolved. Katniss Everdeen chose Peeta over Gale. I suppose that if I had read The Hunger Games books, I would have known this sooner. But as I watched the movies, I was honestly pretty emotionally invested in that part of the story. As a dude, I was really torn about who Katniss would choose. Both had admirable traits. Both demonstrated selfless care for Katniss. Both had their flaws. From my perspective there was no clear choice between the two, at least until the final movie.
In the final movie we realized that Gale had become morally desensitized to the point that he was willing to cause the deaths of innocent people and blame it on the enemy. The motives were good. But in becoming so focused on his allegiance to his side and the defeat of the other, Gale lost self-perspective on the merit of his actions and the actions of those fighting alongside him.
Believe it or not, this post is not just about my newfound investment in Team Peeta. This post is about a troubling absence of self-awareness that I am seeing in the political Left and Right, the same kind of lack of self-awareness that led Gale and the resistance to lose their goodness in an attempt to defeat evil.
On the Right, I see Conservatives flippantly dismissing or pretending away the truly deplorable attributes of Donald Trump. I see them victimizing themselves and rallying around the battle cry of being deplorable. In so doing they are either committing truly deplorable actions (it does not take much searching on the internet to find examples of people in conservative ranks committing heinous acts of hatred), or they are declaring themselves deplorable in a strangely self-righteous way that ignores the problems within their own ranks while casting all the blame on the Left for a multitude of reasons.
The Left is not innocent either. I have seen very few of my friends in the Left demonstrating awareness of the problems going on within the riots against Trump which have led to unnecessary violence and hateful vitriol. I have seen very few in the Left address the problem of some Leftist students not having the mental fortitude to deal with losing the election in a healthy way. Instead, I see the Left focusing entirely on grouping the entirety of conservatism into a big ball of uneducated hatred, misogyny, and racism.
Both sides have weaved their own narratives in which they are the innocent victims and the fault lies entirely with the other side. Both sides are very aware of the opposition’s faults. But I have seen disturbingly few signs of self-awareness or healthy self-criticism within the ranks of either side.
While I condemn both the Right and the Left, I do believe there are exceptions. I am encouraged by the few that I have seen, both Left and Right, critically self-evaluate themselves and their party. That is exactly what will allow us to move forward as a unified nation in which parties that have fundamental disagreements can productively coexist.
We need political self-awareness. We must recover political humility and piety. We must do away with false narratives that cast our own group in an overly-romanticized light. We must instead put ourselves and our affiliates in the limelight and give both an honest evaluation. We should not ignore the flaws in ourselves while focusing exclusively on the faults of the other side. We should certainly not flippantly dismiss our own faults as symptoms excused by the faults of our opponents. God help us all if we reach a point where we fall so out of touch with ourselves that we can immediately justify evil in our own minds by focusing narrowly on the perceived flaws of others.
Dangerous things happen when we fail to evaluate our actions against those whom we have demonized, whether we have demonized them justly or unjustly. Gale and the resistance were certainly justified in condemning their fictional enemy. But even they cannot be excused for falling so out of touch with their own moral qualities that they committed unspeakable evil to combat the evil of the other side.
The most disturbing lesson from The Hunger Games is that they thought their own evil was justified. They had become so engrossed in their own narrative which elevated themselves in a self-righteous way that they could not perceive and deal with their own faults.
Both the Right and the Left run the same danger. Evil currently exists within the ranks of both. It is the duty of each to critically evaluate and check themselves with the same tenacity with which they criticize each-other. When we fail to have the humility, piety, and self-awareness to do that by becoming so engrossed in our own self-flattering narratives, we all run the risk of becoming the true villains of our time.
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