Thursday, November 8, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

by Ben Howard

Buffy the Vampire Slayer was on my mind all day yesterday. To be fair, that show comes to mind at least once a week because it's awesome, but yesterday there was actually a legitimate reason.

In season six, there is a musical episode of Buffy titled "Once More With Feeling."  The general premise is that someone summons a demon that makes everyone sing and dance like they're in a Broadway show. Eventually, the person dances so much that they spontaneously combust, therefore the demon needs to be stopped. It's a pretty simple plot.

But the point of the episode isn't the plot. Since the characters can't control what they're saying during these musical numbers they end up revealing all the secrets that they'd been hiding from each other during the season. You can feel the tension in the last song titled, "Where Do We Go From Here?"

That song and that question have been in my head for the past two days. Where do we go from here?

In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a bit of a political junkie. This is not an exaggeration. When I was maybe 14 or 15, I had a computer game where you'd try and run a successful presidential campaign against increasingly difficult opponents. It was like Mortal Kombat with an electoral college. I loved it!

I've had Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog bookmarked for four years. I studied history and political science in undergrad. I mean, one of my favorite shows is The West Wing. I've been watching old episodes this week to come down from the political high. It's an addiction.

Even though I find it fascinating and to a certain degree entertaining, I understand that politics, at least electoral politics, don't ultimately hold the keys to change or the answers to our societal problems.

So now that we're done with the election, what comes next? Where do we go from here?

You see this is a difficult question. It's easy for me to deconstruct the role of government. It's easy to dismantle the current model and point out the flaws, but it's not as simple to creatively put things back together. It's much harder to imagine what a future might entail.

I think first we have to start out with the simple things. For instance, it is a profound political statement when you treat someone like a person instead of as a stereotype. I'm really bad about this. I react to people based on my expectations taken from external signifiers instead of finding out anything about them.

There's a reason for this, and to some it's a defensible one. It's safe. To allow someone to become something other than what you expect of them is to make yourself vulnerable. We are a society that likes safety and comfort. We are easily frightened. I am easily frightened. Frightened people don't like to be vulnerable.

This is how we end up dehumanizing the homeless. This is how we end up dehumanizing minorities and the poor, especially when the minorities in question are poor. We never allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

I will admit that I do not understand those who are different from myself and it scares me. I am not proud of this, nor do I think I am alone in this experience. Admitting the problem is the first step.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how a real change in politics needs to come from a change in culture. The sub-point to that argument is that a change in culture is ultimately a change in self and those around us.

Politics in our society have been based on fear for far too long, especially the fear of things and people we don't understand. I think our society is ready to face some of those fears. I don't think that will be easy, in fact it will be quite hard, but if admitting the problem is the first step, then allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and opening ourselves to learn is the second.

So maybe this is where we go from here. We attempt to overcome fear and difference with respect, love, and compassion. We should not try and change others to be more like us, but should instead open ourselves to understand them and open ourselves so that we might be understood. We have to be vulnerable. This is scary. This is change.


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

Also, you can subscribe to On Pop Theology via RSS feed or email on the top right corner of the main page.

No comments:

Post a Comment