Rick Perry and Mitt Romney: Enemy Twins
We at Raven were honored when we read Robert Koehler’s latest article over at the Huffington Post entitled “Captives to the Logic of Violence.” In his article, references our new project “Be a Hero for Peace” and cogently argues that during the last 10 years the United States has been held captive by violence. In the name of “freedom” we have enslaved ourselves to violence. Bob claims that after 9/11, “What fell into place was armed insanity as perpetual background noise, and any reach toward global community, understanding and forgiveness went on permanent hold.”
Of course, our captivity to violence is not isolated to the War on Terror. It infects every aspect of our lives. The logic of violence, including verbal, emotional, and physical violence, permeates American culture. As I read Bob’s article, I was reminded of another article written this week by Brian McLaren. Brian alluded to the infection of violence, provocatively referring to it as a “Spiritually Transmitted Disease.”
We saw an example of our captivity to violence and its spiritual transmission last night at the Republican presidential primary debate. Before, after, and during the debate, most journalists revealed their captivity to the logic of violence by setting the event up as a “battle” between the two former Governors Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. They used phrases like: “The fight,” “traded attacks,” “went at each other like heavyweights,” and “We’ll get right to the important horse race question: Who won?” Of course, journalists use violent phrases because they know the rest of us are held in the same captivity of violence.
There is a big problem with the spiritually transmitted disease we call violence: It is mimetic. Violence is imitative and in that imitation we become just like our enemy. We saw this last night, too. Perry and Romney didn’t fail to live up to our violent expectations. As they threw jabs at each other and tried to make distinctions between themselves, their “differences” were put aside and they looked remarkably similar. As the New York Times reported:
Mr. Perry attacked Mr. Romney’s record of creating jobs in Massachusetts and his championing of health care legislation when he was governor. Mr. Romney, in turn, cast Mr. Perry as a career politician.
“Michael Dukakis created jobs three times faster than you did, Mitt,” Mr. Perry said, referring to the former Democratic governor who ran for president in 1988.
“Well, as a matter of fact,” Mr. Romney replied, “George Bush and his predecessor created jobs at a faster rate than you did, Governor.
The crowd or Republicans burst into laughter.”
The American captivity to the spiritually transmitted disease of violence was on full display. In this example, the infection worked like this: If you insult me, I insult you back. I’m not sure why the crowd laughed, but sometimes laughing is all you can do when witnessing mimetic doubles. They fervently tried to assert their differences, but the paradox of violence is that in asserting our differences we become the same – mimetic doubles or enemy twins, as Rene Girard calls the phenomenon.
Fortunately for Perry, Romney, and the rest of us, there is a way out of the captivity. Koehler and McLaren both point to the solutions in their articles. That solution is the courageous spirit of love and forgiveness. Brian states that loving our enemies does not mean we cowardly submit to them. Rather, it means “standing up courageously—and in refusing flight, submission, and retaliation—you become less like your opponent. Previously unimagined creative responses become possible. You don’t submit to the game in order to win it: you change the game entirely.”
Bob puts flesh and blood on this principle through the story of Rais Bhuiyan. He is an example of someone who changed the game entirely. Bhuiyan, a Muslim immigrant living in Texas, was shot in the face just after 9/11 by Mark Stroman. Bhuian was lucky; two Muslims didn’t survive Stroman’s killing spree. Stroman was soon sent to death row. (State sanctioned murder … another sign of our captivity to mimetic violence.) Bhuian did something remarkable: He “changed the game entirely” by campaigning to save his assailant’s life. Bhuiyan has since dedicated his life to forgiveness, claiming, “We need to educate people about the healing power of forgiveness.”
We have two choices before us: The mimetic spirit of violence or the mimetic spirit of love and forgiveness. Please. For the sake of our future, choose love and forgiveness. It’s what our post 9/11 world needs.