Where does bitterness take you?
To a broken heart?
To an early grave?
When I die
I want to die from natural causes
Not from hate
Eating me up from the inside
I was browsing the internet the other day searching for information on the life of a person that I am interested in and came across a number of internet sites which indirectly referenced the man but were filled with more bitterness, anger and hatred than I could ever imagine being harbored in the heart of a single person. They came from the far right and far left but the far right crowd seemed more angry bitter and then I had remembered them being, admittedly this website was extreme even by the standards of Der Stürmer especially in the overtly racist overtones of the site and that the woman that runs it claims to be Jewish and “mad.” I presume that the site owner was referring to mental illness because only a deranged person could be so bitter, hateful and vengeful and all in the name of righteousness. I was amazed just how far this woman went but instead of being put off I was morbidly drawn into her site reading article after article as if I had come upon a horrible accident involving Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin. I finally got away, put down my laptop computer and resumed reading Buck O’Neil’s America on my Kindle.
The sites that I had visited when looking for a totally unrelated subject were filled with such hatred and bitterness that I was stunned. Anyone who reads this site knows that I am certainly not naïve and fully aware of the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, and I include women in that somewhat exclusivist comment. I began to realize that although I get angry at injustice I don’t have time to be bitter even at things that have been said about me or done to me.
I have seen the cost of bitterness in lives of people around me and in lives of people dying horrible deaths eaten up by the bitterness in their hearts. I realized a long time ago that even if I was angry and even right in what I knew I could not remain bitter. When I came home from Iraq and was emotionally torn by things that were happening to me as well as the terribly bitter invective of the 2008 elections I knew that I could not live that way. I had allowed such anger and bitterness to be part of me for a number of years after 9-11 that it consumed me at times, some directed toward those that directed those attacks but an even more vengeful attitude toward political liberals in the United States and Europe. For a time I lost my sense of moderation and ability to see people as people that God loved and cared about.
Iraq changed that and since I have written about that time and time again I will simply say that when I came back from Iraq I could no longer bear the anger and bitterness of those that hated their fellow Americans as much or worse than those that attacked us. It made no sense and I knew that I had changed. I no longer had the time or energy to be so angry that I was bitter. I was done. I stopped reading and listening to those that promoted such attitudes from the left or the right. Even then I had my moments especially as I battled all the components of PTSD, depression and a loss of faith that left me for all practical reasons an agnostic. As faith, hope and stability began to return to my life those moments have become far less frequent and for that I am most grateful.
I am now inspired by those that overcame great obstacles of hatred, racial, gender, economic or religious prejudice and many of those stories come from baseball. One of those is the story of Buck O’Neil the great player and manager of the Negro leagues who never played in the Majors and was denied the chance to manage at the Major League level, instead serving as a coach and scout for various Major League teams. In spite of having endured prejudice, discrimination and all that went with being an African American man, even a talented and successful one.
Yet O’Neil was one of those people that found good in everything and everyone. He was one of those unique individuals that rises above hatred and does not become infected by it. Such people seem to be a rarity but thankfully there are others like him and they reside in all corners of our land, they are of every race, religion, ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation and even political affiliation. They would give the shirt off their back to help others and somehow in spite of things that they have experienced and the painfully nasty tone set by so many politicians, pundits, media types and terribly nasty and bitter people like the lady I referenced above, they still see the good in others and refuse to live lives infected by hatred, prejudice and discrimination regardless of the source.
However I ran into a number of people in the past couple of days that I could not believe. A few years back I started a Facebook page for those in my graduating class at Edison High School in Stockton California. The title was Edison High School 1975-1978 and its description plainly said that it was for Edison High School in Stockton California. I thought that was pretty straight forward I set up the page and forgot about it, which I often do because of my Mad Cow symptoms which is what I call my continuing PTSD symptoms, mild cognitive and speech cognition deficits that have affected me since Iraq.
So I forgot about the page, I don’t know how many people are even on it and I start getting nasty and condescending messages on Facebook from a bunch of people from New Jersey for God sakes. These people were all over me like stink on shit and for what reason? That I didn’t specify in the title that it was California and not New Jersey. It was in the description for goodness sake; all these people had to do was read. Instead they were all telling me that I needed to change things, tell all of the New Jersey people that this was a California page and remove them from the page. I’m sorry I don’t have time for that and if people can’t bother to read details or even see that the mascot logo was a Viking and not their school’s mascot. According to the most vocal of these people there were like 29 people that can’t bother to read. So I changed the title to say it was Edison High School Stockton California and put a blurb to the New Jersey people that it was California and not New Jersey. Even that wasn’t good enough and so I passed it by, made a comment that people should read something before signing up for it and left the conversation. If I had stayed I would have started losing any sense of peace.
The I realized that people that do this are probably mad at the world in general, they feel cheated or lied to, they are bitter and need to take it out on someone. So I took a deep breath, re-read some of Buck O’Neil’s story and thanked God for him. I knew at that moment that I was on the right track. As much as an irritant these people were I could not be angry at them or let it fester. They must have things going on in their lives that I cannot understand which contribute to them needing to come after me when the obvious solution was simply to remove themselves from the site and tell their friends that they made a mistake.
Whatever, it doesn’t matter because I haven’t got time to be bitter and I don’t want anger and bitterness to eat me from the inside out and take me to an early grave. Maybe someday those that thrive on hatred, division and the promotion of enmity will figure out life and let go. But as Master Yoda said to Luke “Strong is the power of the dark side” and “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” I have seen enough of suffering and don’t want to contribute to the climate of hate and discontent that pervades our country. I think Jesus even talked about not living in anger and bitterness and preached forgiveness even from the Cross. Funny how we have such a hard time living that way.
I have too many friends who have experienced the hatred of others and been wounded deeply by the words and actions perpetrated against them. Some have endured these patiently and others have turned to the same tactics and attitudes that they have been the victims of, perpetuating the cycle. Some things never change; the victims often in time become the persecutors.
Does this make this moderate a liberal and will the label stick?
It most probably does, but what the hell?