Formally stated, Newton’s third law is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
When it comes to the United States right now, the hostility has not yet reached the fever pitch yet, but I believe it has escalated with little chance of backing back down.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
As soon as the storm on the Capitol took place, numerous theories arose to who and who and how, but at the end of the day, it portrayed the vicious reality that is the United States.
- It is reported that certain Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building and endangered lives. That’s wrong.
- Some believe that people were disguised as Trump supporters to start more conflict. If that is true, that’s also wrong.
While the report was shocking, it should not be surprising.
We have normalized hostility as a nation.
How do we go back? Can the political Pandora be put back in the box?
Most defenses of actions come from a place of critiquing another’s actions.
- To defend violence, we point to the violence on the other side.
- To defend an immoral person, we point to the immorality of the opponent.
- To defend rude dialogue, we screenshot someone else’s.
We should do better. We have to do better.
If you justify an action that supports your beliefs but demonize the same action when delivered by opponents, you lose credibility to be heard. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it.
So much of what is happening on every side of the American landscape right now is refusing to measure with a consistent standard. Most arguments I hear when confronted about something is, “well, your group thought it was OK when your person did that…”
I think the nation is so polarized, that we can’t admit our need for a clear standard. I wish we could. I told people this summer that everyone feels like they have to pick one compassionate side. I was devastated by the racial injustice, but I also hated when uninvolved business owners suffered from some protests that turned into riots in response to the injustice.
I think we can be upset by both. Not in the same degree, but we still have the right to say injustice, harm, deceit, violence, etc. at any place is a tragic thing. I want to be compassionate to all hurting people.
If every actions demands an equal and opposite reaction, what are we to do? Two very different sides continue to volley back and forth on each other. One administration leads in such a way to repair what they see as damage caused previously. Outrage leads to retaliation.
Even our presidential selections seem to be a response to the previous. Clinton was a response to Bush, Bush Jr. was a response to Clinton, Obama was a response to Bush, Trump was a response to Obama. The reactions continue to animate a response at a more vivid degree than before. It frightens me to the responses ahead.
- Candidates are often selected based on who they are against rather than what they are for.
- Executive orders are made just to be repealed in the next administration by newer executive orders.
- Responses are justified by what “the other side” got away with before.
The access to social media and constant news coverage provides us with sensationalized details that fuel the fire.
The information overload has us addicted and agitated. With the sights and sounds etched in our collective memories, we store them up for a standard of a response.
An equal and opposite response.
Unless someone or something confronts the responses, they will continue to grow.
Our typical inclination in human interactions is to react to an offense with an equal or escalating response.
As siblings, spouses, and societies, we justify our passionate reactions by what the other side did. It never ends well.
- If you get hit, hit back a little harder.
- If you are ridiculed, ridicule a little deeper.
- If you didn’t like what happened, make a bolder statement.
You can’t defend hitting Johnny because Johnny hit you first in preschool, and we can’t do it as adults either. We need justice, but where do we create more room for further hostility when we attempt to take justice in our own hands?
What is the logical progression of such hostility? A sibling is rushed to the hospital, a spouse seeks a divorce, and a society is enraged beyond the ability to experience peace.
If you think I am picking on one side, I am an equal opportunist.
We are all in danger of justifying the same actions we criticize others for doing.
Is there a way forward? I don’t know with such polarized principles if we can return to decency.
Here’s how I will do my part.
- Keep consistent standards. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.
- Show respect with those whom I disagree. I can think your idea is dangerous, but I don’t have demean you in the process.
- Avoid using an atrocity for an agenda. Don’t see ways to advance my ideas by using human suffering as a cloak.
- Don’t use unhealthy stereotypes. If you assume who a person is by a classification (race, class, job, position, party, affiliation, etc.), slow down, have a conversation, and learn.
- James 1:19. You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
- Matthew 5:9. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
- 1 Peter 2:17. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.