I am deeply troubled by Madison Cawthorn’s “fight”-themed reply to my letter concerning the events of Jan. 6. Elected to represent me as a member of the U.S. Congress — not the police, military or militia — I wonder who, what, why is he fighting? He writes about fighting for principles that will “unite Republicans and conservatives.” Is this a fight to save his own hide? His eye on the next election?
When he talks of opposing “the far left’s schemes,” I wonder, is this a reference to constituents like me who support Medicare for All and Democratic Socialist institutions like public schools and libraries, the police and fire departments, highways, roads, bridges? His job is to represent me, not oppose me. I am not a schemer because I have a different vision and values for our country. I am not his enemy, I am his constituent.
A fight mindset divides people into two categories: winners and losers. At its extreme, it gives us leaders like T’rump, who believe that winning is the highest virtue, and an upside-down moral universe, where a hero like John McCain is vilified as a loser because he was shot down and captured, and a draft dodger like T’rump is worshipped as a winner because he gamed the system.
Anything goes in the service of winning: lying, denying facts, inciting violence, condoning killing. Fight is born of our instinct for self-preservation — I’ll get you before you get me — and fear of annihilation. Growing up to become a well-adjusted member of society involves learning how to temper basic instincts and the ability to discern when threats are real. When winners become false gods and loss is experienced as annihilation, denial of defeat and fighting against those who speak the truth is essential for psychic survival. False leaders feed on isolation, not community, on fear and picking open rather than healing old wounds. In this upside-down world, there is no place for “forgive us our trespasses.”
Asking for forgiveness requires the ability to admit to being less than perfect, to having fears and failures, to being human, not God. At age 64, I struggle daily with keeping my fears in check. I’m learning that when I lead from a place of fear, I don’t make good decisions. So, my question for Mr. Cawthorn is, “Of what are you afraid?”
It’s a question for all of us, but especially for those who aspire to be leaders and pretend to be fearless while posturing with guns. Here’s one of my fears: That our elected leaders, whether afraid of losing political positions and power, or their lives, will continue to collude with a naked mad emperor, giving legitimacy to this upside-down moral universe where there is no place for leaders with humility (which comes with accepting defeat), courage (born of facing fears honestly), wisdom (learning from mistakes) and compassion (the ability to forgive).
— Margaret Bishop
Editor’s note: A press release containing many of the same points covered in Cawthorn’s letter to the writer can be found on his congressional website: avl.mx/90x.