In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. — H.G. Wells
I realize it’s not a fair discussion when I’m holding a gun to your face. I can see it in your eyes: The fear, the anticipation of what I may do next. You already think I’m crazy because of my politics, and now I’ve got a gun at your face. You’re tied and gagged. Pinned down, I have you under full control. Hold onto that feeling of fear. You’ll need it for what I’m about to tell you.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to lecture you on politics. Nor will I beat a dead horse about how your side is completely wrong, and mine is completely right. Make no mistake — I completely believe that you have an incredibly distorted view of reality. You’ve been poisoned by your TV guys, your corrupt politicians, and your social media groups. They’re so obviously and egregiously wrong, but again, I’m not going to try to convince you of that. I know you think the same of me, of my group, of my social media, of my news outlets and politicians. We’ve been through it all too many times.
Instead, I am going to tell you something that I know you’ll agree with. I won’t even have to convince you. The moment I say it, you’ll believe it. But, I can see you’re not ready for that. Not yet. As I wave this gun at your face, you’re hardly listening to me — you’re focused solely on the barrel of this gun. You’re thinking of nothing but survival. Yeah, keep that going. It’s what I want you to feel. Focus on that fear.
Why? Because it’s that very feeling that will help you see what I mean. It’s what brings guys like us to these rallies and demonstrations. We both scream at each other across from the police line. We feel that sense of urgency, that if the other side gains power, the country is doomed. So strong is that feeling, that we’re willing to go to extreme lengths to stop the other. Just as you’re feeling the terror as I point this gun at you, we both feel that sensation when we think of how our country is going to be utterly destroyed if the other guys gain control of government. We’re alike in that way — we’re convinced and we’re motivated. More than that: We’re compelled to act, willing to risk it all because we know the alternative of inaction is worse. That’s why I want you to hold onto that sense of fear — of the need to survive.
We both came to this big demonstration tonight and did our usual screaming, but things changed when that one shot rang out from I don’t know where. BANG! And, we all jumped and pulled out our guns. Chaos ensued. As for you and me, I was just lucky enough to pull my gun first.
And then, as if choreographed and put on stage, everyone else faded into the background and the spotlight shone on us. The light on your face illuminated the emotion so distinctly. There was stillness and silence. You stared at me — just as you are now — waiting to see what I was going to do. The elegant dance of hand-to-hand combat of those around us moved into slow motion as I focused on your face. You were terrorized, but not of me, of the new reality that was upon us. It was no longer an abstract, fuzzy picture of what a future might look like — as has been the case with our fear of the other side gaining power — but of a present reality: Imminent death just moments away.
When I studied your face, I also saw an informed awareness. I wasn’t just some random thug holding you up in a dark alley. A loser with no other purpose than to get a quick buck out of you. You didn’t look at me with that kind of terror you might see from that thug’s victim. A businessman coming out from a meeting at a restaurant, or lovers strolling on the streets after a movie. Those are everyday people who react to these intense situations by quivering in fear, and offering whatever they have in their pockets to be free. They know they are victims of a random incident. It’s not personal. It’s just a transaction.
But that’s not how it is between you and me. No. As I held that gun to your face, you didn’t look at the gun; you looked directly in my eyes, because you know the eyes will tell you more about what someone is thinking — what they’re going to do next. It’s not the gun that frightens you, it’s me. I have a mission. A deeper, more important purpose. And it wasn’t you so much as what you stand for — what you symbolize. That’s why you had fear in your eyes. You could see the reality of the moment.
Then the reality changed for both of us; the police descended into the crowd, and things got out of control. All our guys were getting beaten, hauled away, and worse. Yours, mine. No one was spared. Some fought. Others ran. I didn’t know what to do — I had one eye on you and the other on them. And that’s when the survival instinct hit me, too. Our priorities shifted at the same time. We scanned the field, looking for an out — a gap to run through. And there, we both saw that small section between the mailbox and the police van. No one happened to be there. We both eyed it, looked at each other, and then darted in that direction. Instinctively, we made room for each other, despite the narrow corridor. Sure, either of us could have shoved the other out of the way and made it on our own, but we didn’t. We somehow sensed that we needed to help each other. It struck me so intensely then, that for the first time, it was as though you and I were on the same side. We slipped into that open manhole cover and ended up down here.
By the time we made it to the bottom, we looked around, listened to see if anyone was coming, and scanned the tunnels this way and that. When it was clear we were safe, we shared this sense of relief, and I could feel that communal success. It’s as if we were going to high-five each other, but it also occurred to us that danger was gone. We pivoted right back to where we were: enemies with a mission. I brought my gun back out and again, you had that look in your eyes again. I tied you up and gagged you, but only because I knew it would take time to tell you about my realization. Hell, if the situation were reversed, I probably wouldn’t listen either. But now that I have your full, undivided attention — and you cannot interrupt me — I need to tell you about my epiphany. Something that I think you’ll understand in an instant.
It starts with the concept of reality. You and I — We just shared a common experience — a reality of fear, survival, impending death at the hands of our mutual enemy. How often does that happen, that you and I could share a common view? I mean, look at us. We are so totally opposite of one another, that there’s never, ever been shared reality between us. You name it: social justice, inequality, socialism, culture, global warming, and Trump himself. The list goes on. We have completely different perceptions of the world as we know it. It’s like we’re on the same planet and different universes. No wonder we think that if the other side gains power, the country is doomed. How could someone that can’t even grasp reality be entrusted to run the government?
That’s why you and I hate each other and the things and principles we stand for. Yet, when we then experienced a common reality, one that we experienced together, we saw eye to eye. And that’s what got me thinking: Whatever we think about each other, we shared a reality that we do not dispute actually happened. In this case, we escaped what we consider to be a common enemy. No, I don’t mean “the police,” that’s too simplistic. They’re just proxies — agents for society acting on their behest. I’m referring to everyone else. The people. The disengaged general public. You know, Americans.
I realized that they — the general public — are not actually enemies, per se. After all, they’re the ones we’re trying to save. What I’m talking about is their reality. The fact that they don’t see the desperate situation the country is in. That they are in. Not the way you and I do. They see guys like us as “the fringe.” We’re the thugs in the alley holding them up at gunpoint. The complete, whacko idiots who think the world will end if the other side gains power. They see us as entirely delusional. So they dismiss us and feel both of us should be eliminated.
There was once a time where they may have been right. When I was a kid, I saw my parents fight about politics. Dad and mom were on opposite sides of politics, just as you and I are, always arguing about this policy or that. But I also remember both of them saying, “yeah, but it doesn’t matter because when push comes to shove, the politicians work something out in the back room, and something always gets done.” And no matter what that “something” was, both of them would be upset about it, though for different and opposite reasons. One of my parents once said, “compromise is when both sides lose,” and the other nodded in agreement and sadness.
I have a feeling you have had similar people in your life. That always stuck with me, and I think that’s why I became so impassioned about what’s going on today. Most Americans are used to having to choose between the lesser of two evils: Either your party or that one. But either way, liars and assholes get elected, where they then do and say stupid things, but sooner or later, stuff gets done. Back then, whatever the whole government would do, it’d be good enough for someone, but never everyone. So, each election cycle, voters would get upset, throw out the party in power, and replace them with the other one. Back and forth it would go, all the while, we’d just keep inching forward.
If there were guys like us back then, where each saw the other as leading the entire country into destruction, then of course, we’d be crazy. Because we’d have been wrong. Neither party would destroy the country — at least, not then. And the reason was that, in my parents’ day, people may have disagreed on solutions to problems, where each side would do something entirely differently than the other, but at least they agreed on what the problems were in the first place.
That’s something we can’t do today. Pick a topic, any topic. Q-Anon: Is it real, or just a made-up conspiracy theory? The election: Was it fair or stolen? The coronavirus: Does it exist and is it a real threat? Is global warming real? What about the Trump impeachment? Oh yeah — remember that?! Betcha forgot all about that, huh? Did he do anything wrong, or did he actually undermine real laws and the integrity of the government? All of those issues are huge, aren’t they. And it’s not as though we just disagree about these things — we disagree on whether these things actually exist.
So yeah, I can see how people would want to kill us back then. And today, the public sees us as paranoid whackos, to them, we’re fuckin’ lunatics. But the way I see it, when everyone’s out to get you, paranoia is just smart thinking.
The public is stuck in bygone days. In their fantasy world, by this time next year, the dust from this election will have settled, the pandemic will be over, the economy will be full steam, and calmer heads will have prevailed, leading us back to the way things were — a series of back-and-forth compromises. You and I know that’s insane for one simple reason: Without a shared understanding of what is literally real in the world, how can there be compromise? What is there to negotiate? If someone is that far out of touch with reality, how can they be seen as anything other than a threat to society and the country as we know it? How do you meet in the middle with someone who doesn’t see a thing that even has a middle? I think that’s how both parties see each other right now, so having any expectation that they’ll get along is far more delusional than either of us is.
It’s like arguing whether the Earth is flat or round. Yeah, I know it’s an extreme and silly and stupid comparison, but that’s exactly the point. The shape of the Earth doesn’t have a middle ground. It’s either one thing or the other. It’s not like we can compromise and say “it’s shaped like a chicken.” You and I may not agree on much, but I hope we can agree that it’s not shaped like a chicken. Tell me you believe that. Ok, so it’s either round or it’s flat, and to one of us, it’s so incredibly obvious which of the two is correct, that you can hardly believe anyone thinks anything else. But the general public thinking that we’re all just going to return to normal backroom negotiating and life will move on, well, that’s just fucked up. It’s like thinking the Earth is shaped like a chicken.
My vision of the future is pretty dark, I get it. But tonight, I think I experienced something that may lead us out of this. It’s not the actual politics that’s our problem, it’s the theater about it that’s dooming us. It’s what laid the groundwork for us to all want to kill each other, and as long as it exists, we will ever “get along.” As Americans sit blindly in their own information bubbles, waiting for the politics to work themselves out, mountains of animosity are growing all around them, like snow on the peaks. You and I are responsible for this build-up of snow, and as the rhetoric heats up, the snow will fall and bury us all in an avalanche of fury. The longer we build up the snow around a country of the blind who refuse to see it, the harder it is to escape the valley before the avalanche begins. We made the snow, and I think we can plow it away.
But we can’t do that unless the public sees the situation we’re in as dire. They need to feel that urgency, the fear, the need to survive. That feeling you had when I pointed the gun at you that I wanted you to hold onto. You saw what that did to you — it helped you see. And when you saw, it made you keenly aware of the existential danger that was upon us when the police came. That’s when you and I collaborated and worked together for our common safety. Our goal should be to help everyone see that same kind of existential threat that the theater of politics has become. The fight shouldn’t be about politics or people; it should be ways to escape the conditions that are distorting our realities.
Like that opening in the fighting that you and I saw, I need you with me to go through it again. It can only be done with you and me doing it, side by side. Why? Well, because you and I disagree on our respective political realities means that we can get people’s attention if we say we agree on this other reality: that the Earth is not shaped like a chicken. How we do that, I don’t yet know. America became blind for complicated reasons that you and I may not know. But you and I can become symbols — our own agents of change. Surely, there must be others that also see the doom ahead and we can work together.
It won’t be easy either. I get it that people passionately believe in whatever they think is real. And that’s the shit that’s on TV and throughout the internet, from Facebook to the fringe chat rooms, and it spills over into the attacks we do at each other. Just as it’s difficult to try explaining vision to a blind person, trying to help people understand that their worldview is wrong will be difficult. Hell, I think your worldview is wrong, and I never got anywhere with you. But I tried to do it out of force. We can’t do that with the public. They’ll just tune us out, and shut us down. We will sound delusional. I fully admit that — I’m still getting used to it myself.
We have that opportunity right now. You and I are already notorious. The TV crews were broadcasting when things got out of control, we’re trending on twitter, and the Facebook groups are super hot right now. America is being entertained, so we have their attention. But we’re not controlling the story. Everyone else is. The blind are leading the blind. We have to take control of this story and jolt Americans into seeing what’s really at stake. We can use our unintentional celebrity and show people that we can get along. We don’t have to talk about who’s right or wrong, or even talk politics. We only need to say that this charade has to stop.
I can see by your eyes that you agree with me. You’re calmer now; there’s a settled, peaceful look in your eyes. I can trust you now. Let me untie you and we can get out of here, and I think we will make news. And the timing is good. Our phones are being tracked, so I assume your guys and mine both know where we are. The police probably do, too. In fact, I think I hear people coming now.
Hey, out there! Is that you? Can you hear me? Are you the police?
Dude, they’re coming, man! I’m trying to untie you, but I did too good of a job with this knot. This is tough. Hold on. We’re going to get out of here and we’ll be talking a lot more about this. You’ll see! I hear them coming. I see flashlights. Remember, in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king! We’re going to teach them to see. We’re going to save them!
Hey! Over here! I hear you guys laughing, but I don’t recognize the voices. Hey you guys! Who are you? I can’t see your faces.
Whoa! Shit — that was loud! Damn, that hurt, too! Hey, look at that! I’ve been SHOT! I’ve been shot. Hey dude… I’ve been shot. And I think you’ve been shot, too. You’re not moving. This isn’t good. We were supposed to help everyone. We could have saved them, but they shot us. No wonder: They think we’re delusional. How could they know otherwise? If you’re blind, how do you understand the concept of sight? Those who try to teach you are delusional. It’s a vicious cycle… I’m fading, man… This isn’t how it should end… We… could… have… helped…