The Dark Side

The Dark Side

After 146 years of entertainment, come May it’s over. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is permanently closing “The Greatest Show on Earth”. P. T. Barnum’s most famous quote is probably, “There's a sucker born every minute.” But, we have to give that some context. Barnum understood that we humans are drawn to things, dark things, forbidden things, “dangerous” people, authoritarian ideologies, lower things and strange things. This quote, “Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public.” may say it best.

For some reason, we Americans are particularly susceptible to the baser side of life. We fill stadiums and arenas with thousands upon thousands of screaming fanatics who claim to be supporting their favorite teams as they engage in boxing matches, soccer matches, football games, baseball games, tennis matches, softball games, hockey games and more. Some of the “sports” require a degree of finesse as well as certain skills and of course, speed and power. But let me be honest here; we savor a certain amount of controlled violence in many of our sports. Video games are designed to elicit particular feelings of power, subjection and death. We find it hard to produce movies without an adequate amount of profanity, violence and sex. The industry relies on a rating system which guarantees these elements are necessary to not receive a G or PG rating.

This pull toward the lurid side of things has seeped into nearly every aspect of life. Look at the political climate in the country. We just experienced campaigns with the most vitriolic, crude, hateful, divisive and debasing rhetoric in my memory. Social media has become a tool for expressing angry feelings in what was once taboo language for public discourse. Some are even proud of their rants against others, calling for punitive actions and violence. Even from the pulpits of America, ministers call for the establishment of their “favorite” version of Christianity as the rule of the land, demeaning people of color, members of the LBGT community, refugees from places where Authoritarian and Fascist governments indiscriminately kill their own citizens, practitioners of other faiths and anyone else who doesn’t follow their lead.

And, then, we remember that the faithful are called by God to model “a better way to live” for the world around us. We are not to give in to our basest selves and lowest standards. Instead, we are called to affirm the value of every person, to lift up the oppressed, to be compassionate, empathetic, merciful, and forgiving, while practicing honesty, living with integrity and loving every one of our neighbors regardless of religion, race, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity or economic status. We are called to love them all!