3 min read

distracted by shadows

Note: This is a guest post by a friend I met through the chaplaincy, coming from a different but very strong faith background. Despite our theological differences, the words are powerful and deserve a thoughtful, pensive read. Enjoy.

Don't be distracted by shadows. 

Given the events in Charlottesville, it is perhaps even more important to keep that advice close.

Nazis, white supremacists, KKK, “alt-right”. These are shadows.

Daesh, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, “radical islamist terrorists”. These are shadows.

Russia, Iran, North Korea. These are shadows.

These are shadows concealing the true energy that underly the actions and attitudes of those the labels describe.


Light and dark exist in an uneasy shifting balance at the best of times, as is only right. Neither energy is supposed to gain an upper hand. But the calculations have changed in recent decades. Darkness has gotten a foothold in the minds of men.

As is its nature, it lurks in those places people do not look, growing slowly. It feeds on everything negative, folding it back in a reinforcing feedback loop, amplifying. Festering.

Fear. Pain. Anger. Rage. Hatred. Despair.

It creates situations that allow it to crowd out everything else. It spreads to others, further building power. Until something breaks.

As soldiers, we are used to darkness. We see it every day. We use it every day. But we are trained to focus it. We control it. We cage it. We bend it to our will to accomplish our limited goals.

Because of that, we also know how tempting it is to let darkness hold the reins, even if just for a moment. From that moment of inattention, My Lais are born.

Imagine, however, how vulnerable people who have no training in controlling the beasts within all of us are to this?

From them, Holocausts are born. Rwandas are born. Bosnias are born. 9/11s are born. Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Nicaragua, the Philippines …

Boston, San Bernardino, Bunkersville, Orlando – and yes, Charlottesvilles are born.

Darkness doesn't care what ideology is used to express it. It does not care how pure the motives those who wield it is. It gives not a whit what labels are applied to those who have fallen to it, for it considers them all simply tools. It exists solely to feed, and to breed, and to grow. It takes every avenue to accomplish that goal available.

There are some who have surrendered to darkness. Who take pleasure from the results. Those people are, indeed, “evil”, in many ways. They are without hope, and would not want it even if offered to them. But there are many others who are manipulated by darkness, every small chink in their moral, ethical, and spiritual armor exploited, breached, and eventually overcome by powers they do not even realize are at play.

In other times, we called them “the mob”. People who would get caught up in the moment, defenseless, being ridden by darkness.

Darkness is a lot like handling a grenade. When you stop respecting it, you get complacent, it's likely to go off in your hand.

It's time we stopped being distracted by shadows, started recognizing that whatever labels we give to the people in its thrall, darkness is underwriting the world's insanity of late.

We have been in this place before, many times. We will be in it again. That is the balance between light and dark that must be.

Balanced. Not biased.

That balance will not restore itself. Light counters darkness, as darkness counters light, and we need more light shed before we can right ourselves.

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