Rev. Jim McConnell submitted the following column for publication in this Saturday’s Herald Palladium…

How MSNBC and Fox News Get Rich

There is an old Hasidic story I love to tell. 

A long time ago, there was village.  It was a very normal little village with very normal people. Life changed little from day to day. People tended their shops, their fields and their families.  Babies where born and old people died.  And generally, people where happy, though there were sometimes problems.  Husbands and wives argued and were silent with one another for a day or two.  Mischievous boys would occasionally pull pranks on the town’s adults.  Very infrequently, there was a petty theft.  Once in a while, someone felt cheated by one of the merchants.  But, as I said, generally speaking, people were happy, that is, until they got the idea that they could be even happier.  You see, within the human soul there are two impulses, the impulse to goodness, Yetzer ha-tov, and the impulse to evil, Yetzer ha-ra.  The town elders got the idea that if they could just get rid of the Yetzer ha-ra, the evil impulse, that there would be no more thorny little problems and everyone could be thoroughly happy.  So, on the appointed day, the elders went to every house, shop, and farmer’s cottage and gathered up all the Yetzer ha-ra.  They took it and put it in a place where it was completely in the darkness and out of sight.  Then, they sat back to watch all the happiness.  Strangely, people did not get happier.  People became very unhappy.  There were many more domestic disputes.  The mischievous boys were caught torturing animals.  Fist fights broke out in the market place.  The crops failed.  The milking goats and cows stopped giving milk.  The village well dried up.  Crops withered in the fields.  Many of the very young and very old sickened and died.

The elders realized their mistake. The impulse to evil becomes much more active and dangerous when we put it in the dark.  The elders returned the yetzer ha-ra, the evil impulse, to the village and, after a period of time, life returned to normal.  People were mostly happy again. 

Here is the moral for our story.  It turns out that it is very important to keep your impulse to evil out in the open, where you can keep an eye on it and benefit from the creative powers it brings you.  The irony is that, when you hide it from yourself, it causes you to become genuinely evil.

The biggest problem with hiding your impulse to evil from your self is that it often gets projected onto others.  This is happening a lot in our country right now. Both Democrats and Republicans are projecting their evil impulses onto their political rivals.  MSNBC and Fox News have made a lot of money off our unwillingness to own our own darkness.  MSNBC plays a continuous game of “Ain’t it Awful What Those Terrible Republicans are Doing” and Fox News sings the tune, “The Do-Nothing Democrats are Destroying Democracy.”  We can make ourselves immune to this nonsense by paying attention to our own lives and the impulse to darkness that often arises within us. 

The good news in all this is that the darkness within can, when we pay attention to it, become a part of the light that energizes us and moves us to actually love and respect our political opponents and see their points of view as necessary parts of the political ecology of our country. 

We need each other to make of our country a great nation that is known for its compassion, honor, and respect for all Life.