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Monday, February 10, 2020

Everyone Needs an Enemy

Will Rogers said:

I never met a man I didn’t like.

And for him I hope that’s true. In reality, everyone needs an enemy. That individual or idea or issue that’s so diametrically opposed to who and what we think we are that the enemy in part defines us as individuals.

Did Will Rogers know that?

I’d think the answer is no. He didn’t know he needed an enemy and probably thought he didn’t have one. Or he knew he had one (or many) and chose to like the enemy anyway.

It’s a thing1.

One way to view this is in the philosophy of:

We’ve always done it this way.

Or:

It was good enough for [insert noun object] and it should be good enough for you.

Or any one of, quite possibly, a near infinite subset of other possibilities that dictate something has existed therefore it should continue to exist without question or change.

In my 20s, the single most contentious example (in my online anonymous group of friends) was Founders Intent in relation to the United States Constitution2. The position, which I then and now oppose, is that the Constitution is an established and therefore unchanging document. This argument is, by its nature, false as the Constitution was written with the express and stated intent of adding Amendments. Amendments that would further clarify and codify the established political doctrine whereby we all live3.

According to Lynn Manuel Miranda’s Alexander Hamilton:

H: My client needs a strong defense, you’re the solution.

B: Who’s your client?

H: The new US Constitution

B: No.

A: Hear me out.

B: No way!

A: A series of essays anonymously published. Defending the document to the public.

B: No one will read it.

A: I disagree.

B: And if it fails?

A: Burr, that’s why we need it.

B: The Constitution’s a mess.

A: So it needs amendments.

B: It’s full of contradictions.

A: So is independence.

— Alexander Hamilton, Non-Stop, original Broadway soundtrack.

The product of Alexander Hamilton’s genius is what’s not called The Federalist Papers, the basis of the founders arguments in favor of our form of democracy4, and the need to amend the original document.

In this scenario, my enemy is anyone who thinks the document was and is established and in no need of changing. Itself an absurd proposition as the founders had no way of conceiving of modern warfare, monetary systems, computers, drugs, and so on. In effect, the 52 old white dudes didn’t have the extent of a clue some people would like them to have had.

Yet, this isn’t even the easy enemy most people need or already posses. To this we look to religion and specifically the many flavors of Christianity5. If you’re among this group your default enemy is:

The Devil.

Didn’t see that coming, did you?

Satan, Lucifer, the Son of the Morning, or any other name attributed to the Christian antagonist6. And for many the most obvious enemy is (1) sin and (2) non-Christian people7.

Which is fine and good. But, it can be taken a step further and your enemy can be better defined as a Christiansee note 5 who doesn’t agree with or align with your specific brand of Christianity. In this context, groups like the Mormons8 or Jehovah’s Witnesses or Scientologists. These groups, to the larger Christian faiths are the biggest objects of Christian non-Christian debate and animosity.

Or, you could look at the deadly sins9:

  • pride
  • greed
  • lust
  • envy
  • gluttony
  • wrath
  • sloth

I’m sure there are more than these, but as an aspect of tradition, which is a lot of what religion is, these work.

Which has been and will be (in the future) the subject of movies and books and manga and anime and more. One might even think the Judeo-Christian world almost has a fetish over sins and heaven and the like.

Regardless, by defining the enemy, regardless of how, we then define ourselves. If your enemy is sin, then the sinner becomes your enemy. Which means that:

Love the sinner hate the sin10

A sentiment that’s inherently impossible and at odds with itself. As one cannot hate an aspect of something and love everything else. Guess which part you’re going to focus on?

Unfortunately, the idea of enemy is one that’s largely ignored by Christian people as they don’t want to sinpride. Yet, rejecting new ways of worship or even new ways of viewing religion, much like rejecting amendments to the US Constitution, is a form of enemy identification. One that, for many, is essential to their form of worship.

The enemy is an important part of our lives, which is mostly fine. Except for when it’s not. The amendments to the US Constitution establish the inherent right to believe and worship as you will. There are qualifiers to this, like no animal or human sacrifice and plural marriage (polygamy or polyandry) are prohibited, but you can worship however you want and you can disagree with how others worship11.

You can also disagree with:

  • the definition of marriage
  • tax laws
  • the type of nation the United States is meant to be
  • political parties
  • neighbors
  • family
  • immigration law
  • and etc.

The moment you disagree, though, you’ve defined your enemy.

And your enemy defines you.


  1. It’s not actually a thing and it is, which makes positions like everyone needs an enemy a lot of fun to take.  

  2. We’ll refer to this as example by political discourse and I’m sorry and will attempt, in the future, to be significantly more flippant in my postings.  

  3. Within the United States, but don’t quote me on this point as it’s not hard to create a counter-argument based on the courts, party politics, and arguments in favor of states rights over federal law and regulation.  

  4. A representational democracy, or you vote for someone who votes for you as proxy. This is also the basis of the Electoral College.  

  5. I’m going to define Christianity and Christian as any religion, group, or individual who professes belief in and worship of Jesus Christ regardless of how that belief and worship manifests.  

  6. It may be of some interest that Satan et. al. aren’t the primary devil or devils.  

  7. In the context of non-Christian, I’m an enemy because I don’t even allow for the possibility of God. Though I do allow for the need and necessity of individual beliefs and religious worship. I’m such a disappointment.  

  8. Full disclosure, I was born and raised Mormon and resigned my membership many years ago.  

  9. On the other side of this are venial sins or lesser sins the commission of which doesn’t necessarily deny one entrance into heaven.  

  10. As a result of a disagreement between my wife and I, I discovered that this paraphrased sentiment is from Gandhi and not a Christian or western ethos. Try to convince a Mormon of that.  

  11. Incidentally, because of Mormons, the reason you cannot have more than one husband or more than one wife.  

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