Sleepers, Snakes, and Monsters…who is most dangerous?

Steven Barnes
4 min readDec 18, 2019

After a recent conversation, I realized I wanted to say something about the “Sleepers, Snakes and Monsters” notion, the implications and discomfort with the notion of equality, and current events. I cannot claim these thoughts are beautifully structured, but they are sincere.

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I think that part of our national malaise is that we are finally, FINALLY really looking at the meaning of equality, and it is disturbing as hell to the majority of people. I’ve met vanishingly few people who don’t think that their race, gender, region, religion, political party, sexual orientation or whatever is not superior. Not just better for THEM. Not just better “right now” for this or that temporary reason. But just…superior.

And those who deny they have one of those ugly little voices in their heads? They cannot “lean into the wind” against its effects, are dangerous as hell. They act unconsciously, piously, with a “who, me?” attitude as the destruction mounts around them. They really do the “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” routine.

Now…are they more dangerous than straight-out bigots? Well…bigots who declare themselves directly aren’t much danger unless their kind has a majority. The most dangerous would be bigots who know they are bigots, lie about it and mask their real feelings by selectively interpreting laws and events, all the while pretending they are neutral. THOSE I think, are the very worst in terms of the amount of damage they can do.

But those who believe they are “good”, without realizing that very good people can harbor negative tribal beliefs, are also dangerous — not quite as bad as the snakes. The outright monsters would be people who either for personal or tribal aggrandizement would destroy competing groups, and mask their true feelings until they have power. Those are the absolute worst.

So..monsters don’t reveal themselves until they have power, then drop the mask. If they reveal themselves too soon, they’ll never get power.

Snakes are little monsters. They know they are bigots or thieves, but lie and try to get you to trust them. Pretend to be honest brokers. It is with sorrow that they vote for monsters, or support horror. But behind the mask…they love it.

Sleepers are the good people who think they have none of this, but are not AWARE of the voices inside them that scream for vengeance, or…

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Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts. www.lifewritingpodcast.com.