Archive for March, 2016
This year brings an especially significant intrusion into our national zeitgeist. On the one hand, it would seem to be a good thing that voter participation is so high. At least that’s what we’ve always heard…
On the other hand, when I see the people that the Donald has teased out with his ever-inflammatory rhetoric (and bearing in mind that we’ve been schooled to never to use Hitler comparisons), I think we’re seeing rabblerousing in all its glory.
The relevance for the god-challenged community? When the society, the politics, and the people are reoriented according to their basest instincts, the marginalization of the minorities becomes extreme. In an intolerant society, civility is relaxed. Political correctness is unnecessary. Nothing exploits that so well as a demagogue.
American politics had, seemingly, matured past the point of this kind of demagoguery, but not all of the populace with it. It takes a special make up to fit the bill. The person must know his own worth or something north of it. He must be seen as a prince or king or something of an heir-apparent that ties into our instinctual mental template for divine right. Too many of us see wealth and business prowess as legitimizing factors as well. Cap that off with an authoritarian demeanor and there you have our demagogue, warts and all.
How did our society get to this point? We’ve been heading in this direction for quite some time. Long before global warming was apparent, the big chill in society was in motion. What was causal and what was coincidence? Opinions vary. Moral relativism? Political polarization? Secularization?
Christianity has changed in a number of ways over the last twenty-five to fifty years. Not the least of those changes was when it became a religion of prosperity rather than of compassion in some circles.
The lowest common denominators of human behavior–xenophobia, racism, religious bigotry–served us once. We were equipped with those tools of natural selection because they had survival value. If we want to live in a modern society, though, dropping these hunter-gatherer behaviors is more than politically correct; it is essential to a just society.
Worse yet, the folks who cheer battle cries drawn from the deep well of these old emotionally charged instincts are reminiscent of the behavior they abhor from a certain extreme cultural, tribal, and religious fundamentalism. If all of these folks burrow far enough into their respective religious texts, they’ll meet each other under Abraham’s roof.
In an environment where bigotry is rationalized by “filibluster,” the spokesman of the movement offers no rational logic to justify statements or actions–only sound bites or at best emotion-laden rhetoric. Crowd psychology is held out as inevitable wisdom. Those baser instincts are allowed the heady freedom of running wild.
But what is to be done when the politics of benign neglect shift to misanthropic disdain for those of us who just don’t get it? Supporters, or revelers, at these rallies call him their president and call protestors unpatriotic. It takes folks in this position to complete the demagogue; without them he is nothing.
All will not be made right, but rather explained, by the misdirector-in-chief who bears some resemblance to the old testament deity. Could that be the source of his appeal? Wrathful, vengeful, quirky to a fault.
Beware these strangely energized believers. Energy, motion, and momentum can carry the day. The zealot has the energy and motivation to go to extremes that the less energized populace who don’t see good options awaiting them at the polls can match.
The god-free need to be especially vigilant. While we debate the national motto and “under God” in the Pledge, the sort of undertow that’s in motion could embolden the newly energized bigot to question more basic things like our right to exist.