All posts by Richmond

Liberal Agenda vs. Conservative Agenda

Cultural identity — or,  more accurately, an existential fear that white privilege and culture may cease to exist in an increasingly multicultural society, is the gut issue driving radical conservative politics. The “Liberal Agenda“, any way you choose to define it, does not allay that fear – in fact, it stokes it.

Frank Bruni, the NY Times columnist, interviewed Ann Coulter, a Fox News commentator and outspoken Trump advocate. She expresses disillusion with Trump’s failure to move his border wall forward. The wall is one huge symbol of preserving the sort of national purity that Coulter desires.

ppp

Read the full interview here – (click)

The willingness of evangelicals to forsake the most basic of Christian values is also rooted in white cultural identity fears.  The Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary says:

The “value proposition” displayed by white evangelicals in the 2016 election, and the definition of what constitutes “moral values” and what doesn’t, is inextricably related to the nation’s upcoming demographic shift—the fact that, by the year 2044, the United States is expected to become majority nonwhite. This has significant implications for the wider faith community regarding issues of race. Much more may be at stake than the leader of the Christian foundation was able or willing to recognize.

Here Douglas refers to the leader of a Christian foundation who explained his support of Trump by saying:

… he told me to consider the “moral values”—such as pro-life concerns—that he said prompted, if not demanded, white evangelical support of Donald Trump’s candidacy.

Douglas argues that the evangelicals are heirs to Puritan beliefs:

… the Puritans and Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic with a vision to build a nation that was politically and culturally—if not demographically—true to their “exceptional” Anglo-Saxon heritage.They saw this as a divine vision.

They traced their Anglo-Saxon heritage through the ancient woods of Germany back to the Bible. They considered themselves the “new Israelites,” carrying forth a godly mission. Central to this mission was building not simply an Anglo-Saxon nation but a religious nation—one that reflected the morals and virtues of God, which in their minds were synonymous with the unsullied ways of their freedom-loving Anglo-Saxon ancestors. “The Lord will make [America] a city upon a hill,” Puritan leader John Winthrop preached in 1630, “[with] the eyes of all people upon us.” [Read the full Douglas article here – (click).]

President Ronald Regan spoke of America’s Capitalist Democracy in similar terms, though I hesitate to suggest that he or his speechwriter made the connection.  But the notion that America is set apart and above those outside its boundaries is clear.

Dave Shelman, in a letter to the editor of Sojourner Magazine, cautiously observed striking similarities between the Christian support of Hitler and of Trump:

… particularly the ease with which evangelical Christians, in America today and in Germany then, accepted populist movements and their nationalistic programs. In both cases, the populist forces were able to exploit societal anxieties and make a sentimental appeal to a cultural form of Christianity that served its purposes.

The slogan of the Nazified German Christians was “Germany our goal, Christ our power!” Based on a distorted interpretation of Lutheran theology, a group of theologians at the time issued a document, known as the Ansbacher Ratschlag, opposing the Barmen Declaration. It was addressed to the National Socialist Evangelical Union of Pastors and included this statement: “… we as believing Christians thank the Lord God that in this hour of need he has given our people the Fuhrer as a ‘good and faithful sovereign,’ and that in the Nationalistic Socialist state he is endeavoring to provide us with disciplined and honorable ‘good government.’” This distant mirror of attitudes—and even words—that are with us today should give Christians great concern. The vulnerability of the American church did not come about in the presidential election of November 2016. The present political quagmire has only exposed it.

Understanding and taking seriously cultural identity fear is key to understanding why radical conservatives are refractory to reasoned arguments and willing to subordinate their basic morality values for a powerful champion who says he’s with them.  It’s about the survival of their personal identity myth.

There are human needs that take on an importance greater than life itself as Paul Chappell asserts when he enumerates the needs that Maslow overlooked.  A person’s life and identity are inseparable from the quest to meet these needs. When frustrated, bad behavior happens.

We bond and identify with others to fulfill these needs, and once we bond our values are profoundly intertwined with our social affiliation.  Certain conditions foster bonds.

When I consider these factors it’s easier to understand how a group that is bonded by a shared extreme belief becomes refractory to any contrary evidence.  When all of those you count as friends are bonded by a shared orthodoxy,  it takes super-human self-assurance and courage to break away no matter how implausibly warped the shared perception is. Reality doesn’t change the belief that bonds.

Denial, selective listening, strategic lying, and many other self-destructive (soul-destructive?) behaviors are understandable when seen in this frame.


Post Script

Here is a TED talk where an ex-skinhead reveals what got him into the movement, and what got him out of it.  I think it confirms what I’ve said above. Perhaps it also points to the resolution of our differences.

 

 

Gun Humor … HUMOR??

The wonderful and inspiring activism of the Parkland HS students has engendered an ongoing dialog in social media between gun enthusiasts and those who want guns regulated or banned.  Netflix did a special featuring comedian Jim Jefferies.

Watch it here …

And the second part …

 

Jeffries confronts the faulty logic and lapsed common sense of many pro-gun arguments.  Perhaps humor is the best way to do this.

 

It’s “Freedom’s Safest Place.”  [NRA video theme]

Maybe they are afraid.

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We Marched -AGAIN

We were in Key West last year (2017) for the Women’s March and we walked Duval Street to Mallory Square again this year. Click the photos below to see the slide show.

Keys Citizen News coverage here: (click)

Why Are all the Women’s Marches Important??

“For two years in a row, the women’s marches have turned out far more people than the Tea Party protests held between 2007 to 2010 did. In terms of numbers, the only recent events of comparable scope were the antiwar protests of February, 2003. (There were huge protest movements in the nineteen-thirties and sixties.) But those were motivated by animus toward a specific policy—… ”

(read the whole New Yorker article)

Can’t let this slide by …

The tax bill that the GOP is celebrating leaves most of America worse off than they were last year, and will be financed by borrowing more money.

Check the chart to see what your family gets. Don’t have a six-figure income? “You want more do you, Oliver? MORE you say?”

I forgot to mention, they will be borrowing the money for this from (wait for it) … China.

When you add it all up, the ultra-rich get 80% or so of the proceeds. So tell me again how a tax break that increases their cash by 5% is gonna make the rest of us prosper? Inflation was 2% this year, that means unless you make more than $500,000 a year, your tax benefit still leaves you worse off than last year. America, you are being played!

Useful Scoundrels?

Does the end justify the means?  Can a scoundrel serve a good purpose? Many great dramas have been written and filmed around these great questions. Some politicians’ actions say that their personal answer to boh questions is “yes.”
Here’s an analysis of that phenomenon: The Scoundrel Theory.
Here are some more perceptive articles.
Rolling Stone Magazine: “Trump’s Republican Party has taken on the attributes of a cult” – Sean Wilentz
Time Magazine: “Unifying values, around speech and civility, freedom and fairness are shredded by rising tribal furies and passions. We have a president for whom division is not just a strategy, it’s a skill.” — Nancy Gibbs [Former Editor and Chief].
NY Times: “The Republican Party is doing harm to every cause it purports to serve.” – David Brooks.
We are in a time when our fundamental ethics and mores are being called into question.  What exactly is the “American Way” these days?

The Blacksmith Metaphor

Iron and steel can be shaped and hardened into durable implements with fire and repeated blows. Maybe the “heat” generated in our turbulent society will allow us to shape it for the better. It’s up to those who love peace to stay engaged lest others forge only weapons, chains, and shackles.

The durable metal [mettle?] of American Individualism and independence needs tempering with compassion and stewardship for the common good. It’s about having integrity as an inclusive and beloved community. Can that vision be forged from the base metal of predatory self-interest? How much heat and how many blows are necessary?

[photo: Shutterstock]

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 Thanks to George Lakey for the metaphor of heat softening the metal so that it can be worked and shaped. The song “If I had a hammer” comes to mind.

“Living in Dark Times” – New from Pendle Hill

These are indeed dark times. I read of national and world events, grind my teeth, and sometimes despair that the light of hope for my children and grandchildren is dimming, not brightening. Rex Ambler’s Pendle Hill Pamphlet “Living in Dark Times” was published last month.  The Pendel Hill website summarizes his message thus:

How can we effect positive change in our current difficult world situation? In this pamphlet based on his talk at the 2016 Friends General Conference Gathering, Rex Ambler shares his reflections and insights. Citing William Penn, he urges readers to avoid objectifying the world, focus within, and live lives that reflect the truth they discover.

Continue reading “Living in Dark Times” – New from Pendle Hill

What Rebel Memorials Represent

In the days following Charlottesville’s white supremacist march historians offered evidence that the construction of Confederate memorials represents more than a simple historical artifact of the US Civil War.

Chart showing when Confederate Memorials were Built.
Peak in 1915 coincides with rise of KKK.

The peak in 1915 was a period of extreme segregationist sentiment among white Americans.  President Woodrow Wilson ordered the segregation of black federal workers.  The first Hollywood blockbuster film, Birth of a Nation,  celebrated the KKK, debased blacks, and fueled the growth of racism and segregation in the following decade. The NAACP was founded in the same period.

While at Chautauqua (8/5 to 8/20/17) Marguerite and I attended a showing of Birth of a Movement presented by the filmmaker Bestor Kram. This Independent Lens PBS Documentary gives the historical context surrounding Birth of a Nation and offers a key to understanding why Confederate Memorials are not merely a commemoration of historic figures and events. (Click the image below to view the trailer.)

Birth of a Movement Trailer

When we understand the political and social climate surrounding the creation of these Monuments, it becomes clear that they were erected to honor the ideology of white supremacy and those who fought to preserve not just slavery, but the whole social system that dehumanized blacks.

Critics point out that in Germany when structures and artifacts of the Nazi era have been preserved, it is done in a context of national shame. Students are taught about that period as a dark time, not a proud one.

This is not generally the case with Dixie. And, the  Confederate flag has been taken by the white supremacists as a symbol of their tribe. You won’t find black Americans flying the “Stars and Bars” on the back of their pickup trucks.

 

Red Tape Rollback? – Latter Day Robber Barons

The mailing pictured below cost the sender at least $20 for each copy that was mailed.  This “non-profit” is soliciting serious money from wealthy Americans.  It is one of the groups that have defended the Tobacco Industry for years and is now funded by the Koch Brothers and others of like mind.
It is cleverly crafted to suck in the small business owner — maybe this is not the first time you have seen it.  It is the third appeal I have seen since #45 office. They all come from different organizations, but they all have the same basic format: a long richly personalized letter, first class mail with patriotic postage stamps, an artfully worded pitch, and a stamped self-addressed envelope with the target’s name already typed in the return address space.
Consider the source and ask yourself if they really are fighting for “We the People” as they claim.