I hardly ever write about politics any more, and not just because I’m so disillusioned with it, but because I’ve realized how little it really matters to a full and joyous life. Still, the condition of society is something I think about a lot. Here, for the record, are a few things that have crossed my mind recently that I think are worth sharing.
In January, I resigned from the Republican party. I was never a “capital R” type, anyway, but I mostly vote Republican, and to participate in primary elections around here, one must be so registered. Now I realize I can have a greater influence on things through recommendations, though.
I withdrew, of course, because of Trump. I don’t want to scribble a screed here, but suffice it to say, I think he’s a bad man, one so thoroughly foul that to be on his side is to be tainted.
“But what about all the good things he’s done!” say supporters.
- He really hasn’t achieved as much as you think he has.
- “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Mark 8:36
That second one, especially, encapsulates why I don’t care as much about the political realm anymore. How in the world do so many “conservatives” not see that winning these transient, pitiful little squabbles now means absolutely nothing in the long run, in a world where the social fabric continues to unravel ever faster? We’re rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We can’t hold families together, we can’t keep jobs even when they’re available, we can’t even stop record numbers of people from drowning their sorrows so ferociously that they actually die by the thousands each week. But hey, we scored some kind of win on paper in Washington, DC, so hooray for us! What a farce.
“He’s better than Hillary!”
Even if true, so what? Death by a slightly less unpleasant method is still death. The only way to win is to decline to cooperate.
In last month’s LDS General Conference, Elder Ballard said, “Where democracy exists, it is our duty as members to vote for honorable men and women who are willing to serve.” I think he emphasized the word “honorable.” I don’t think it was random.
I saw this truck at a red light a couple of weeks ago, and I think it illustrates a fatal flaw in today’s right side of the social and political spectrum. The flag and eagle combined with a Bible verse, a picture of the Bible itself, and a Trump bumper sticker shows this to be someone for whom politics and religion are equally mixed in an indistinguishable cocktail of nationalistic Christianity.
The problem is that addressed by Rod Dreher in The Benedict Option: America is increasingly unfriendly to Christians and their values, and only looks to be going further in that hostile direction. What will it do to the faith of those who worship American icons when the nation those icons represent starts to actively punish them for their faith?
And this is aside from the danger of being distracted by eternal spiritual truth by the temporary nature of civic government, anyway. These two things–politics and religion–are not equal. To mix them so thoroughly can only drag down the value of religion.
Patriotism has an important place in the life of a disciple, I believe, but the American right tends to flirt with an idolatrous perversion of it. Yes, may God bless the USA, but that’s not automatic or easy–it only happens if and when the USA blesses God first.
I rarely make any kind of even remotely political comment to my teenage students, but last month one asked what I thought of all the anti-gun protesting going on, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to make a connection with our curriculum: “Next year when I teach The Crucible and we talk about modern examples of witch hunts–with their odd detail that the feelings of children tend to be reverently promoted because they conveniently support the agendas of paranoid adults–I’ll have a new example.”
I hear people young and old alike lament the woes of being young and starting out disadvantaged today that I can’t help seeing the trend in such hand wringing over the decades.
Every time someone pontificates about how uniquely hard it is to be a Millennial or even Gen Z, with no hope for a future as good as the life previous generations had, I think of Walter Kirn’s short story “Can’t Get Started,” from the 1994 collection The Gen X Reader. Kirn tells a sardonic story of a 20-something misfit whose attempts to get a foothold in the adult world keep getting stymied by circumstances round him.
He hits all the beats that we still hear now: the economy has changed too much, society’s patterns are set too rigidly, all the good entry doors have essentially closed. Kirn even writes wryly of the unraveling social fabric that I mentioned above as a permanent barrier to success…in a story originally written 27 years ago (in GQ, October 1991).
But guess what? Generation X turned out OK. Well, as OK as their counterparts in previous generations, mostly. Those insurmountable barriers? New factors emerged that changed the game, most notably the Internet.
So when some pundit or another wants to assert that today’s young generation is hopelessly doomed, I remember that everyone said the same thing a quarter century ago. It wasn’t true about us then, and it won’t be true about Millennials now.