"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sympathy for the Devil

Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name:

The right has been very successful at persuading working people that they are vulnerable not because they themselves have failed, but because of the selfishness of some other villain (African-Americans, feminists, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, liberals, progressives; the list keeps growing).

Instead of challenging this ideology of shame, the left has buttressed it by blaming white people as a whole for slavery, genocide of the Native Americans and a host of other sins, as though whiteness itself was something about which people ought to be ashamed. The rage many white working-class people feel in response is rooted in the sense that once again, as has happened to them throughout their lives, they are being misunderstood.
And so the answer is not to link white working-class people with African-Americans, feminists, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, liberals, and progressives; the answer is to understand how misunderstood white working-class people are.

The ones who support Trump have made it quite clear what they understand:

How, exactly, do I misunderstand that?

So, yes, this is true:

So please understand what is happening here. Many Trump supporters very legitimately feel that it is they who have been facing an unfair reality. The upper 20 percent of income earners, many of them quite liberal and rightly committed to the defense of minorities and immigrants, also believe in the economic meritocracy and their own right to have so much more than those who are less fortunate. So while they may be progressive on issues of discrimination against the obvious victims of racism and sexism, they are blind to their own class privilege and to the hidden injuries of class that are internalized by much of the country as self-blame.
The right’s ability to portray liberals as elitists is further strengthened by the phobia toward religion that prevails in the left. Many religious people are drawn by the teachings of their tradition to humane values and caring about the oppressed. Yet they often find that liberal culture is hostile to religion of any sort, believing it is irrational and filled with hate. People on the left rarely open themselves to the possibility that there could be a spiritual crisis in society that plays a role in the lives of many who feel misunderstood and denigrated by the fancy intellectuals and radical activists.

But it doesn't lead to this:

The left needs to stop ignoring people’s inner pain and fear. The racism, sexism and xenophobia used by Mr. Trump to advance his candidacy does not reveal an inherent malice in the majority of Americans. If the left could abandon all this shaming, it could rebuild its political base by helping Americans see that much of people’s suffering is rooted in the hidden injuries of class and in the spiritual crisis that the global competitive marketplace generates.

Especially since the "inner pain and fear" being "misunderstood" there is that of white people.  Blacks and Muslims and Jews apparently have no "inner pain and fear. "  Well, correct that:  Jews are allowed to, but Black and Muslims are still predominantly "scary," so they need to confront that before confronting the "inner pain and fear" of working-class whites.  And as for that lack of "inherent malice," get real:

 Yeah, just a couple of misunderstood white kids expressing their inner pain and fear with no malice toward anyone.

Frankly, any pastor telling the truth will tell you there is an enormous amount of malice inherent in even the kindest person.  Pushed hard enough, they either won't oppose evil, however banal it is, or will actively (or passively) support it, because they like what it obtains; especially in the case of people in groups.  Working-class whites are not some special group we should now privilege with excessive concern.  At least not anymore than Democrats should continue to assume African-Americans and Hispanics will always turn out to vote for them (the largest single reason Hillary lost in the electoral college), or that they can't overcome the white working-class voters who will continue to vote in frustration against their own interests* (what, exactly, is a rich boy from Manhattan going to do for a former factory worker in North Carolina?).

And answering Chris Cilizza's tweet above:  considering the appointments Trump is making and planning to make, it seems clear he thinks racists have a place in his administration.  And racism is not equivalent to knuckle-dragging white sheet wearer who wants to shoot all non-whites on sight.  Didn't we learn that with David Duke?  It may be better politics to continue to make the white vote in American normative:  but it's racist to the core.  Besides, the idea is "corrosive" to democracy because there can't be that many racists in America?  Why not?  Did we remove them all after Reconstruction?  Then explain to me about the children harassing their peers across America right now.

I learned in law school that when something happens, especially when harm is done, someone is responsible.  It may be a wet sidewalk after rain, a piece of lettuce dropped on the floor of a grocery by a customer, or a product that is harmful even as it is good:  absent "acts of God," there is someone to be held accountable.  Accidents do not just happen.  I learned in seminary that the choices we make matter, whether we make them consciously or not.  Our hearts may be pure, but we are responsible for our actions, not our intentions.  I learned responsibility is the most important matter in human existence and in living with others, and it is the thing we most decline to accept for ourselves, though we alway accept it for others.

We want to keep the hidden wound hidden; to pretend what is happening is not happening, because "humankind cannot bear very much reality."  But, as Jamelle Bouie puts it:  "What we cannot do is pretend this wasn’t a choice, that no one was responsible."  We cannot do that; but I'm sure we will do it anyway.


*No, seriously:

In Macon County, North Carolina, officials are telling residents to wear special masks to keep out the dangerous particulates. Four other counties—Henderson, Graham, Clay, and Swain—are under mandatory evacuation orders. In Rabun County, Georgia, the fire departments are working 16-hour shifts, and these are not large fire departments.

Last Tuesday, by an average spread of 41 percent, those six counties voted to elect a president who believes that the climate crisis is a hoax created in China. Tantrums have consequences.


Blogger June Butler said...

Close to my home.

A Tulane spokesman said campus police haven’t received any reports of harassment, but Lopez said she and other students don't feel comfortable reporting such incidents because, in their view, the complaints rarely are adequately addressed.

They also pointed to past incidents they said were offensive, like the time some Tulane students used a social media app to publish racist and anti-Semitic remarks in November 2015 and the time earlier this year when some members of the Kappa Alpha fraternity built a wall of sandbags around their house and scrawled ”Make America Great Again” and “Trump” on it.

11:33 AM  
Blogger June Butler said...

Sorry, here's a clickable link.

11:45 AM  

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