Friday, November 27, 2015

Politics (Part One)

I’ve been thinking about politics.

Specifically, I’ve been thinking about why some of y’all are so pigheaded.

Now that I have your attention, let me say that what I’ve really been thinking about is why we’re so angry with each other.

Most of us have dug our trenches and are huddled down in them. Every once in a while we stand up to lob a verbal or virtual grenade over toward the other side. We save our heaviest salvos for when someone on the opposing side attacks our position, our candidate, our preconceived notions, or our consciously or unconsciously chosen biases.

I seem to remember learning in a long-ago pastoral care course that anger usually comes from fear, fear usually comes from feeling threatened, and we feel threatened when we are faced with change. I reckon, then, that we are angry because we are afraid, we are afraid because we feel threatened, and we feel threatened because we are confronted by change.

And the times, as Mr. Dylan sang a half-century ago, sure are a-changin’!

I was born in 1958. When I stop and think about it, I am amazed at the changes we’ve seen in the fifty-seven years of my life. For example, think of advances in civil rights, in technology, and in our understanding of the universe. I and many other see such advances as good and necessary progress. Some, though, are threatened by the change that progress brings. And it certainly is the case that advancements can be misused in ways that bring increased risk to people. For example, while I treasure the unbelievable knowledge that the Internet places at my fingertips, I am aware of the ways in which its power is used to spread false information, to fan the flames of fear, and to add layers to the pile of ignorance.

I once described a man I knew this way: “He’ll never be happy until it’s 1952 again—so, he’ll never be happy.” I wasn’t wrong about my friend. It seems to me that a lot of us will never be happy unless we can stop the changes that are coming—so, we’ll never be happy.

Technology is going to continue to advance. The world is going to keep getting smaller. The United States is going to continue becoming more multi-cultural.

The United States Census Bureau projects that “minorities” will be in the majority in the United States by 2043. That means that whites will be in the minority in about thirty years. A recent Pew Research report demonstrates the declining percentage of Americans who self-identify as “Christian,” although Christianity is still by far the predominant religion in the United States.

My point is this: America is changing demographically. Some see such change as adding more ingredients to the melting pot; others see it as fuel for the further melting down of what they regard as the “real” America.

My further point is this: some of us are afraid that things are going to keep changing in ways that we don’t want them to, while some of us are afraid that things are not going to keep changing in ways that we think they should.

So, some of us fear the changes that are taking place, while others of us fear the change that will take place if the changes that are happening stop happening.

We see those who think differently than we do—those who have different ideas, those who practice different religions, those who support different candidates—as promoting the change we don’t want and as standing in the way of the change that we do want. And so, we respond to them in anger. Usually, we’re not really angry at them. We’re angry at what they want; we’re angry that they don’t want what we want. We’re angry because they don’t see the world like we do. We’re angry because they are not threatened by what we’re threatened by.

And that’s some of what I’ve been thinking about politics.

I suspect I’ll be thinking some more . . .