There are times when I think that all those critics of our Godless and materialistic society are right—that we’ve abandoned our spirituality and, because of it, wound up in the fix we’re in. That thought used to occupy me for a minute or two, but now its shelf life can be measured in seconds: it’s not the spirituality we’ve lost; it’s the trust in ourselves as decent human beings…which most of us are.
In the early days of this country a battle raged between the religious zealots who saw man as basically evil and in constant need of redemption (The Crucible, witches anyone?) and those Godless deists who accepted man’s faults but also declared his ability to overcome them (the Revolutionary Era, Declaration of Independence, etc.) Since then we have gone through periods where both philosophies held sway, and the system, though often combative (as in the abortion debate, capital punishment, et al.) worked passably well. Progressives pitched tents on Wall Street and declared that Black lives matter; evangelicals touted their million-man marches and tried to close down Planned Parenthood. In many ways the conflicts helped us all to see, if not accept, both sides of the argument.
But now neither faction has any remaining identity or credibility. In the recent election progressives, many of whom had supported Bernie Sanders, protested Hillary Clinton by voting for Gary Johnson, a man who was in fact Sanders’ polar opposite. And since the votes that might have gone to the Democrats disappeared into the ether, these protesters now face the prospect of a president diametrically opposed to every progressive measure that Bernie Sanders (and Hillary Clinton!) believed in. Bernie or bust? Welcome to the bust. Many of them have taken to the streets, but if they didn’t vote at all or wasted their vote on some third-party footnote (yes, wasted, face it) then they should do what their new president tells them to do—go back to their classes and shut up. You had your chance. Now leave the battle to those who fought by showing up on November 8.
And let’s save a nice dollop of scorn for the Christian conservatives. Eighty percent of them voted for the man who bragged about assaulting women so that they could avoid voting for a woman who deleted her emails and lied about it and, oh yes, was formally absolved of any criminal act. She even apologized ad nauseam, something their candidate never did. In Self-Reliance, Emerson posed the question [F]or every Stoic was a Stoic; but in Christendom where is the Christian? Had Emerson been alive today, his question to the Christian right might have been more pointed, like “What the hell were you thinking?” One might also ask just what passage in scripture encourages Christians to overlook so-called sins of the flesh but not sins of the private server. And before I hear that “forgive the wrongdoers” claptrap again, remember—if you can forgive sexual assault, you can let a few emails evaporate without losing you minds.
So yes, I probably have anger issues…the ongoing variety. I don’t think I’m alone. It’s been two weeks now since November 8, yet every day brings further proof of our descent into absurdity. (A President-elect wants equal time on Saturday Night Live? What planet is this?) In a rare moment of rational thought, Melania Trump says she won’t be moving into the White House for six months so as not interrupt her ten-year-old’s school year. But maybe by then it’ll be too late and the country will lie in smoldering radioactive cinders. Or our new president Mike Pence will be running White House specials on people who want to change their sexual behavior.
At least he doesn’t think Hamilton is overrated. So there’s that.