“Anger seldom arises out of genuine commitment; it is always a product of threatened security.” – Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, in his newest book, Eternal Life: A New Vision
Bishop Spong was not at all referencing the political landscape, but rather he was addressing both religious fundamentalism as well as assumed authority by the hierarchy of the church. There may be a discussion of that at some later date, but I am intrigued by the comment and I wonder if it can be applied to politics as well as religion.
Regular commenters Microdot and Engineer of Knowledge recently posted their thoughts about efforts by the right-wing to fan the flames of culture war into the political debate. Engineer posted this thread, Well Here We Go Once Again, detailing the new culture wars arising in the right-wing. Microdot commented, “This is deeper than one issue, this is the front line of the natural conservative resistance to progressive evolution that has occurred since man got up and started to “philosophize” and think for himself. ”
I, too, see the smoke of the culture wars rising. Often on this blog I state the fact that I cannot understand the mindset of the conservative. And conversely, many conservatives do not understand me. That said, I wish to move forward in an attempt to comprehend their “natural conservative resistance to progressive evolution,” as Microdot puts it. That mindset seems anathema to the natural, unfolding, blossoming of ideas which has moved society forward throughout the ages. Imagine the so-called Dark Ages extended in perpetuity. I wonder how much resistance there was to the Renaissance- not by the authority figures, but by The People? Were the peasants happy in their filth, common ignorance and sunrise-to-sunset labor? Did they not long for a better, more rewarding life? Surely they did not embrace the status-quo, did they? Isn’t there a common meme in the human psyche to seek a better life? The commonly named eras, Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age denote progressive-ism. Mankind continually embraces newer technologies and associated ideas.
Yet, here in the 21st century, there seems to be a group of people who seem to have dropped an anchor and are happy to float in the waters of the past. Apparently they feel safe there. The now infamous quote of candidate Barack Obama said in rural Pennsylvania comes to mind:
And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Then Senator Obama referred to, “…these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them.”
His sense was that this set of people, realizing that perhaps they never would be able to live a life of which they once dreamed, recoil into a more primitive state of existence- a defensive posture not unlike that taken by our primitive ancestors when threatened by real danger.
This brings me to Bishop Spong’s remark, “[anger] is always a product of threatened security.” I note the anger on the far-right end of the political spectrum. Did you listen to the speeches of those at the podium of the CPAC Conference yesterday? Former presidential hopeful Rick Perry appeared and sounded extremely angry when he denounced a second term for President Obama. His whole body seethed with anger. And the crowd cheered. Speaker after speaker fumed with anger as they denounced both the President and liberals in general. It was as if they had to de-humanize this set of people. As if they were not worthy of existence, let alone governance.
Why that level of anger? It was viscous. Dripping. And the audience applauded.
If Bishop Spong’s statement is true, then it would appear that this set of people sense that their security is threatened. Their security. Challenging thought. What is it that they fear losing? What is the foundation of their ‘security’ which seems in peril? Is it their whiteness? Is that what’s in jeopardy- the whiteness of their country?
Do they wish to return to those days of ‘pure race?’ The Jim Crow segregation laws? The ghettoizing of immigrants? Indian reservations? ‘Irish need not apply.’
Or is this a stretch? Do they really find security in purification? Isolation? With their guns as protection? With their Bibles for assurance of their purity ideals?
As I said at the outset, this group of people and I are like water and oil. I cannot comprehend them at all.