3.02.2010

Tolerating Both Bigoted Intolerance and Utter Absurdity

Oh Lord I want to be in that number, when the saints go marchin' in... --Luther Presley
I'm using the quotes here to provide me with a theme. Read them carefully. I just finished watching LOST--the episode where Sayid kills Dogen (know about the historical Dogen, if you don't!) and marches off with "evil incarnate," the smoke-monster as John Locke. I was texting with a friend: "Would you go with Locke-monster?" My friend replied, "Don't trust the rhetoric--go with him!" And I heartily agreed. And as they all walked away from the temple, apparently followers of pure evil, that good ol' folk tune came to mind: "Oh Lord I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in...."

What's going on here? What's this about the saints? And where do you get off, Casey, associating smoke-monster Locke with anything but actual, real evil?

Part 1

When I was a kid, my parents told me that what was good enough for other kids wasn't good enough for me. I was to manage higher expectations, and to hold myself to higher standards. It was not a democratic view--I see that clearly now. It was a world view that privileged me, and the people I love, over those who were unfamiliar, unknown, or altogether different. I was to be a city on a hill.

By sixth grade or so, public re-education had begun to try to get me away from that kind of thinking: value everyone equally, that ideology said. And later: values are all relative--it's not that you're not better than everyone else; it's just that "better" and "worse" are meaningless terms. I was instructed to understand that what was most important was maintaining an uncompromisingly democratic view of things, in every respect.
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." --Matthew 10:34
Part 2

A political body cannot exist without sharing significant metaphysical assumptions about the nature of reality. And the reality is, this has always been America's fatal flaw. A nation united by anti-British sentiment could not stay united in the absence of that common foe. The opposition to tyranny has proven too muddled a concept to serve as an anchor. For her, tyranny is the voice ridiculing gay marriage and protesting at abortion clinics. For him, tyranny consists of incomprehensible tax codes and unequal justice under the law. If--when--America founders, it will be a result of faction.

The question for academics is this: what does not count, in your judgment, as legitimate intellectual discourse? As early as the 1650s, Roger Williams was writing "Against the Bloody Tenet of Persecution for Cause of Conscience." But it seems we are approaching (or have "we" passed it long ago?) a moment when we do not share a sense of conscience. The churches are ideological training camps, certainly. But the halls of academia are no less ideological now.

Here is an object for consideration: a new LQBTQIA center on the campus of a public university. From the perspective of (some) Christianity, the idea is a farcical waste of funds at best. From the ideological perspective of most academics, however, the notion is perfectly mainstream, and possibly necessary. (Some) Christians cannot seriously consider the idea of such a center as a legitimate part of any education experience, and are angered by the fact that their taxes are being used to propagate such drivel. (Most) Academics, especially in the liberal arts curricula, cannot seriously consider any argument opposing such a center, and will (rightfully, from this perspective) ignore any opposition rhetoric as bigoted and hateful.

"We," as it were, are no longer sharing a culture, or any foundation. If--IF--issues like this one could be resolved by way of rational discourse, they would have been resolved long ago. But,
What's the reason, Mr. Hawthorne, that in the last stages of metaphysics a fellow always falls to swearing so? --Herman Melville
Part 3

If it were as easy as drawing lines according to skin color or declared religious affiliation or academic credentials, we might simply cordially divorce ourselves from each other. But for better or worse, we have black Christians who vigorously oppose abortion; we have credentialed academics who take Ayn Rand seriously, and all kinds of religious folks who welcome LGBTQIAs. So:
Fuck Jesse Jackon 'cause it ain't about race now. --professional "rapper," The Game
But one thing is clear: each separate culture in this divided, post-union, America understands the other side in terms of moral and ethical evil. And there is no arbiter. No one to intercede on either side's behalf...


...Thank G-d!

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