Category Archives: Political extremism

Marginality, Boundaries, & Racism

Marginality is a commonly used term in modern culture, referring to pushing certain people into the “margins” of our social body because of reasons that often amount to the simple fact they are “different.”  And I’m glad this term is on the table as it has produced such abysmal ugliness in our culture as racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia.

But here I want to emphasize the importance of margins even in the face of their common gross misuse.  These margins I’m speaking of are merely boundaries and without boundaries an individual, or a group of individuals, cannot cohere.  Boundaries, in the social terms I’m speaking of here, are at root the ability to draw the distinction between self and not-self, between “me and thee.”  The ability to draw this distinction is one of the most important phases of our development and only to the degree we have done this will we be able to function in society with some degree of success.

However, when this distinction-drawing has gone awry and is overly valued, the emphasis of boundaries will be excessive and the result will be an excessive push to marginalize people who are different.  This problem stems from existential insecurity as those whose grounding in reality, in the inner-most depths of their being, will find themselves overly emphasizing who is “them” and who is “us.”  Let me illustrate with the simple illustration of the immigration issue in my country.  Immigration policy is a legitimate and even moral need for the welfare of a tribe.  But when social tension is pronounced, often by socio-economic pressures, a matter like immigration policy will become a political football and rather than be resolved will be endlessly quarreled about. In present day, it gives rise to cries like “Build that wall” and “Keep those Mexicans out” which often amounts to nothing more than overt racism rather than the simple and legal right to set a boundary and control who can enter our country.  The foolishness of this “Build that Wall” cry was demonstrated with another Republican Presidential candidate, Scott Walker, responded immediately to Trump’s suggestion with notion of building a wall between the U.S. and Canada also!  “Trump got a lot of applause, so I’ll say the same thing,” Walker must have thought!

We are not rational human beings.  Never have been and never will be.  We are human beings driven primarily by emotion and our reason is subservient to these emotions.  That does not mean we deserve the label “irrational”…necessarily…it just means that our reasoning must be taken with a grain of salt, thus allowing for other perspectives.  Cooperation and dedication toward a common good would then be possible.  But it is easier to just go along with unexamined prejudices, biases and premises about life, giving to them by drawing distinctions rigidly when they could be drawn more graciously.

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Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

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Rebecca Solnit on Trump’s Maddening Solitude

This is the best “sermon” I’ve read yet about Trump and his minions.  Rebecca Solnit spares no punches and delivers a prophetic word, not just about Trump, but about our whole culture.  As they say, “Read it and weep.”  And weeping is in order as this is a very sad moment in our history and could get even sadder at any moment.

My use of words like “sermon” and “prophetic” bely my rage at the church culture of my origins.  Yes, “me doeth protest too much.”  I still think that “truth” can be found in spiritual traditions but very often spiritual traditions ossify and become merely “well-worn words and ready phrases that build walls against the wilderness.”  That leaves it to artists, writers, and even comedians to “speak truth to power” and Ms. Solnit here “knocks it out of the park.”

http://lithub.com/rebecca-solnit-the-loneliness-of-donald-trump/

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Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invited you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

It’s a “Come to Jesus” Moment

A “come to Jesus moment” in popular culture has come to mean to face a day of reckoning about circumstances that have been ignored to the point where they can no longer be disregarded.  The image draws from fundamentalist Christianity where “Come to Jesus” meant, and still does mean a moment of reckoning with God and an acknowledgement of one’s short comings.

Though no longer a fundamentalist Christian, I still think that the bromide, “Come to Jesus” still has value if one can approach the matter with a critical view, not only of the bromide itself but of the one who is using the bromide.  In other words, if one can overcome an innate, ego-driven aversion to “self” awareness, especially when it comes to matters of faith.  For most of my life the concept of “come to Jesus” has meant “come to viewing the world as I do” and now I see clearly the narcissism and tyranny of this mind set.  And, it has nothing to do with Jesus.  It has to do with an ego which exercises so much control over an individual, or group of individuals, that the narcissism inherent in the desire is not apparent.  At some point this dishonesty, this “bad faith” is likely to give rise to a powerful voice who will articulate the repressed anguish and rage of millions who are in the grip of this daimonic energy and promise to “Make America Great Again.”  Oh, my….Hmm.  What could I have reference to there?

The issues before us as a species are, and always have been spiritual and that is where “Jesus” comes in.  But by “spiritual” I do not mean the superficial sense with which I was indoctrinated.  By “spiritual” I refer to a dimension of the human heart that lies beneath the surface, down in the guts where words like “spiritual” fall short of actually apprehending the matter.  It is too convenient to keep “spiritual” on a superficial level of conscious, rational intent where we can have a false certainty of what we are doing and then, often, lamely announce, “God is leading” or “God has raised this man up.”

By “spiritual” I mean coming to a place where we recognize, and feel, that ultimately, we are implicated in a cosmic mystery which we can never totally understand with our rational mind and those “certainties” which consume us just might not be any more valid than those who have other contradictory “certainties.”  To put this in terms of my country’s interminable Congressional grid-lock, it would mean that Republicans and Democr ats would each recognize they see only “through a glass darkly” and resolve to put aside their petty differences and focus on monumental challenges that our country faces.  But when certainty grips any one party and/or their constituency, there is no solution because that would require the humility of recognizing, “Uh oh, I was not as much right as I thought I was.”  That would mean acknowledging from time to time, “I was wrong” which is something that Donald Trump, and many of his followers, are characterologically incapable of doing.  This would require spirituality that was something other than self-serving dogma.  This would require something other than the “prayer meeting” hosted by Congressman Louie Gohmert in his office last week where the evil forces they were trying to cast out of Congress were the one’s who were inspiring their self-indulgent display of hypocritical piety.  “With devotions visage and pious action we sugar o’er the devil himself.”  (Shakespeare)  Oh my, how wonderful it was to know that I was pious and to give others an opportunity to see it on display!

“The World is My Oyster” (Not)

I hardly know where to start.  This Donald Trump demon that has been unleashed on the American psyche has tripped all of my triggers too and “literarylew” has “more offenses at my beck than thoughts to put them in.”  So I’m reaching into my stuffed “beck” and pulling out, “The world is not my oyster.”

To Trump, the world is his oyster.  He is a two-year old boy who never had limits set when he went through the developmental stage of the “terrible two’s” and so remains a two year old boy, “breathing out threatenings and slaughterings” anytime he is faced with a limit.  All of us go through this developmental stage, very much related to what we clinicians describe as the Oedipal transition. Though this is a challenging moment in our young lives, most of us learn to control our rage and acclimate to the external world, accepting deferred gratification over immediate gratification.  Without this willingness, we fail to fully enter the human race.

I know it was challenging for myself and even remember a dream in my early thirties when I was beginning to address my early childhood repression.  In this dream I was a furious little tyke, red-faced, shaking my fist in defiance when denied what I wanted.  It took a girl friend at the time to point out, with a laugh, what that dream was about.  She knew me very well!  And I can tell you very clearly now, in my mid-sixties, I feel the frustration of dealing with the experience of the world not being my oyster.  I often declare, “I want it all” and add, “Why should I have to accept limits” as I deal with the frustrations of aging, especially the realization that the river Styx is fast approaching.  But mercifully, back in my terrible two’s, the gods (i.e. “God”) recognized he did not need to unleash a redneck Arkansas Trump on the world and tied me down with a fundamentalist Christian load of guilt and shame.  And, central Arkansas, you better be grateful to Him!

But Trump has used wealth to create a world for himself in which he could get by with the assumption that the world is his oyster.  And, now given to the severe pathology of the American psyche, the Republican Party finds itself willing to cater to his narcissism to the point that he is their nominee for the Presidency.  Furthermore, and gravely troubling to me, evangelical Christians are lining up behind him in over whelming numbers displaying a profound lack of critical thinking skills.

Accepting the fact that the world is not our oyster is merely accepting limits.  Watching Trump allows us to see an impulse that we all have, if we could only come unleashed for a few minutes.  I think Trump’s fanatical following by the Republican extremists represents their unconscious desire to become unleashed, to give vent to their darkest, most violent impulses which are a very “human” response to the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”  But this is a dimension of the “human” experience that must be kept in check and certainly does not need to be encouraged by demogogues.

Ideologues Can Be Liberal!!!

I have posted frequently about ideologues, explaining that I’m one in recovery and like being “in recovery” with any illness, the illness will always be present!  But “naming the demon” gives me some distance from the poison that would otherwise still have me enslaved.

I’ve very troubled with my country’s election campaign this year.  Yes, Donald Trump is “troubling” but that is not my only concern.  The fans of Bernie Sanders are demonstrating an investment in him which often puts me off given the frequent self-righteous fervor and invective that is taking place.  At times it is quite apparent that they love “Bernie” so much that they are responding with downright hatred for Hillary Clinton.  I really like Bernie myself and have greatly admired him though this admiration is currently being given pause.  His “success” in the primary season and reached the point where I fear that he is posing a threat to the best opportunity my country has to thwart this Trumpian beast that is “lurching toward our Bethlehem.”

Bernie is a wonderful voice for the progressive cause.  But he should remember the wisdom of W. H. Auden, “Truth, like love and sleep, resents approaches that are too steep.”  Or, to frame it another way, “Discretion is the better part of valor” and I fear his obsession with his campaign is lacking discretion.  This Trump monster that is threatening our village is deadly serious and at this point in the campaign Hillary is in a commanding lead that most competitors would respect.  Sure, the “system is rigged” in that there are rules in place that Hillary is benefiting from but it is a little bit late go be complaining about the rules.  It reminds me of Trump himself who brazenly disregards all rules.

Here is a link to a blog that prompted me offer this discourse:

http://www.shakesville.com/2016/01/the-inherent-misogyny-of-sanders.html

 

Trump is an Overly Indulged Child

At times I actually feel sorry for Donald Trump.  For, like all of us he is a child at heart and his campaign demonstrates that beneath the surface he is a frightened, even terrified little boy.  Anyone who harbors unconscious terror like that must find someone or some group to project their own perceived inadequacies.  And it is a clinical fact that privileged children who have been overly indulged have a difficult time with boundaries, not learning that there is a world “out there” beyond their own private fantasies

Trump has consistently demonstrated blatant disregard for common courtesy and civility.  He even told the nation last week about his penis size, not being aware of how incredibly gauche this was.  And I’m sure he exaggerated…like I always do! Most of us who would make a declaration like, especially being in his position, would be checked by consideration of how it would be perceived by his audience and by the nation.  But with his narcissism, he lacks a “filter” or antennae which would allow him to be aware of how he is coming across to those outside of his private fantasy.

Someone with this deep-seated malady cannot admit they are wrong; they must always be right!  That is because beneath their grandiose persona they are filled with an unconscious dread based on the perception they are intrinsically wrong.  This “wrongness” is certainly nameless and if one with this problem could ever manage to simply muster the courage to own this feeling of wrongness, to acknowledge it, to “name the demon” there would be some relief if not complete.  It is similar to the first step of Alcoholics Anonymous, “Admitting that I am an alcoholic.”  This is the reason that every time Trump makes an outrageous statement or does something ridiculous, he never back tracks but only doubles down on his position.

But, back to my original point, he is in a world of pain.  I am not, however, excusing him or attempting to mitigate the tragedy that he is putting on our collective table.  We all live in a “world of pain” and carry the impact of the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir too” inside our hearts. I certainly do. But most of us have some ability to address this pain, acknowledge it, make appropriate adaptations, and live in this world with some respect for his fellow man.  Trump is sorely lacking in this regard and, as Shakespeare told us, “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”  And, I would add, “not so great ones” also.

What is Going on with Evangelical Christians???

Donald Trump continues to give my clinical mind plenty of “stuff” to play with though much of what he does and so is very scary for the sake of my country. One thing that staggers my imagination is how that he is handily winning the evangelical Christian vote over a much more egregiously Christian candidate, Ted Cruz, and in spite of stances and statements which are anti-thetical to everything Christians stand for. It is as if evangelical Christians have said, “My mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with facts.” He can so or do anything and his numbers will continue to rise. In fact several months ago, he brazenly declared that he could stand in the streets of New York city and shoot somebody and “my numbers would still go up.” And even with that contemptuous observation about his constituency, he numbers continued to rise!

Two significant evangelical pastors have endorsed him. Jerry Falwell Jr, the son of the founder of the Moral Majority and the present founder of Liberty University, declared Trump an “outstanding Christian” as he endorsed him at Liberty University and then proceeded to listen to Trump use expressions like “What the hell” several times in his speech before the student body. I was thirty years old before I used that expression! And the pastor of First Baptist of Dallas, Robert Jeffress, endorsed him early in the campaign but did not cover his awkwardness real well. When Trump opened his arms to embrace the pastor, I remember noting that the pastor looked like a girl at the high school prom who was forced to embrace a disgusting football jock who she found repulsive.

But I think I understand why the Christian constituency is willing to overlook basic teachings of their faith and support such an unsavory man. Early in the campaign I was listening to one of Trump’s speeches on TV and had to share with my wife, “Wow, I understand why he is so popular! I want to give him at ‘atta boy.'” For his populist fervor and rhetoric appealed so readily to memories of my past when his simplistic solution to complex problemsappealed to me. “Make America Great Again” appeals to me still on some unconscious level though my reptilian brain is now countered by self-reflection.

Several evangelical voices have dared to confront their “family” and pose the question, “What about simple decency?” For example, Trump has publicly made fun for one of his critics for having a physical deformity, a physical deformity similar to what Jesus described as a “withered hand.” (This man’s entire arm was “withered”.) And on another occasion, he ridiculed a Fox commentator who is disabled from the waist down for not being able to stand on his own two feet. I was, and still am horrified with these two events. And evangelical Christians merely overlook it! And, furthermore, Trump has repeatedly revealed on TV that he has incestuous thoughts about his beautiful daughter but we never hear anything about that…other than Trevor Noah!

I can just imagine what other countries are thinking now as they witness this spectacle. And, the amusement and horror are justified as this phenomena does reveal something about our character, not just that of the Republican party.