Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Building of an Us or Them in the Heartland of America Pt 3

This morning President Obama cautioned against nationalism built around an us or them. As a marriage and family therapist, I have to say that anything built around an us or them is dangerous. And it touches the next blog entry I wanted to make anyway, as I work my way through What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

Bear in mind that the author obviously has to simplify, and I am going to simplify what he writes. It's obviously far more complicated than what I lay out here. But I am on a journey to understand my country. And this leg of the journey takes us to Wichita, Kansas. That's where the Us and Them became defined by the judgement of those who came to believe political parties should define morals, and forever left behind the division between the state and the church. Former Republican senator Sam Brownback didn't believe Kansans care about economic issues because the cause of poverty is spiritual rather than "mechanistic". He said Kansans have "set their sights on grander things,like the purity of the nation. Good wages, fair play in farm county, the fate of the small town, even the one we live in --all these things are distant second to evolution, which we will strike from the books, and public education, which we will undermine in a hundred inventive ways."

So let's go sideways, for a moment. Mr Trump appointed someone to his cabinet who doesn't believe in climate change. Someone who is a known to have support a website that is anti-black, anti-woman, anti-Latino and anti-everything that is not male and white. Hmmm.... looks like we are getting a glimpse of how this began.

Operation Rescue. Remember them? It was the "Summer of Mercy." Abortion was firmly supported by the people of Kansas until busloads of evangelical Christians arrive that July, 1991. (Before, it was Atlanta in 1988 and Los Angeles in 1990). While there were obviously people on both sides of the question of abortion, it was Operation Rescue that made those contradictions manifest. They "set up a conflict so unresolvable that everyone in the state would eventually have to choose up sides and join the fight." I would add eventually the nation. It is the attitude of if you're not for us then you are against us.

So Pat Roberts gets involved, declaring "We will not rest until every baby....is safe in his mother's womb." The Christian right piled on and made their views manifest coast to coast on the airwaves. And these are the people who then became extremely politically active. Further, no one works harder than those who pushing extreme political action for the "the Kingdom of God."

Moderate Kansans pushed back, telling the Wichita Eagle: "They want women to return to a time...when white gloves were required attire at afternoon teas, and when women were kept in their place by being taught that the men in their lives always knew best." Soon the moderate pushbacks made the Conservatives who were anti-abortion believe "that society's real victims were evangelical Christians."

Ultimately, this division became a class war: "Not in the way tastes-and-values way our punditry defines class."

So those "with the lowest per capita income and lowest median housing values consistently generated the strongest support for the conservative faction. The areas with the highest income and highest real estate values ....were just as reliably loyal to the moderate machine." So the situation completely flipped from what it was forty years before. Previously, those who were the most desperate were also the most radical.

Conservatives came to define class as a matter of authenticity: "Class is about what one drives and where one shops and how one prays, and only secondarily about the work one does or the income one makes. What makes one a member of the noble proletariat is not work per se, but unpretentiousness, humility and the rest of the qualities that our punditry claims to spy in the red states that voted for George Bush." Let's just substitute the words Donald Trump. He talks like them and wears a ball cap like them, so therefore he's one of them.

"Our culture and our schools and our government, backlashers insist, are controlled by an over educated ruling class that is contemptuous of the beliefs and practices of the masses of ordinary people. Those who run American, the theory holds, are despicable, self-important show-offs. They are effete, to use a favorite backlash term. They are arrogant. They are snobs. They are liberals." And that becomes "Liberals, in other words, are parasites."

By breaking down social class definitions to authenticity instead of privilege and money, conservatives began rallying behind the very corporations and tax laws that cause them harm. But that's a different blog entry.

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