In my view, there have always been two Americas, right from George Washington’s day until now. One is the “aspirational” America, with language from the founding documents; ideas of freedom, liberty, equality and rights for all. The other America was the actual one the authors lived in; a world of slavery, women had no rights, massive social stratification, along with wealth and income inequality.
For me, the history of America is the battle between those twin Americas, birthed together in the late 1700’s. Examining our history shows the slow, painful but relentless triumphing of the aspirational America over the original, slave-owning version. And now, the old guard (viewing themselves as the inheritors and defenders of the ‘traditional’ America) is really on the ropes. Having lost the Civil War, lost the Jim Crow-era de facto slavery battles (at least in their minds) and seeing (now) the rights battle expand towards equality for women and LGBTQ people? They’re losing their minds. A black president? A woman president? It’s driving them mad. Transgender? The bathroom wars are symbols of the struggle between the two Americas. Who rules America?
#BenedictDonald is the guy they’re making their “last stand” with – he is a symbol of the old days. White male supremacy. Women are for sex and not much else. Minorities are seen and not heard; they speak only when spoken to. On the other hand, fifty years after the 1960’s, #PutinsPuppet has inspired a whole new generation of people into the system and those folks are the aspirational Americans, added to those already here over the last fifty years. The old guard is dying off; bitter and angry, they feel they represent the last of the “traditional” America – of eras gone by. And, seeing that the future of America is diversity and equality, they’ve latched onto #DonaldTrumpWhoIsAPerv to speak for them in this war between the two Americas. The latest civil war.
These self-styled “inheritors” of the pre-Civil War view of America, the old guard has also coalesced around a bizarre version of “Christian” evangelism; gay hating, anti-abortion, white nationalism and other social/cultural war issues. They’ve wrapped all their bigotry, hatred and longing for the old days around religion, and use the word “Christian” as code.
For my part, I neutralize their claims to power from God and power from religion. A key tactic they use is to begin with an assumption: They start smug. They start with an attitude of presumption of superiority. They begin from a place of arrogance and present as if they are already the boss. So, we attack that. Remind people that “God” is not theirs to define. They are just brashly making contentions, with nothing behind it. “God” is disputed to even exist by many. They don’t know the mind of this “God” character and they don’t have any right to claim to speak for this “God.” Many other religions claim to speak for “God” and many declare they are the one and only. How to choose?
“God” does not speak. Ever. It’s easy to put words in the mouth of a supposedly all-powerful force that may not exist and cannot object. Remind people that the Bible is an ancient book with no magic power. Jesus was dead 95 years before the first book about him was written. The Bible does not appoint enforcers; certainly not these ‘evangelicals’ who claim so much power from that book. Those claiming to be enforcers only get power if we voluntarily give it to them – or if they get political power. Question the book – not written by God – but by many humans over many centuries for their own political purposes. Using religion for political purposes is an old game. Often translated and often revised, with different versions, if we remind people of the lack of basis behind all of this, we can drain away their claims to power. And they’ve used their power very corruptly.
Between the money grubbing, the fraud, the sex scandals, the charlatans who have taken advantage of so many with this religious stuff, the pedophilia, it’s difficult to give these loud, brash criminals any respect, let alone status as enforcers for God. Time to attack and undermine their source of claims to power and question their claims to superior status.