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How I See What We’re Up Against in our Nation’s Time of Brokenness

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 A Reader of the most recent entry in my “Press the Battle” series — This Is What You Should Be Making This Election About, Mr. President, commented:

“I heartily agree that we have a dysfunctional government, but isn’t it the people’s fault for voting in the Republicans in the first place?”

To which I gave a response I’d like to share here, because it says a lot about how I see the essence of what’s going on in America today. I wrote:

The question of “fault” is a tricky one.

Yes, at the very least one can say that a serious defect is revealed by the vulnerability of so many millions of Americans to being conned in this ugly way. It is possible to perceive the defect in these people, and in the culture that shaped them.

I live among these people, and they are many of them wonderful people. And they’ve got no clue what it is that they’re supporting.

So yes, there is a lot of brokenness that goes onto having these people get conned into lending their support to an evil force.

But the question of whether, or how much, we should look at this as their “fault” depends on how we understand the whole workings of brokenness in the world.  

For me, the answer comes from seeing how this vast “force of brokenness” works through the culture, and has advanced in our era– how it advances by exploiting all the brokenness it finds, in the people and in the culture that socialized them into what they have become.

I’ve written here several pieces about how it is that (basically) good people can be manipulated into lending their support to an evil force, and how (basically) intelligent people can be led into believing incredible things.

Looking at how there are forces at work much more fundamental to the action than the individuals, I am inclined to leave the dimensions of fault and blame out of it.

But I do not leave moral fervor out of it. I am filled with a moral passion — when I look at this force that advances deception, injustice, and strife in our world — to do all I can to defeat it. It is this force that I see as an enemy.

It is this force that I condemn when I fight against today’s Republican Party. For that Party, which in earlier eras did have some genuine virtues in it, along with its faults — has become an instrument of that force.

Yes, we should be outraged at the outrageous behavior. But the enemy is not Rush Limbaugh, or Karl Rove, or Dick Cheney, or the Koch Brothers, or Rupert Murdock. The enemy is the set of forces that have opened up the way for such terribly broken people to play their destructive roles in furthering brokenness.

In a healthy society, no one like Rush Limbaugh could ever have become the Godzilla of talk radio.

Limbaugh is the one person I hate most viscerally. But I realize two things:

First, I realize that “there but for the grace of God go I.” Had I been born Limbaugh, I’d have become Limbaugh. So I see this ugly Limbaugh as the fruit of the world as he came into it. And though I don’t find it easy, I at least try to feel some compassion for him as I imagine what growing into such a twisted human being would have entailed.

And second, it is not Limbaugh that must be defeated, but the whole “Evil Force” that has pushed some real human monsters into prominent positions in the power structure of America.

The enemy is not so much any or even all of these manifestations or channels. It is that Thing that manifests itself in all these ugly and broken ways. It is that wave like a tsunami that is inflicting such damage across America’s moral landscape.

The more we can see it that way, the better able we will be to see the coherence of it in the world, and to focus our attacks in a way that makes sense, and that stirs us when we see the vast forces at work in a dynamic that warrants being called, “battle between good and evil.”

Besides which there’s this: America can never be a healthy society so long as millions of America’s good people are aligned with an evil force, and live in the unreality they have been swindled into perceiving.

So, if we want a more whole America, we have to be asking: How should we relate to those people in order best to bring them back to a healthy relationship with power in America?

  • wolfrunner

    Or, we could begin to accept that maybe our brand isn’t so lovely, and realize that people who vote against our brand might just do it because they don’t want what we are offering.  We might want to listen to them and understand them, rather than condemn them and excuse ourselves.  

    Until we seriously make the effort to understand the voters we are trying to attract, we won’t win many elections.  

  • fendertweed

    I was a manager for more than 20 years of my 26 year Federal career as a legal and policy advisor at a regulatory agency you hear about almost every day, in the law enforcement component (a small but critical piece of it).

    I am a former Democrat although I despise the Republicans.  I say “former” because I’m disgusted with what I’ve seen over the past 20+ years, including the overt politicization of policy and my agency and program under Clinton, and even moreso under Obama.  Bush II was horrible, the worst, but what did we/ I expect from him?  

    The Obama administration is a disaster based on my first-hand (and other) view.  The quality of appointees is dismal.  Selections for political and career managers seem to be made on any basis but merit and qualifications/ experience.  The utter incompetence or worse of the management corps is stunning.

    So … yes, things are very, very broken, to the point where I don’t think we as a nation have the backbone to fix it.  It’s too easy to complain and be empty-headed and go knee-jerk for facile but vacant solutions like the Tea Party babble and garbage.

    But I put nearly as much blame for the situation on the Democrats.  When they took over Congress my friends asked me isn’t it great, won’t things be better for my agency and program?

    My answer was no — we will substitute idiocy on one end of the political spectrum for idiocy on the other.  And, regrettably, so it came to pass.

    And so I can no longer consider myself a Democrat, even though I vote that way 98%+ of the time.  They no longer stand for good government and they no longer practice it, they are as beholden to special interests as the R’s, and based on my own first-hand experience, they can’t be trusted either, unfortunately.  So while they may get my vote, they do not have my trust and will not until they strap on their cojones, get some backbone, and do more about solving problems instead of soft-pedaling, or creating new & different ones.