The Teeter Totter Image
Surely it must be clear that in America, over the past generation, the power of destructive forces has increased. The fact that a man like Donald Trump could be elected president would be sufficient evidence of that.
(But even without Trump in the picture, the ascendancy of the destructive has for years been visible. We need only consider that the Republican Party has become an unprecedentedly dishonest and destructive Party, and that this terrible Party has during this era increased its control over the nation, at both the federal and state levels.)
How does it happen that “the balance of power between good and evil” can shift so adversely in a society like ours? Here’s one way of looking at it.
Think of the battle between such forces in terms of a teeter totter. On one side, the forces that work constructively to make things better. On the other side, the destructive forces that attack what’s whole and make it broken.
In a democracy, ultimately the power of each of those forces depends on how many people it can persuade to weigh on on their side of the fulcrum of that teeter totter. If an “evil force” can persuade enough “good” people to mistake the evil for the good, and to align themselves on the basis of that mistaken judgment, their weight departs from the constructive side and helps the destructive side predominate.
That is what has happened in recent decades in America. The “conservative” component of the American electorate has been conned, deceived, degraded, and misled into believing that the Republican Party — and now even that Donald Trump — represents the cause of righteousness in America.
Some of those people are are people (in the Shenandoah Valley) with whom I once had a worthwhile relationship back in the 1990s when I was on the radio talking with them some twelve hours a week. Back in the 1990s, that contact led me to feel respect and appreciation for their basic decency and willingness to be governed by values. (The feeling I came to have for them I might even call love.)
Their vulnerabilities and broken places were detectable back then: the conservative culture of the Shenandoah Valley has some of its roots in the spirit of the Confederacy, the dark side of which involved its being a system at once authoritarian, exploitative, and racist– founded and maintained by lies and hypocrisy.
But far more than now, one could see “the better angels of their nature” entering into their input into their relationship with the world. One could see a considerable component of the good in their basic decency and their willingness to be governed by their values.
Now, under the continual onslaught of propaganda from the force that’s taken over the American right — from people like Limbaugh and Rove and now Trump — their political posture is almost wholly aligned with what I think can reasonably be called “evil.” They’ve been dragooned by the systematic lies of their manipulators, who have worked assiduously to feed their worst parts.
People with a potential to contribute to the good have been pulled across the fulcrum of the American teeter totter, and that has given control to evil, with its end touching the ground, while the weakened constructive forces in the American body politic are hoist all-too-helplessly up into the air.
Messages to the Misled
It is in that context that I feel drawn to publish op/ed pieces in the newspapers of my conservative part of Virginia. Almost invariably, it is those conservative people to whom (implicitly or explicitly) my pieces are addressed, and my effort is to find effective ways to challenge them in what I see as their grave error (political, moral, spiritual) in mistaking the evil for the good.
There’s almost no evidence that my efforts are effective. The communication is one-way, and it is reasonable — given what we know about today’s right-wing political culture — to imagine that most of them have long since dismissed me as a “liberal,” and therefore can have nothing to say worth listening to.
But that silence is also consistent with a better possibility. It is equally consistent, namely, that some of those conservatives — the more honest and whole members of that conservative cohort — do take in the messages I send them. (I know of some examples of this.) If I did succeed in giving any of those people second thoughts, such is the nature of today’s Republican culture — loyalty to the Rs and hostility to the liberals being mandatory in that subculture, which powerfully enforces its orthodoxy — that they’d keep it to themselves.
So, I choose to act on the faith that some are listening, and that it is not altogether impossible to bring some of America’s inclination toward goodness back across to the better side of the teeter totter. It’s a possibility important to pursue, I figure, so that the balance of power between good and evil might shift back in a better direction.
Seeking Greater Credibility in Their Eyes
I ask myself how can I develop and deepen my relationship with these people, so that my mission to them — to bring them back to the better angels of the nature, and to reality — might be more effective?
One move I’ve lately made I will introduce here shortly. It is to publish a completely non-political piece that touches some deep chords on the human organ. My voice in this piece — which is called “The Sacred Space of Lovers” — is of a completely different nature from the voice they’ve heard from me before.
It’s an attempt to be seen by them more as a credible messenger, and therefore more worth listening to.
(One encouraging sign: I shared it with one very conservative, very Evangelical woman of my generation. She and I know not to get into the gulf between our politics. She loved “The Sacred Space of Lovers,” and she posted it on her Facebook page so that her children, who are trying to build healthy marriages and raise children who are whole, will gain some insight into that quest.)
If I can show I understand some things that are deeply important to them, maybe they’ll listen more to the other messages.
The hope is to change their image of me, so that I escape from the dismissive stereotype these conservatives have of how liberals think and feel, since the likes of Limbaugh have been teaching them how to feel contempt for their enemies.
Anyway, that is the strategy behind my publishing, as an op/ed, a little essay — not at all what op/eds generally are — about some deep human stuff. The piece bears the title, “The Sacred Space of Lovers.”
It says something I’d want to share anyway. But this is how it fits into my larger work to help turn back the evil force and let America’s teeter totter shift back so that the good has far more say about what kind of America this nation will be.
This piece has appeared last Sunday in the Lynchburg newspaper, the News & Advance. And it will appear in a couple of other newspapers in the District this week.
I will post that piece here tomorrow.