By: J. Charles Coughlin
Neither America nor its people are as good as we want to believe. Most Americans, indeed, much of the world, has made an idol out of their politics.
The polity which drives the narrative of both major political parties today is grievance, contempt, fear, and derision. It fails to make any of us feel better, but it does drive advertising, fundraising and clicks on Twitter. It is the fuel of both major political parties. It is the source of the cultural response to the civil unrest this past summer and the acts of sedition committed by our President and other elected officials this past week.
Our political and social culture is driven by a desire to blame someone other than ourselves for our failure. Mutual contempt is the currency of the profiteers that dominate 21st-century communications: the internet, television, radio, and individual speech. The mantra is: “If I can be contemptuous enough of the other side, I will be famous, rich, popular with my friends, and an influential political voice.”
I will pause here, so I may incent you to keep reading.
I will concede, for the sake of your own conscience or possibly prompt your own contempt, by declaring here that President Trump’s acts this past week were merely the most egregious examples of this behavior of late. By desecrating our highest monuments to democracy – those places from which our country derives its own image – he confronted us with a harsh reality: we are not the country, nor the people, we think we are. Truly, the entire experience of 2020 from the pandemic to the social justice movement to the politicization of our response to both should show us all, regardless of who we think we are, that we are simply not good.
Before I lose you, simply ask yourself one question: How many times in the past year have you felt or shown “contempt” or “grievance” for the political party of which you are not a member of? Is not the very sentiment, “contempt and grievance,” the soul of our consciousness in 2020? Is it the air we breathe and the water we drink to give meaning to the world around us?
Maybe this admonition is too much. But if that is the case, permit me to go back to the very founding of our country, to the words of our own Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Do you consider everyone to be your equal? Do you believe we are all created by God? Are you happy?
If you are unable to answer yes to all three of these questions, perhaps your consciousness has been captured by one political party or the other and maybe you have created an “idol” of your political beliefs. Perhaps you have left God on the outside of your formative opinions about life and liberty – and you are probably not happy. Certainly, in the face of your enemies, you would concede that humility is for losers.
It is my hope and prayer that last year and the events of this past week have caused us all to have a good gaze in the mirror and experience our own “road to Damascus moment.” It has undoubtedly done that for me.
For those of you not certain on what that means, it is the dramatic conversion of Saul of Tarsus in the Book of Acts. Saul is a highly learned and respected scholar of Old Testament scripture (think McConnell, Pelosi, Schumer, or certainly Ted Cruz) who was confronted by God himself and convinced to abandon his own righteousness and serve God. Saul became the Apostle Paul and would go onto write thirteen books of the New Testament. For the rest of Paul’s life, he would consider himself the greatest sinner of all. Through humility he served people and became a brilliant light in the darkness. Does our culture even value humility anymore?
Not one of us is righteous – we all come up vastly short. If we are to save our country, we also need to abandon the contempt and grievance for our fellow man or woman. We must choose good. We must dissolve the political bands which have pushed us apart and celebrate those virtues of which there is no law: kindness, joy, peace, humility, purity, patience, gentleness, goodness, self-control, peacefulness, love, and faithfulness.
If you are responding to a perceived political threat, channel these virtues and abandon your grievance. Act as if you are profoundly grateful to live in the greatest country on earth which has done more for all races, genders, and cultures than any form of government known to us before. Do not condemn the culture. Rather, be humble about that because as a country, as we have a long way to go and surely are far from any type of perfect. Quite frankly, when looking around at governments around the world, it is a pretty low bar.
Washington and Madison predicted this moment. Parties are designed to produce faction and we do not need to publicly subsidize their private elections. Taxpayers should not be forced to fund the very apparatus that is sowing these seeds of division, discontent, and sedition. Moreover, Independent and unaffiliated voters, who make up nearly a third of the electorate, should not be forced to pay for a system that is rigged to treat them unfairly.
It is time we recommit ourselves to the motto, “In God We Trust” and abandon any hope that we, ourselves, are alone good. We must admit to ourselves that all of us are at the core of this problem and only each of us working together can bring about a remedy. Our political culture must serve all of us – not pit us against one another.
And what of that other traditional axiom “E pluribus unum,” out of many one? It is time to reject the division wrought by our two major political parties and stop subsidizing it.