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11/24/2017 7:27 am  #1

Siege Mentality

I have been reflecting on the state of We the People as of late. What I see is a deep sense of pessimism. Things are bad now. Our enemies are growing stronger. And things are about to get worse. The world our children inherit will be horrific. There is apocalyptic fear. And that fear breeds anger and a siege mentality.

How serious is this? Very. Siege mentality  explains how evangelical Christians in Alabama can continue to support Roy Moore. In fact, I’d say the siege mentality explains most of the dysfunctional group behavior these days, on left and right.

You see the siege mentality not just among evangelical Christians but also among the campus social justice warriors and the gun lobbyists, and in the populist movement. America is becoming a landscape dotted with siege towers of crowds indulging in their collective victimhoods.

How did we get here?

David Brooks, writing for the NYT has an excellent piece in today's paper.

America once had a unifying national story. It was an Exodus story. Americans are the people who escaped oppression, crossed a wilderness and are building a promised land. The Puritans brought this story with them. Each wave of immigrants saw themselves in this story. The civil rights movement embraced this story.

The story had big problems. Many groups were marginalized, or simply left out of The Story.
And change was both inevitable, and good.

Unfortunately, when that story was discarded so to was our sense of national unity.
It’s harder for many today to believe this is a promised land. 

The narratives of today are predicated on division and disappointment. The multicultural narrative, says that America is divided into different biological groups and the status of each group is defined by the oppression that it has suffered.

The Nativist narrative says that "real" Americans are losing something god-given to waves of immigrants.

The populist narrative, dominant in the electorate, says that America is divided between the virtuous common people and the corrupt and stupid elites.

The gun rights narrative is completely controlled by paranoia.

The Traditional Protestant narrative sees itself under siege by a secular world with different life stayle and sexual mores.

Yes, Even God has become tribal.

Does it matter? Of course it does.
Today, we have no common national narrative, no shared way of interpreting the flow of events. Without a common story, we don’t know what our national purpose is. We have no common set of goals or ideals.
What we have is anger, and pessimism.

Our fellow Americans have been replaced by bitter enemies. Our national discourse is well represented by a new President who delights his fans by picking a series of fights with groups that represent The Other.

We need a new national narrative.

We need a national reconciliation. America is a nation of fresh starts, second chances.
We can have a fresh start here. We've done it many times before. Heck, we even give fresh starts to bitter enemies like Japan and Germany, and make them allies.

Brooks rightly identifies Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address as  the great sermon of redemption and reconciliation.
This is a speech of great moral humility. Slavery, Lincoln says, was not a Southern institution, it was an American institution, weaving through our common history for 250 years. The scourge of war, which purges this sin, falls on both sides. Lincoln fought any sense of self-righteous superiority the Northerners might harbor. He rejected any thought that God is a tribal God. He put us all into the same category of ambiguity and fallenness.

The speech is a great reconciling speech. The words recurring through it are “we” and “all.” “All thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it ….”

Lincoln realistically acknowledged the divisions and disappointments that plague the nation. But he does not accept the inevitability of a house divided.

Neither should we.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s achieve lasting peace among all nations.”

Great reading:
Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Last edited by Goose (11/24/2017 7:33 am)

We live in a time in which decent and otherwise sensible people are surrendering too easily to the hectoring of morons or extremists. 

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