Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Birthright for Being Hostile and Mean

Some of my most conservative friends undoubtedly rolled their eyes and muttered something dismissive such as “politically correct” when they heard news reports in advance of a warning issued by Pope Francis.

But ironically, isn’t ideology of any kind, itself, a form of political correctness?

All the hub bub has been about climate change, but the Pope’s warning was far more strategic than even that.

Readers of these essays who also actually read the Pope’s document before I did were sure to bring to my attention that it dealt with something about which I often write: community sense of place.

But first, it is important to put it in the context of the Pope’s earlier warnings about ideology.

In the course of delivering a series of morning meditations back in October 2013, Pope Francis warned about the corrosive effects of ideology, the excesses of which Catholics know something about from the church’s own history.

I don’t descend from a Catholic culture, at least going back more than four centuries.

In fact, nearly every line of my ancestors fled to America in the 1600s to escape religious persecution, often at the hands of Catholics, and always at the hands of other Christians.

They came to these shores as Remonstrants, Puritans, Quakers, Amish, Palatines, Huguenots and other forms of Christian faiths before helping to found yet another in the early 1800s, a restorationist Christian faith nicknamed Mormons.

I think they would all agree with Pope Francis when he noted repeatedly in 2013 that “In ideologies there is not Jesus: his love, his meekness.”

He noted, “When faith becomes an ideology, it makes Christians hostile and arrogant…it is a serious illness.”

No argument there.  But of course, those on the left claimed he was talking to those on the right while those on the right pointed right back at the left, all the while making the Pope’s point.

As moderates though, we know he was talking to all of us regardless of ideology.

In Chapter 4, part II, paragraph 143 of the encyclical or clarification of doctrine released a week ago is a paragraph that emphasizes “sense of place” (I’ve added some breaks for ease of reading):

“Together with the patrimony of nature, there is also an historic, artistic and cultural patrimony which is likewise under threat.

This patrimony is a part of the shared identity of each place and a foundation upon which to build a habitable city.

It is not a matter of tearing down and building new cities, supposedly more respectful of the environment yet not always more attractive to live in.

Rather, there is a need to incorporate the history, culture and architecture of each place, thus preserving its original identity.”

Unfortunately, far too many of my former colleagues in community destination marketing are devotees of an ideology that enables, if not fosters, the destruction of sense of place to worship instead at the altar of mainstream sameness.

It is an ideology with roots in the late 1930s which, after a hiatus for WWII, mounted an all out assault on sense of place still underway today.

Intriguing is a series of graphs that chart the average ideological positions of members of various U.S. Congresses dating back to 1947, the year after my dad returned from that war and the year before I was born.

They not only show the positions of the two major parties, but also the average for each chamber over the years since.

You can see for instance, that as former GIs took office after the war, the Congress, on average, became more liberal overall, possibly due to first hand exposure to the excesses ideology can inflict.

This is also the period when legislators in South Carolina, angry at desegregation across the nation took the Confederate flag from inside their chambers where it had been hung since 1938 in the House and 1956 in the Senate, raised it in defiance above the Statehouse.

Estranged from voters by special interests, Congress is far more conservative today even as Americans are again becoming less so.  The advantage on social issues is down to 4 points and lower than it was on economic issues at the turn of the century.

Actually, the percentage of Americans who are extremely conservative on either metric is back down to what it was in 1999 while the percentage who are very liberal is three times what it was.

But neither, according to Gallup, is more than a single digit fringe.  Another survey appears to quantify the percentage of Americans who are just generally intolerant, I suspect due to ideological estrangement.

This, I suspect, would also be the same hard core 7% at one end of the spectrum, who, on average, say they would never vote for a Catholic, woman, Black, Hispanic or Jew for President.

Apparently, this is lost on news outlets, who fail to read the actual survey results, give this tiny, hate-filled sliver undue influence and cover.

There is also reason to believe this 7% is a measure of the number of Americans who are truly racist.

A testament to the fact that we do evolve as Americans is that in 1958, just after segregation was declared unconstitutional, more than half of Americans would not vote for a Black to be President.

In 1937, 64% of Americans would not vote for a woman to be President.

No comments: