The Crusades (again) in the 2020s

I had a friend once who descended from time to time into an irrational rage and he hated to go alone. I am going to describe the process in the form it finally became familiar to me. This will make it sound like a process I understood at the time. It will also make my friends actions sound as if they were chosen and intentional. Neither of those is true.

He would begin by lamenting things we both opposed. Then he would move on to things I thought were less clear. Then to things that angered him but not me. At that point, I would begin to disengage the way one does from a drama that has failed to catch your interest. At that point, he would begin to attack me for mistakes and errors of judgment, past or present, knowing I could not really disengage from such an attack. It was, after all, an attack on me.

I did learn, however, to disengage even from those attacks. Once I saw the pattern, I knew they weren’t really about me, no matter how they were phrased. But even more important, I came to understand that wherever he was going, he would need some help coming back and if I went with him, I would not be able to help. I would be in the same “place” he was. So to honor our friendship and to retain the ability to be of service to my friend, I would disengage even from attacks on me.

When he came back from wherever it was he went, I was still there and was able to help him reorient himself and check back in to his life. He was very resentful when I refused to accompany him but he was grateful that I was still there and still ready to help when he got back.

The Politics of the Pit

Most of my life, politics has been about power and wealth. I’ve gotten used to it. Now it is about virtue and I’m not sure the system the Framers built can handle it. [1] I remember the ease with which I absorbed the idea that the Crusaders went to Jerusalem to take it back from the Infidels = Muslims. They succeeded. Then it was the job of the Muslims to take it back from the Infidels = Christians. You see the problem.

Good and Evil cannot rotate in office the way Democrats and Republicans can. And as liberalism and conservatism—now Trumpism—have moved more and more to waging war against evil, there doesn’t seem to be much of a place for a person who is interested in the old favor-trading coalitional politics. That means there is no room for someone who refuses to be absorbed into the descent into the pit. And it may also mean that there will be no one left to help the survivors out of the pit.

So I am going to have to make the decision about progressive politics that I was forced to make about my episodically angry friend. If I can’t talk you out of it and I am unwilling to go down into the pit with you, then the most I can do is to wait here, hoping that I will be able to make a contribution to your welfare when you come back.

It’s sad, really. Back when progressives, and before them, “liberals,” formulated problems that could be addressed by devising programs and spending money, there were things that could be done. Now that whole areas of public policy have been transformed into questions of “sin,” there really isn’t anything that can be done.

The Sin Axis

Progressives are, by and large, secular, so “sin” might not be the first way to describe the orientation to come to their minds. It isn’t hard to work with, though. Sin is the end point of an axis. It is bad. The closer you get to it the more bad you are, but you don’t get good by getting further away from it. Just less bad. You can sin by “thought, word, and deed” as the expression goes. You can sin by being part of a group that has sinned in thought, word, and deed or that sinned during some part of their history.

There is, obviously, no good end to the sin axis. If “sin,” rather than enacting and funding needed public programs, is the question, then there is only one axis, as there was in Jerusalem where each soldier was an Infidel to the soldiers on the other side. Not “opponents,” you see, but “enemies.” And, further, “evil.”

Progressivism still has programs to support that would improve the lot of people who need them and there are contributions to be made there, but progressivism as a cultural force is like a revolution that has gained momentum and lost balance. It is on its way down into the pit.

I will try to find something useful to do while I am waiting. The decision to refuse to go with them has taken about all the energy I have right now. Still, you can’t spend all your time as a former lemming [2] and I get bored easily, so I will need to find something to do. Finding a way to get back to normal politics would be nice.

Lots of democratic socialist countries do their day to day work as normal politics. Of course, they didn’t get to be democratic socialist countries by normal politics either, so there is work to do.

[1] Very close to the surface of the system the Framers built is Newtonian mechanics. One force balances another. Imagine how that would all have to change if something, say “gravity” were declared to be evil.
[2] I saw the 1958 film
White Wilderness in which the Disney studio purported to show lemmings committing mass suicide by running off a cliff. It was very persuasive. Even now that I know it was staged, I keep the mental movie.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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