Early on in my married life, I was introduced to a Greek Orthodox tradition that involved showing up at the church with cups of a dish made (I think) from rice, cinnamon, and raisins and serving it to the congregants as they left the church. The ritual had something to do with remembering the dead about one year after their funeral. My mother-in-law, Tula, sat in the front seat as we drove around the parking lot, looking for a place to park. She pointed to an elegant older woman walking across the church grounds.
“See that lady, Jim?” she asked.
“She thinks her shit tastes like ice cream.”
I laughed, but it was difficult meeting this distant relative of the family a few minutes later. She had been declared untouchable. I knew that Tula didn’t arbitrarily dismiss people, so it was difficult giving her a chance.
Sadly, I think America has been on this track for some time. We’ve become callous and dismissive of each other. We actually won’t allow one another to disprove our false perceptions, and we live in the final judgment our tribe has assigned the opposition. College campuses have closed their lecture halls to unapproved ideas, and untouchable speakers. Social networks have greased all the appropriate triggers and discussion gets shut down, pronto, if the tribal icons of “tolerance” are shamed. What sort of a narrow mind, really, could establish an equivalence between holocaust “denial” (an incontrovertible historical reference to human carnage) and climate change “denial,” a theory about the relationship of humankind to its physical surroundings? Our sense of truth is getting more brittle, even as our need to label the enemy more passionate.
If you’re thinking Donald Trump created this family squabble, you would be wrong. The media, for decades, has been declaring conservatives mean, stingy, unthinking, uneducated, and intolerant. Congressional budget debates, for decades, feature references to “grandmothers being pushed over a cliff.” Christian bakers simply must bake cakes celebrating something they think morally and spiritually abhorrent, or risk fines and shaming. Taxpayers who have a moral objection to paying for your abortion are guilty of a “war on women,” when, if anything, the cultural left–covering for the Harvey Weinsteins style byproducts of their rudderless spirituality–were really the ones elbowing women into the hotel room in a well known sex-for-advancement racket.
Donald Trump didn’t start all of that. You leftists did. You were calling George W. Bush — a guy who actually shared many of your values — a Hitler, and you were doing it absolutely without shame. There may be some virtue in allowing a little name calling to go unanswered, but eventually the Bush Family strategy is little better than cowardice. It allows outrageous lies to stand unchallenged and it allows gross prejudice to harden. Eventually you have to defend yourself.
Donald Trump was just the first guy on our side of the American divide to simply announce, “I’m not taking this anymore.”
It’s driving some of you absolutely crazy. You’ve been allowed to think you had the moral high ground for all these years. You thought you were the good guys, and you insisted we were the bad guys.
We’re not. We are your fellow Americans, your brothers and sisters, your distant cousins. Talk to us, and forget about what your mother told you.
Even she gets it wrong sometimes.