20 January 2013

More Love...And Some Civility: Part I

Let me begin with a disclaimer:  I am not a political theorist, a sociologist or a political scientist.  I am, however, well educated and...in that education...familiar with the working definitions of political theory.  Civics and courses in government were required as part of our jr/sr high school education in the 1960s (fellow boomers will remember our "Americanism vs. Communism" courses in high school).  My college education included required courses in history and humanities.  I still read widely...very widely.  You may take issue with what I have to say below, and that's fine.  I don't own it, nor am I a slave to either the terms or their many derivatives.  Even my idea of "circular spectrum" is not new.  It has both theological and physics backgrounds.  It isn't a proof-text or the rantings of a "wonk."  It is my own sense of clarification.  Enough said....movin' on...

I am a Baby Boomer.  Born in central Florida in 1950 and raised by middle-class parents in a city of about 35,000 folks.  It was, at that time, about dead center in the "citrus belt" of the state (that changed markedly by the 1980s).  Post WWII created a whole new investment in what we call "middle class."  Both my parents were intelligent, hard-working folks.  We were not wealthy, but both my brother and I had all kinds of opportunities and experiences provided through the hard work and forward-thinking character of our parents.  We were both blessed with the ability to get college and graduate school educations...the former provided by our parents almost in toto.  Our dad's untimely death in late March 1968 (just two months prior to my graduation from high school) spoke to his love and planning.  Our lives were able to move forward.

My teenage years were marked by the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy....the legislation that led to full civil rights...and the Vietnam War.  It was a decade of chaos and rapid change.  It was also the back end of the McCarthy era, which was basically a witch-hunt for communists in our culture.  It was very ugly at times.  It was deep into the Cold War...bringing with it that constant foreboding of nuclear world war.  One proof-text of that era was the Cuban missile crisis, which caused the "doomsday clock" to read 11:59:50....12:00 being the cataclysm of nuclear holocaust.

Flip forward forty years.

Our two daughters were born in the 1980s....as were most children of Baby Boomers (a fair number also from the mid/late 1970s).  Except for those of the prior decade, children of the 1980s and forward have had none of the experiences of  the 1960s.  Thank goodness!  At some point, I began to believe that civility would actually return to our cultural interactions, and the struggle between establishment (read:  our parents' generation) and anti-establishment (read: us Boomers) was over...the experience leading to a sense of being in this business of life and society together.  It looked as if we just might get there.  It began to look even better after the end of the "Cold War" in 1989 (that date corresponding with both the destruction of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet political system).

Alas, today is different.  By "today" I mean the present socio-political climate.  It has been emerging for a while.  The tragedy of 9/11/2001 can be seen as a door into our current historical moment.  Certainly, the financial meltdown of late 2007 and 2008 triggered an incredible shift in socio-political angst and accompanying rhetoric.  We are at an important place.

I have no answers, because, frankly, I have somehow avoided the kind of angst that triggers hugely paranoid statements from television "talking heads" on our cable networks...and the cultural whiplash when that paranoia smacks into daily speech.   I have gotten my share of angry with what gets said and what otherwise good folks say.  In one sense, we seem to be degenerating into a kind of anarchism that says, "every man/woman for him/her-self."  It is as close to the end of our Republic as we can get.  If the doomsday clock could be applied to the American system, we might be at 11:59+.  It is ugly.

I have a Model...

I have been using this model for about 20 years to explain both theological and cultural ideologies.  It is a modification of Hegel's Dialectic.  Instead of a vertical "slinky looking" coil with "thesis...antithesis...synthesis" (the synthesis becoming the new thesis, and we start again), I simply made a circle.  The circle is not quite complete.  There is the tiniest space at the bottom. 

Instead of a spectrum being a linear instrument with left and right axes, the line simply doubles back on itself in the manner I described above.  The radical ends of the original spectrum, therefore, are almost at the same place at the bottom of the circle....back-to-back.  The broad "center" is what bends on the circle across the top.  If one applies some of the nuances of Jungian typology, quantum physics, patristic era (emergent) theology and Hegelian dialectic, this model makes a fine way of  seeing all of life as cyclical.

Oh, by the way, Native American spirituality and world-view is The Circle...The Medicine Wheel...the "Mitakuye Oyasin" ("We are all of one").  Our Western European forebears made an attempt to complete the cultural genocide of American Indigenous Peoples by destroying their "great hoop."  Look this up.  I am working on a book about this particular area of cultural ideology...a healing book I hope.

Butthead Rhetoric...

Social Media has allowed us to say things we really wish we had never said.  Sometimes, it allows us to say what we really want to say but would never do so in the physical company of those to whom we say those things.  Social Media has released the great dragon of Paranoid Delusion.  Something can happen at noon and, by 6pm, that event has morphed exponentially into all kinds of wild, mostly inaccurate and often painfully judgmental rhetoric.  Look, I have sometimes been part of that process.  Here, I am not "just sayin'."

For me, Social Media is a blessing ... albeit in disguise.  I have connected with high school and college friends I never thought I would see again in this lifetime.  It has kept me connected to friends I have made and hold dear throughout my adulthood and active career.  New friends happen regularly.

One personal blessing for me has been surprising.  For all of my active, parochial ministry years as an Episcopal Priest (the years between ordination in 1978 and retirement in 2011), I largely worked on the "broad center" of the socio-political model described above.  My own stated desire was to bring all elements of our culture into the "big tent" of the Church.  Stock statement to every congregation I have led:  "When you come through the doors of this parish church...regardless of race, color, creed, orientation, socio-economic status or any other artificial measure...you are entering a safe place, and you are totally welcomed in this sacred space.  I will never engage a 'bully pulpit' and spew any 'if-then' rhetoric.  We can discuss differences in beliefs and opinions...in the classroom or parish hall environment...WITH ONE HARD AND FAST RULE:   We will respect one another and conduct ourselves by the law of Divine Love." 

I lived by that code, and, in large measure it worked pretty well.  It damn near killed me and made some of the more entrenched folks really angry enough to want me gone ("how dare he invite them here" sort of crap...and worse).  Once I retired, it felt really good to be able to say, out loud and in print, what I really think.  I found that wasn't necessarily well received, and I kicked back...because I am retired and can.  That's not so good, really.  I apologize to those of you who may have been on the receiving end of that.  I think it was like a horse kicking free and bucking a bit in that freedom. 

I am stopping here.  It's Sunday late afternoon.  I think there may be a Scots Whisky downstairs needing my attention.  I drink little enough that, when I do, I want to enjoy it with a sunset. 

I will finish this in a new article.  Some definitions and clarifications are on the way.

Do Love you all!


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