We have a problem:We’ve launched a civil war as thoroughly destructive here in the USA as is the civil war raging between Saudi-backed Sunni extremists and Iran-backed Shia terrorists across the Arab world. They do it with suicide vests, we just did it with the shutdown and flirting with default.
America is two countries: a nation of blacks, Latinos, gays, women, Democrat-voting liberals, union workers, atheists, agnostics, Jews, progressive liberal Christians, Hindus, Muslim and those who answer “None” on forms asking for their religious affiliation. It’s also another nation of white fundamentalists, religious right evangelicals and Roman Catholic traditionalists.
We progressive Americans sure of our enlightened goodness, have been slapping around traditionalists’ deepest beliefs for a long time. It started with Roe v Wade and went from there. Gay marriage is an affront to the traditionalists too. Their world is crumbling.
Did liberals think there would be no push-back? Did liberals think the push-back would be rational and polite?
Don’t get me wrong, as anyone who reads my new book And God Said, “Billy!” (exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality) will see I’m pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. That said, liberals have been over confident and insensitive. We fought for changes that drove other people crazy and then pretended we were shocked when they lashed out and pushed back.
People must have been in terrible pain to follow slimy hucksters like Ted Cruz to their destruction. People have been in such pain that millions of evangelicals have talked themselves into believing these are the end times. The right is in the sort of alienated pain that produces suicides not revolutions.
Maybe I understand their predicament because I used to be a right wing conservative too. I changed my mind but I still get it.
There’s a way back from this civil war: We need to find projects that bring people who hate each other into close personal contact by working together. Here are three areas where maybe some Tea Party folk and the rest of us can make common cause:
- Let’s fight human trafficking. And let’s tell the truth: The big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have been terrible when it comes to taking responsibility for (let alone fixing) the explosion of child porn and human trafficking they’ve unintentionally facilitated. Let’s unite, right and left and demand they change the way child porn child rapists and traffickers can so easily use the information highway to enslave children. I was speaking at a conference on how to end human trafficking. Every single speaker there — from FBI agents, to Pentagon military people, to professors studying the issue and survivors running shelters for former slaves — pointed out that until Facebook and Google are willing to do far more to stop the slave traders nothing can be done on a big scale to end the traffic in human beings
- Let’s stand united as patriots against the military industrial complex that drives us to war again and again. Enough! Let right and left unite in support of our military men and women by not only bringing them home, but by telling the corporations like Boeing and Raytheon, the contractor industry, the exploding national security profiteers, to shove off. Right and left can agree: We don’t want any more empire-building for oil or for anything else. Let’s tell the generals who make fortunes as lobbyists after they retire from the military and the contractors and the big defense companies that we’ve had it. They’re not patriots, they are war mongering profiteers. They are the military industrial complex Eisenhower warned of and every president since has failed to stop.
- The Supreme Court opened the door to people like the Koch brothers attempts to buy us all. Right and left can agree: don’t let corporate America – symbolized by the Koch brothers — buy us again and again. The Kochs and their ilk aren’t of the Right or Left. They are unhinged greed personified. They and their kind disdain the Tea Party faithful and liberals equally. They follow Ayn Rand, not Jesus or George Washington, and would not stop their armored SUVs to put out the flames on your average Tea Party mom and pop rally-goer if they were on fire. Let’s unite to fight big money in politics and work to change the Supreme Court’s mind and/or replace the judges, that keep doing what the big money wants done through rulings like Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
If we of the right and left unite to work together on these three projects – and there are more but we have to start somewhere – maybe we wouldn’t need to keep doing what troubled teens do when they cut themselves. When you work with people, even former enemies, you see them as individuals again. Maybe we can pull together as neighbors for the common good and wait to revisit our deep differences in the future, but only after accomplishing something together that’s good for our country.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy!” exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback.