You climbed on the ladder and you know how it feels

You climbed on the ladder and you know how it feels January 30, 2021

This is creeeeeeepy. It’s like a Little House on the Prairie reboot written by Shirley Jackson and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

• “Two Oath-of-Office Stories Embody a Divided America.” Andrew L. Seidel looks at the white Christian nationalist obsession with office holders swearing in using anything other than a white Christian nationalist Bible.

I’ll just add, again, that the Bible is the worst possible book to place one’s hand on when taking any oath. Use a copy of the Constitution, or the Riverside Shakespeare, or a dictionary, or a phone book if you can still find one. Any of those would be better because, unlike the Bible, none of those books expressly and explicitly forbid the swearing of oaths.

“Do not swear at all,” the Bible says. “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

If you’re taking an oath of office or “swearing in” in court, you shouldn’t be anywhere near a book that says such a thing. Placing your hand on a Bible undermines whatever oath you’re swearing, introducing a level of paradox and irony that’s no different than if you were crossing your fingers and winking broadly during the swearing-in.

• Here’s another example of an evangelical attempt to grapple with “conspiracy theories” that flops and founders because it misdiagnoses the problem: “The Church is experiencing a real division between those who support and disseminate conspiracy theories and those who consider them only the result of ignorance.”

No. The problem is not ignorance, or gullibility, or naivete, or well-intentioned misinformation. The problem is bad faith, deliberate lies, and the bearing of false witness against our neighbors.

The writer is correct that fear is a major driver of this, but he doesn’t grasp what it is they’re afraid of. It’s partly that they’re afraid of — as Robert P. Jones has written and documented — “changing demographics” and a loss of hierarchical power. But more than that, even is their deeper fear of losing the flattering identity they’ve constructed for themselves, allowing them to pretend that they are society’s moral leaders and moral exemplars — the Good Guys. That deeper fear is entirely justified because that identity is rapidly crumbling, bringing with it the awful dread that comes from asking “Are we the baddies?” and realizing that the answer, undeniably, has been yes all along.

• Charles Kuffner knows that “The ‘Resign, Ted’ Caucus” won’t convince insurrectionist Sen. Ted Cruz to resign, and he knows that those calling for that entirely appropriate resignation knows this too. But, as he writes, their efforts may bear fruit in other ways:

The goal here isn’t resignations, because that’s not going to happen, but to rebrand these politicians and make their seditious actions stick with them. Can they make Cruz and Paxton et al toxic to mainstream corporate America and dry up their fundraising? Can they change how they are covered and portrayed by the media, so that their anti-democratic activity front and center in any story that includes them? Can they help drive this narrative so that less-engaged voters are aware of it, and are aware of the need for them to take action in the next elections? Even if it’s just helping them know that Ted Cruz spends more time Twitter fighting than doing anything to make their lives better? These things are more achievable. That’s the way to think about it, and to think about what you can do to help. There have to be consequences for what they did. This is a part of that, and we all have a role to play in it.

I’d add one more reason that “Resign” is an appropriate one-word response to people like Cruz and Paxton and Hawley and Rep. Scott Perry here in Pennsylvania: Because it is, in fact, appropriate. It is their due — what is due to them and what is due from them. Yes, they may all be thoroughly irresponsible people, but their irresponsibility does not mean that responsibility itself does not exist outside of them. They may have the ability to behave immorally and unethically, but they do not have the power to abolish the existence of morals and ethics.

So we say “Resign, Ted,” in part, to remind the world of that and to demonstrate that this is the nicest thing that any decent person can have to say to him at this point.

Cops behaving badly.

• The lyric in the title of this post has been in my head because I just finished a 9-nights-in-a-row stretch as a ladder jockey doing “overhead organization” at the Big Box.

The song that lyric comes from is now 35 years old. The Waterboys’ original version wasn’t a hit in 1985, and barely charted when re-released in the ’90s. But it was gorgeous and ambitious and strange, and so it has endured, becoming whatever the 21st-century version of a standard is.

It’s not a love song, but what is it, exactly? Mike Scott says he was thinking about C.S. Lewis and Jimi Hendrix when he wrote it. (And he’s said he wasn’t thinking about Prince often enough that I’m pretty sure he was.) Lewis’ influence can be heard there, I think, in the singer’s longing to go beyond the “Shadowlands” toward something more real than real. But really the song works because the answer to “Who is this about?” is always going to be “Whoever the listener needs it to be about.”

Anyway, Fiona Apple recorded a version of this late last year, and it’s lovely.


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