November 16, 2020
No matter whom you voted for, there’s enough anger, frustration, and exhaustion to go around.
Voters who cast their ballots against Biden–those who couldn’t digest the left chanting, “Defund the police,” for example–are keeping their eyes on the Crackerjack prize.
Talk to many of 45’s voters and they’ll tell you: They’re well aware he’s a monstrosity of human being. They might not have realized it back in 2016, but they certainly don’t deny it now.
The incumbent president is fool’s gold all right, but he’s their fool’s gold.
Some of the president’s supporters will even explain “God uses flawed people” to advance His cause.
Voting for the incumbent to protect our guns, our embryos, and the would-be Middle Eastern stage of a literal, fiery apocalypse—these are all reasons, for them, that the ends justify the means.
Who added the Book of Machiavelli to my Bible?
Religion, particularly American Evangelism, comprises a set of deeply held convictions and principles, which serve to guide people. The practice of that faith, in turn, which often occurs in groups and bestows a group identity, can become a proxy for belief itself.
Belonging is an essential human feeling, and knowing the “group” to which one “belongs” becomes a heuristic, a tool, for important decision making.
Being a “good Christian,” then, for some, means voting for the man adored by the evangelical right.
It may not be the kind of decision-making practiced by Limbaugh’s so-called “navel-gazing liberals,” but it accomplishes a choice, nonetheless.
The non-navel-gazers, after working forty-plus hours per week and caring for their homes and families, may welcome the spiritual portentousness of a viral YouTube video about 45’s mother and “The Hebridean Bible.”
Even if it is bunk.
Advances in filmmaking construction—and proliferation—are no less revolutionary now than Gutenberg’s printing press was in 1440.
The talented filmmakers—I won’t say propagandists—at the Lincoln Project, for example, know how to combine images and sounds with precision to bring one to a certain conclusion—or to edify a conclusion one has already reached.
They also know something about affects, the pre-emotional, instinctive, biological responses humans produce in response to environmental stimuli. As the twentieth-century psychologist Silvan Tomkins explained, negative affects yield much more bang for the buck than positive affects.
Forty-five deals mostly in negativity: Distress. Fear. Disgust.
While he promises to “Make America Great Again,” the vow has meaning only in its juxtaposition with the threat of loss: the loss of a particular flavor of American, cultural identity.
Unlike former President Ronald Reagan, however, the incumbent president wasn’t able to consummate his second-term sale.
Reagan, a former actor who sold us “Morning in America” in 1980, understood the unsustainable nature of negativity. Former President George W. Bush, brought us further along, understanding the power of conciliatory positivity:
“A kinder, gentler nation.”
“A thousand points of light.”
Negative affect, it’s true, is more potent than positive affect. But it doesn’t last.
Millions of years of evolution have hardwired us to be able to amp-up in reaction to existential threats, after all. Our ancestors didn’t have to stop and think, for example, when they saw a lion charging at them on the African Savannah. The reaction was immediate.
The high-pitched, intense burst of negative affect calls the body to seek immediate resolution; it’s a survival mechanism.
Our Creator didn’t design emotional negativity to be sustained.
We are wired, instead, to resolve negative affect. As any trauma specialist or recovering PTSD sufferer will tell you, that energy has to go somewhere, lest it take up residence in the body.
Negative energy is contagious, and like a virus, one person might catch it just as another is getting over it, reinfecting the first person. So, resolving negativity is bound to take longer when it reaches the level of national frenzy.
But just as we’re close to delivering a vaccine that will prevent COVID-19, we’re also very close to the incumbent’s followers running out of steam.
Outrage is exhausting.
Even 45 realizes the fever is breaking. He knows he has lost the election.
The biggest question facing our nation is, “What we will do next?” To stretch a metaphor, instead of beating swords into plowshares, we’re now called to transform tiki torches into energy-efficient lanterns.
Fear into light.
Powerful, ultraviolet, infection-killing light! Inside the body (politic)!
America, to borrow from Coldplay, is like the sky.
She’s a sky full of stars.
May we all stand beside her, and guide each other, with God’s help, through this very strange night.