When is it what?

Harry Drabik

Among my shortcomings is a habit of simplifying for the sake of argument and of looking at what I call foundation underpinning a particular practice or position. And maybe there’s a rare time I’m too skeptical. To help balance failings a sense of humor is helpful. And oh, the Fates keep spitting out gems that keep my mirth up there among the clouds of the high stratosphere. A particular joy bringer are dramatic claims of “speaking truth to power.” Makes me smile every time I hear that because despite an excellent delivery I see the face of a child with chocolate on its upper lip adamantly asserting innocence as to who ate the icing. Truth to power is more about presentation than truth or power. It makes bloated indulgence appear noble and sacrificing while gorging on self-importance. I prefer a leaner diet because often repeated lines of argument are appealing as a sixth piece of French Silk Pie for desert. One piece of indulgence pie is more than plenty, but it is fun to watch the plentiful application of whipped cream to advance personal opinion to the level of absolute and almighty heavenly delight. 

In paragraph one I confess a habit of simplifying, a practice I find too useful to give up. So here’s a thought. Ever consider the importance of brand loyalties. Apple people will not stoop to other systems much as drivers of one brand of vehicle scorn other makes with purist derision. As a kid I was happy to be in Levis but went near out of my mind when mother handed me the Roebuck brand. Personal association with particular brands is part of how many of us see and define ourselves. A Marlboro person is not a fancier of vegan quiche. Now if we look toward politics do we see somewhat the same? Personal affiliation is a good thing, but does its good diminish when an association is so strong it puts active bias where a thoughtful consideration would add some understanding to forming a conclusion? Is it possible personal views are often little above a brand bias?  

The Thanksgiving tradition arose during the Civil War. Let that be a warning to us? Maybe so because there’s not just rancor these days to curdle the milk of kindness. There’s hatred, often in the version that accuses others of hatefulness. I tell the difference based on real hatred being narrow and point specific. Also (you’ll see how far off I might be) a claim of hate often rests on presumption of undeniable value – a gold standard of belief. It’s tricky to parse out, but I’ll try. Take a presumption that diversity is an absolute social good. The assertion sounds solid, but there’s not, I fear, much to it. Is a society properly diverse when its citizens can by gasoline as suits them by liter, cup, or by the pound? Is better a diverse monetary system where we’d keep track of international exchange rates? I kind of doubt it. Maybe diversity is more a tool than a goal. 

In practice “diverse” seems based on availability of exotic foods and costuming, none of which means a belch without underlying unity of purpose. I understand human desire to be open and inclusive, reconciling the cannibal with the vegan (aside from impossibility) might not be worth the effort in terms of accomplishing a social benefit. Seems to me some awful things result from pedaling irreconcilable differences as lovely virtues when they pass no such test. In other words, it’s not diversity or division of opinion and belief that matters near so much as an ability to find unifying principles where they exist and work from that basis. No amount of talk about virtuous diversity turns ages-old conflict into honey. Use a Middle Eastern example. If one group says it cannot tolerate the existence of another group there’s nothing much to be done.

Keep them separated might be all. Could there be cooperation on some mutual project such as fresh water? That’s possible, but if a base position remains “kill them if we can” no amount of Pollyanna will alter that. If you’re one of those who takes the easy road of “we all believe in the same things” I have to suggest the Thanksgiving turkey might be you. Some beliefs are not in fact compatible with others. Core doctrine between Baptist and Methodist can be worked out but between that and some of the more rigid views still in use there’s really not much hope. Basics matter: fundamental belief in democracy is a hell of a lot less dangerous than fundamental belief in theocracy.  

Bear in mind a secularized society is going to stink at picking out distinctions that fire billions of people who hold absolutely to the view that a Trinity is polytheism and completely against their form of pure monotheism. A couple might be able to coexist with that schism, but two couples, multiple families, large groups, and societies are regularly torn apart by exactly such diversity which can admit no unifying grace that doesn’t require obliterating others. As secularized many of us don’t know about the planet’s longest and probably biggest genocide lasting 600 years when the Moguls sought to improve Hindu India by conversion to a one god system (Allah). Twenty four generations in India experienced relentless attack and refused to surrender what they felt was their culture and identity. Secularism and diversity does not fix such divides. It is unwise to think it can. 

My Thanksgiving thought is to not let emphasis on that which separates get in the way of seeing and appreciating unifying commonalities. But additionally, I want to be thankful being able (if time is taken) to see sides other than scripted narratives that make narrow opinion a foregone conclusion. Fine hearing reminders of the social need to be trusting and generous, but I bet those using the wagging finger go to homes with doors that lock. Utopia isn’t here yet. The best I can wish is to be realistic. Frankly, dear readers, I’d rather have a distant patriarch in a far-off heaven than nests of politico mummies and daddies busily attempting fixes on earth.