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Left Behind

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On Wednesday, September 16th and again yesterday, Friday, September 25th, on the Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel interviewed a self-described former Republican, former evangelical, former rightwingnut person, Frank Schaeffer, author of the book Crazy for God, who made the interesting and profound remark that those "crazy" people who are sitting by their television sets watching and believing Glen Beck and waiting for the Apocalypse and Armageddon, for whom bad news is good news of the coming debacle, for whom facts are unpleasant diversions created by the Anti-Christ and his minions to deceive us and make us unsure of the coming End Times, are in fact living their own morbid and insane prophecy--they are truly the "Left Behind."

They are left behind by science, which they were taught was difficult (for their teachers) and that science, like in the middle ages, conflicts with gospel they have been force-fed since childhood. They are left behind by technology, which is basically indistinguishable from magic for them, yet they employ it on a daily basis. They are left behind by the evolving culture, which now includes persons from places on this planet about which they have no idea. They are left behind in every way important to the growth and good mental health of human beings and they are frightened and resigned to a fate they cannot escape. They hope that their bodies and souls will be taken up in a Rapture of the Righteous, even while they thieve and scheme against every tenet and principle of their so-called Christian faith. They are so left behind the logic of their situation they cannot see the ugly irony of their existence ... and there is a feeling among most of the rest of us that these people are lost forever, better left to themselves to fester into seething hatreds and to consume their own kind in pitches of religiously tainted political fury.

There are those who are preying on these people, of course. There have been snake-oil salesmen and Elmer Gantrys since the beginning of the republic and on back into the recesses of time. Humans do prey on weaker, more frightened humans, and their methods have become quite refined over the years and centuries.

Frank Schaeffer, the man who appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show, suggests by his own existence that leaving behind the "Left Behind" is not necessarily the only way to react or respond to these people. After all, he emerged somehow from the craziness and, having been deep in the bowels of that beast, knows it pretty well. He understands the appeal to irrationality that pervades the community, but he also knows that these people got there because of the shame and fear engendered from two things: effective training and brainwashing in the mythology of the apocalypse and End Times at the hands of pastors eking out a living from these hapless folk and LeHay (and those like him) who shamelessly write lurid stories to separate the gullible from their meager cash.

The propaganda side plays to the sinking feeling we all get when things really turn out bad for us ... like when a parent dies ... or a child ... or when the factory moves to a foreign country ... or when a stranger moves into the neighborhood and doesn't quite fit in to one's familiar routines and expectations ... or when there is a rape or incest ... or anything that degrades the human spirit and undercuts hope and destroys the will to take on tomorrow. Better, we say to ourselves, to stay behind, figure out how to proceed, go forward cautiously, and try to preserve the familiar, the tried-and-true (whether it really is true or not); better to avoid the new and strange, but keep an eye on them, lest they come back and make it worse!

I am not talking about the rational people who for reasons of their own resist the central authority of parents and government. They have a philosophical point with a compelling logic that creates a world view, but even among them (and us) there is a sinking feeling, an emptying of the vessel of hope, of trust, of faith in the broad scheme of things that human beings can self-govern at levels of complexity above the neighborhood. Rational people--us--know full well that the United States Congress no longer represents our direct interests, that Representatives are not representative and Senators are not a collection of wise men and women, but rather on the whole initially well-meaning, if more than slightly egotistical, they are people who have been corrupted by the exercise of power and overwhelmingly by money--money from corporations that want something from government and money from special interests to promote their points of view. We have the sinking feeling that the Great American Experiment failed. We talk about it in public and the irrational people hear it and recede further into their cults and delusions. The situation has become perilous. People send threats across the internet. People brandish weapons as tokens of their unrequited anger and especially that sinking feeling that all is lost.

In a very real way all is lost. That is the nature of time and change. But obviously is it is not really "all," only those things that in our romanticized hindsight we remember as solid and dependable.

If you think about the rate of natural cultural evolution today, the forces at work globally and in the cul d'sacs of neighborhoods across the nation, the pace is dizzying. In my community aged people try to contend with declining health and well-being while everything seems to be changing around them, removing verities and safe havens. Everything we were in 1950 seems to be gone--lost--in a maelstrom of competing interests, fashions, enthusiasms, schemes, and lies. We are not prepared mentally or constitutionally for rapid change. The dawning of another ice age or the recession of glaciers from northern Europe we can handle. The pace is, well, glacial. But, losing one's childhood memories because snapshots and slides have faded and cannot be put into digital formats, formats that change every three or so years, is upsetting and we start to dig in our heels. It is precisely that thing we should not do.

We have to understand that corporations and special interests are us. We have to understand that all men and women are not equal in talent, ingenuity, honor, and grace. We have to relearn the basic rules of society and then we have to see that our government is instituted to redress those imbalances, not to exacerbate and aggravate them.

We have to tell our Representatives that the XYZ Corporation should not be allowed to leave our city abruptly, but that our community needs at least five years in which to adjust.

We have to understand that anti-abortion people have a point, but that they have framed it poorly and combatively and without consideration for every situation.

We have to understand that some things governments do are done best with immediate interaction with the people for whom they are doing it ... like public education, which is not to say that truth is local and knowledge is not accumulated by the sum of human activities, but is to say that the "system" has to be sensitive and responsive to individual differences.

But, given that some among us have retreated into irrationality and some into postures of armed-to-the-teeth insurrection, we have to do something to get back what we have lost to mindless progress and evolution. We have to start with our belief in representative democracy and resolve to make it work. We must insist now and until Washington and state capitals are clear of lobbyists and their corrupting money that Congress is about we the people and not about re-election with corporate and special interest money.

There is only one way to do that effectively. It is to tell our sitting Representatives and Senators to give it all back ... or else ... and to insist that anyone running for office in this country spend no more than one dollar per voter in their district or state. One freaking dollar! That's it!

JB

 

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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)
 

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