There were actually too many good thoughts in this thread for me to keep track of in my preferred (read: uncompromisingly irresponsible) way, which is, tearing through the thread at a million miles an hour to check all yer ideas off a list in my head before I dispel sum-total wisdom. But fuck, people did actually better thinking than I have done on a couple of these points and that has now cost me like 2.5 hours of going back and reading other stuff from said people, and being like, grateful for the forum.
But I will say one thing that I’ve spent more than the last 30 minutes thinking about. It’s been in my notes for a few days, since hearing on NPR this interview with a woman about the woman’s march, and about intersectionality, and the interview was one I found a bit disheartening, like mostly, I felt that sense of embarrassment for the very very very very young woman speaking with unmistakeable self-assuredness about the moral superiority of intersectionality as a political strategy compared to, say, any other political strategy. There was, as there is, conflation around politics and morality. There was reckless and unnecessary use of Chomsky’s Steamroller, which is that rhetorical tool of running people the fuck over by using words they immediately feel they should know the meaning of, like Chomsky’s Steamroller, which doesn’t exist, except maybe now it does if you felt it.
What I was writing about in my notes is the same stuff others here have been contemplating. I’m seeking a grand theory for explaining the American Political Scene.
And I’m an American, Utah Born, which is a place run since 1847 or so by family of mine, though not currently, and nobody knows my family or thinks “oh yeah you come from that family” because it’s the women all the way back who are the ones who occupy some actual space in the psyche – my mother (alive), her mother (recently dead), that one’s mother (died at like 100 right after I was born), that one’s mother, who I assume was a powerhouse because I can’t imagine a weak link in this chain, and finally, finally, a man, the first mayor of SLC Utah, which I think I’ve referenced before here, not sure. It’s substantive to the way I relate to ideas and places; I know it’s unimportant in many ways, by appearance, but I’ve mined that man’s journals and a couple biography’s on him with huge payoff, so I do care about the relationship.
And what I guess I would say is, well, let me quote myself. Haha. From an essay about pornography, a turn of the 20th Century Botanist, and the Halsey Nebraska National Forest, called Monstrous Wake, which is what the Cult Leader at the head of the mormon church said of this character, GGG grandpa, when sending him out on mission trips for 9 years. He predicted that he’d leave a Monstrous Wake. I know there is something important to me in that term, specifically around the way that my mom and her mom and up to this guy command a great deal of the physical and metaphysical into shape around them in a way that can’t be described as anything other than just fucking unconditional. Not unconditional like power over others, which shifts and slides from actor to actor. Unconditional like DGAF power, like, power that just IS. If any man gives them trouble, Joseph Smith said of this ancestor man and his partner, both about 19 years old at the time in like 1840, “Let them knock his teeth down his throat. I mean Spiritually.”
Are the diversions worth it? I don’t know. I am getting to a thing which is that I believe I have some claim on the question of the meaning of America, because I come from people who believe that Jesus is going to come back in Missouri. Sans tongue in cheek, because like, I was there as a kid looking over a vast space that used to be the Garden of Eden. Okay. So I’m the only person in this forum who can claim to have visited both the place where humankind STARTED and where mark twain did his thing on the same roadtrip, is the gist of my argument about my claim to have some heightened sense of what America as an idea is/could be.
there was a bottleneck that selected for souls simultaneously terrified of the wilderness and desparate for it, starting with the pilgrims, and a second bottleneck for the mormons. My grandfather character man lost both his only wife (at the time, before polygamy) and infant child on the hike over, as a 28 year old:
Starbucks is closing. Youll have to wait for what was gonna drop after that colon I guess. Drafts what?
Edit to continue
Tough to thread the needle on this, but where I wish I could land is to say, without even slight hyperbole, that until I was 18, I never once questioned that this country existed for the purpose of ushering in the second coming of Jesus Christ, and that this country existed to enable God to re-connect directly with his creations, that the founders were directly inspired in fact, that the founders of this country appeared to the early Mormon prophet, In a vision, to be like “you got this, man”
And also that I’ve realized in the time since I left the Mormon church that my understanding of it is, while a little closer to traditional / historical tradition within the religion, not necessarily the core experience / understanding of most of my still Mormon or ex Mormon friends, and that in fact while based in a massive amount of scripture and doctrinal study, my family’s version of Mormonism was probably rather unique (the argument doubles back on itself as i now note that this conflict between personal/family revelations of gods truth and political/church-wide/top-down authority is itself a mainstay of Mormonism, and probably every cult that sees its guru shot or crucified and looks around like “oh wait is he actually dead for real??” and the infighting begins as god tells some guy he’s next in line and tells another guy No He Is, and tells the third there is no line, and the fourth doesn’t believe in god and is a psychopath. Plus there’s the spiritually defunct kid nobody wants getting pulled out of some den of iniquity and having it whispered in his ear that daddy’s gone and it’s time to clean off and head home…)
Okay so, I think that I’ve experienced already the death of America as the promised land to a greater extent than most, having literally believed in it and then having had that belief murdered.
HARD EDIT for clarity here, deleted former last paragrph that was just too much shitty.
so over one decade post mormonism my movement in thought went like:
I’m lucky to have been born with universal truth and I’m gonna grow up to be the prophet if I can keep being this radically awesomely mormon and then later a god
I’m wrong, this whole thing isn’t actually true, and there is no god, but I’m still super special because I come from this weird cult that looks like a great microcosm of the American experience around belief and stuff, and my life is still somehow particularly crucial to the future of these people and I’ll like, write the great american novel or something
Eh, actually my own experience is probably as meaningless as the constant promptings I had as a kid to like “take a few steps to the left” because maybe that was god talking to me and warning me of a piano or anvil falling; yes surely this sense of my own important history to the future is totally meaningless and I in fact am merely experiencing the continual and uninteresting mental aftermath of being raised in a community where 99% of people believed something that is at odds with the entire rest of the world’s beliefs, the conflict between the public and the private truth, ie, I have symptoms of cult survival, seeking meaning where there isn’t one, seeking lessons learned where I should be seeking a healthy breakfast and picking up hobbies, stepping sideways to miss anvils
And only very recently, like the last year, toward this space I’m in now that reframes the relationship of Mormonism and Americanism a bit. This because I’ve been out of any Mormon community for 3 years and off facebook and all so like totally away from it with a spouse who doesn’t know anything about Mormonism. Here’s the way it’s shaped in my head:
- The idea that is America is a cousin species to the idea that is Mormonism with some substantial commonalities caused by common forces and pressures that shaped them
- This is in contrast to my views that assumed a sort of Parent-child relationship between USA and Mormonism, where the child has grown up either to have a better life based on the work the parent did (constitution, religious freedom, etc) to lay the groundwork, or, later, where the child has grown up to be a false prophet, like, a psychologist instead of a rabbi or whatever.
- And if the idea of Mormonism is Cousin but not defunct child, I get to keep benefiting from my default view that my own upbringing had some greater purpose.
Well, Maybe. Maybe it’s important to me, and probably it’s not that important to the world, but maybe it’s the only way I can understand the world. And some evidence exists it’s a good frame for helping others understand themselves.
I am an American for shit sure. Is among the intended takeaways, I think. More accurately the claim is this: I am a quintessential American. I’m beginning to suspect this more and more as I experience a shift away from progressivism toward Conservatism as described by many of you here. I bet a supercomputer could read the first post in this thread, ask a couple follow up questions, and extrapolate a pretty close model of what america is.
Let me end by not getting where I thought I might and instead listing some things that I think have consequence or relationship to the central issues here, in America 2017.
These aren’t necessarily correct or things I believe for sure, but they have been on my mind. usually prefaced with “Maybe” but I’ll skip the maybe.
Intersectionality isn’t a thing. It’s an internally illogical system with exactly zero percent of surviving at any scale.
Everyone is eventually going to get everything they thought they wanted and realize they still feel like shit. As long as anybody thinks anything outside their skin has anything to do with how they feel, they are acting on a delusion.
America’s White Male Workers understand this better than anybody, and they also know they can’t talk about it without getting skewered. They understand it because they know they have what is called White and Male Privilege, and they know they are still feeling as sorry for themselves as ever, and/or as hungry for power as ever.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in the .1%. The equation is still the same. Miserable people + power = miserable people with power.
If it’s actually true that the wealthy and powerful have it better, then it would seem to be also true that they will have it worse as they give up power in accordance with the call to Check Their Privilege, unless it happens to be true that in a world of total equality everything is better. This is close to provably false. Know why? Because I’d rather fucking die than live in a world of total equality. All you need is one of me. Sure, I can kill myself, but that still does invalidate the theory that it’s better for everyone. I know total equality isn’t possible, by I’d rather die than live in a world that’s within 100miles of totally equal. I don’t want to spend time in beautiful places doing fun things with great people. I want to execute a grand vision that requires other people put their own vision aside in favor of it. That’s it. Or I want to execute someone else vision and not have the crushing mental cost of knowing that the guy at the top is entirely mortal, weak, and fucking fucked at some unknown date in the future. Either position seems fine to me, but total equality would be the worst of all worlds.
Freedom is the thing that power can actually give. Doesn’t by default but can. Nothing else gives it. American’s don’t want fair. They want free. Which is by the way what Donal Trump is. Free as some wild animal really.
The frustration around lack of representation of certain groups in the Women’s March is in the image, for me, of Mormonism struggling to square a circle in which God tells the leader that everyone is entitled to personal revelation, and then persons get it personally revealed that they disagree with the leader on some stuff while the leader gets revelation saying that in this particular case, no, tow the party line. It’s the conflict between individual autonomy and sacrifice for the greater good; sacrifice for the greater good builds societies and religions, but is worse for the bottom and better for the top.
- The problem here is a baked in hypocrisy that throws Trump into relief. The baked in hypocrisy of the left is super unpalatable; more unpalatable to leftists than the paradoxes on the right are to conservatives. Conservatives might be closer to not defining themselves in terms of their current movement from low to high or high to low. Conservatives are still alive when not in motion. Liberals only exist in motion. stalling is death. Conservatives have the benefit of already knowing the world is kind of unchangeable, that suffering doesn’t demand an answer. I’m not talking about politicians, who likely don’t share the life experience of their constituents, nor self-described conservatives or liberals; I’m defining them in terms of these realizations around our powerlessness to preserve others from suffering, around the moral hazard inherent in action, the always-safer decision not to act, ethically speaking.
-Progressives are in for such pain and suffering that only a real psychopath could wish it upon them. But they must endure it. The pain and suffering is the recognition of their shitty selves in the mirror some years into a more equal future, when the bad guys are not as bad and they have celebrated some wins, and they recognize that the enemy is still within, that they aren’t made whole when they have objectively gotten what they want. I say this with zero Schadenfreude. The greatest suffering is in realizing that what they wanted was not equality but power. And they got some. And it wasn’t absolute that they wanted to their movement to be, but relative. Relative to others, which is the only way that power exists (it evaporates as a concept for the last human on earth). That power is power over, and that that is what they seek and now must choose to continue to seek or submit to. I don’t wish recognition of this on anybody but the universe is a pretty gnarly place. I also wouldn’t stop anybody from experiencing the realization. The future isn’t knowable. There is no responsible way to protect people from finding this stuff out.
We might be done a favor and get hit by an astroid before having to grapple with this as individuals. I haven’t had that luxury but in the end, it’s also simultaneously not so bad. It’s altogether fine and good. great some days. Good enough most every day.
God, I suck at this.