|After seeing that crowd of about 500,000 that came to Glenn Beck's rally I found myself doing some rethinking.|
No way that group of people were all obsessed with things religious. (I sure that many were, but no where near a half million.) I began to suspect that there is something that I am not seeing. Every now and then I get lucky and see where one of my principles which is right, is none-the-less, blocking me from seeing something else.
I started putting myself, as best as I could, in the shoes of someone who isn't intellectual, who hasn't made a large part of their life working with ideas, who has children that are still fairly young, who lives in our heartland and hasn't experienced what life is like in the big cities or the hip coastal regions, and can not articulate that well the deep sense that everything has gone wrong.
They sense that it is not just the economy, not just the obvious problems with a health system that will make things worse not better, not just the craziness of Obama and Holder joining suit with Mexico in a law suit against Arizona to repeal a law that is a copy of a federal statute, not just that real unemployment averages about 15% across the nation and those in power keep talking about the jobs 'saved' during a summer of 'recovery, not just that bailouts don't work, but that by now everyone sees they are just redistributing wealth from the successful to the failures, not just that the people in power hire consultants to fashion sound bites to make them sound moral and caring while we watch one after another uncovered as corrupt. And the news is filled with death and threats from 7th century savages - in the UN, in seats of foreign governments.
Their gut tells them that everything is backwards and something inside them rebels at the pervading sense of futility, a sense of hopelessness... as if these abominations were like facts of nature and never to be fixed. Imagine seeing the future trashed as you look at your children playing and laughing - not because you made a mistake, but in spite of doing things right.
Now, remember, these parents grew up watching John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best. They grew up in a world where it made sense to see the good in man, to see shining hope in the future, and to believe in a better world for their children. They believe that man is capable of goodness and capable of fixing what problems arise. These are values cast as cultural metaphors, cultural icons, and internalized as guiding emotions and the general standards by which a life was directed.
We talk here about political principles, we grasp the importance and place of epistemology and metaphysics for any philosophical system. We never let go of our understanding of morality and ethics as the necessary root of politics. But for this man and woman from Nebraska, who may not be any more religious than my parents or regular people I've worked along side of through my life, their world is much less understood, and rather is felt. They are feeling the world go grey. It includes no more heroes on the sliver screen, slice of life novels, What as a child they were taught is rude, or tacky, or wrong, is now celebrated. Trash and triviality garner the prized. No one teaches right from wrong in the schools but rather cultural relativism and political correctness, no commonality of morality in a world where Hollywood comes into the living room and downtown movie theaters.
They are pulled by Beck's call for virtues, for character, for honor. Unlike me, they aren't repulsed by religion and so they are more accepting of 'good' things in that package.
Beck is very right when he says this not just about politics. That it will take more than the Tea Party to save our nation. He is still right when he turns to individual character traits, to virtues. He is dead wrong when he says that the best or only place to find the moral and ethical values we need is in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Actually, the exuberance of earlier America formed commonsense moral values and ethical codes that never really fit altruism, and certainly not the ugly rituals that make up so much of religions' con games. This is where Beck wants to go with his quest to restore honor. It is what we need to do, but it isn't found in God or faith. And hope will come naturally to those who live with their eyes open and stay true to their principles. Charity is a natural by product of man's benevolence and a system that respects his freedom. Beck has the 'details' wrong, but his heart and his instincts are right.
I was stunned when I looked inside and saw how blind I was to this oneness of the liberal/secular/anti-heroic view. We have written and read here at this forum about aesthetics and Rand made it a key part of Objectivism. But in my mind I tended to think more of psychology principles on the individual level and not paying as much attention to the . The need for aesthetics, and in specific for art that portrays a universe open to growth and good will and success and to a society of men one can look up to.
From this perspective look at the aesthetics, if you will, of Black Liberation Theology, or bailing out failures with money needed by successful people, or redistributing wealth to whinny bums, to the endless parade of self-perpetuating corruption in places of power.
If I've been successful in communicating what I see now, you can understand why people 'cling to their religion.' It is not just what they know, and it is not just out of fear or uncertainty, but a drive to stand tall and proud with clear values and real heroes. You and I know that this is a mistaken view when it incorporates reason-destroying faith, and that altruism will cripple heroes - but in the American heartland religion is held differently.
We need to join them in the drive for heroes, in a vision of a bright world where good things are possible, and show how that looks without faith or mysticism or self-sacrifice. They are far more our allies in this battle than a bitter, hate-filled, far-left apologist for Obama's policies who also happens to be atheist.