Saturday, September 17, 2016

American Demons

Every time I go out to coffee row these days for a bit of java and gossip, the talk swings around to Donald Trump. I’m beginning to believe that old Hollywood shibboleth that all publicity is good publicity. In other words, whether your goal is to become a celebrity or its cousin in the political world—a president or governor—it’s not necessarily what you do or say that’s critical. Rather, it’s the number of times your name is mentioned, the number of times your face is on the screen that effectively furthers such an end.

It’s a bizarre turn of events. If telling streams of lies and half-truths as Trump is doing these days serves to gather support, then the world has inadvertently turned itself inside-out, up is down and the other way ‘round.

I’m currently reading Unmasking the Powers: The Invisible Forces That Determine Human Existence by Walter Wink. Although published in 1985, it might have been written for exactly this time. Wink makes a compelling case for the existence of “demonic forces,” but sees these forces as emanating from within the souls, minds and habits of cultures and individuals. Demons from outside of us don’t afflict us, according to Wink, unless we tolerate them, allow them to live and, finally, to dominate our thoughts and actions.

In the public’s attraction to the liar (who among other things, lies about his opponent’s honesty), America is displaying a collective demon that they’ve allowed in and need desperately to exorcise.

I’m reluctant to name their demon because I’m not sure what it is, but it seems to me that if it had a name, it would be something like “F**k all of you; my ignorance is worth just as much as your wisdom.” (I should acknowledge the person who said something like this, but I can’t remember who it was . . . he/she didn’t use the “F” word. I apologize for using it, but it seemed to fit.). Donald Trump wouldn’t say—for instance—that Hillary Clinton started the “birther” myth and that he was the one who ended it . . . unless there existed a large and growing audience that’s willing to accept that lies are bullets, and the establishment is due for a big dose of buckshot. So bring it on!

But America hosts another demon, one that may have given rise to the first. Public education of high quality for all citizens just hasn’t been a priority. Ignorance, illiteracy, illogicality are all demons

It’s no outside, horned beast that causes us to be content with superficiality in these crucial components of competent citizenship. It’s the invitation extended by a lax and lazy populace in which the tripe churned out by Hollywood is eulogized; it’s a culture in which mediocrity has for too long been excused; it’s a society in which the possession of lethal weapons and the right to own and use them are considered to be a right. Worst of all, it’s a society that has allowed materialism to trump spirituality to the point where talk of love, of service, of generosity is swallowed up in the quest for stuff, for the cheap thrill, for freedom from social responsibility, for wealth and recognition. A society where free speech includes the right to emasculate, eviscerate, slander and libel other persons or other people . . . who aren’t ME. Where lying can be a legitimate political tactic.

America is not alone in having admitted this legion of demons, but America is the country at present whose demon-possession is on display. If I had to name just one similar demon in Canadian society, I’d have to point to our inability to discover a way to mend the injustices we’ve perpetrated against our indigenous population, to set the settler/indigenous relationship on a wholesome path. One of the demons preventing it is racism, but like the demons that drowned with the Gadarene swine (Mark 5:1-20), a renewal of that relationship is probably hindered by a legion of demons we’ve 
allowed in and are fearful to name.

My next post will be about exorcising the demons; but I haven’t finished reading those chapters in Wink yet.

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