Tuesday, August 31, 2010

why us, why now.

Beck's rally was the "Waterworld of white self-pity," according to Christopher Hitchens' column at slate.com. He compares the U.S. "Tea Parties" to the nativist movements in most European countries, and wonders what kind of politicians will rise to lead such a movement here. Hitchens is generally anti-religious, so he must rely on politics; I think we'll need *both* political and religious leaders--including and especially Unitarian Universalists--to guide us toward a more unified future.

Hitchens writes, "In a rather curious and confused way, some white people are starting almost to think like a minority, even like a persecuted one. What does it take to believe that Christianity is an endangered religion in America or that the name of Jesus is insufficiently spoken or appreciated? Who wakes up believing that there is no appreciation for our veterans and our armed forces and that without a noisy speech from Sarah Palin, their sacrifice would be scorned? It's not unfair to say that such grievances are purely and simply imaginary, which in turn leads one to ask what the real ones can be. The clue, surely, is furnished by the remainder of the speeches, which deny racial feeling so monotonously and vehemently as to draw attention."

He concludes, "almost every European country has seen the emergence of populist parties that call upon nativism and give vent to the idea that the majority population now feels itself unwelcome in its own country. The ugliness of Islamic fundamentalism in particular has given energy and direction to such movements. It will be astonishing if the United States is not faced, in the very near future, with a similar phenomenon. Quite a lot will depend on what kind of politicians emerge to put themselves at the head of it. Saturday's rally was quite largely confined to expressions of pathos and insecurity, voiced in a sickly and pious tone. The emotions that underlay it, however, may not be uttered that way indefinitely."

Economic fears are combining with racial and religious prejudices to create a volatile mix. People are frustrated and angry. Too many politicians think they can stir those emotions just enough to get elected, and too many news organizations think they can keep it simmering enough to keep their ratings (and therefore advertising rates) up. I fear that such short-sighted approaches will only lead to violence and bloodshed. Divisions and us-them thinking will only exacerbate the situation; we need to foster unity, understanding and compassion. This is perhaps the most pressing issue of our time, and UUs are uniquely poised to address it. May the challenge bring out the best in us.


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