Finding compassion in the mix

Imagine stories around a campfire…

a mystical möbius – curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a digital space around a safe, cozy, yet rather eclectic virtual campfire. My hope is to render an adequate real-time sketch of history (i.e., a rough first-draft). 

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‘Picking-up after an Apocalypse’ is a brief mini-series of themed posts. Part seven.

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Favorite Christmas story

—I begin this week with a couple pieces of calendar related housekeeping.

My favorite Christmas story is Mark 10.46 (Wait. What!?!) and I unpack that here: “A Christmas tale.”

A couple of weeks ago in my piece, “Cancelling Christmas,” I asked that we consider using our resources to gift Jesus this Christmas. Last Sunday [12/13] on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, chef José Andrés made a very good case for creating a cabinet level Food Secretary. I don’t know if he would even take the job, however, everything that chef Andrés says and does is witness to the fact he would be an excellent candidate for fulfilling the role. G-d bless him for recognizing the true importance of food to any society, importance that transcends the merely physical. Chef Andrés actualizes holistic thinking. “I am a Christian boy,” says chef Andrés in his conversation with Zakaria. Here’s a video of the GPS interview presented on: Facebook Watch. [NOTE: after watching the video please click your browser’s back arrow (<—) in the upper left corner of your browser window to return here to finish this blog post.]

—So, I do note that this year in Jesus’ name, and in honor of him, I am directing all my Christmas giving to chef José and the amazing work of his “World Central Kitchen.” Chef Andrés, and his WCK team, are doing amazing work along with feeding the hungry. 
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Dots Obsession—Love Transformed into Dots by Yayoi Kusama

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The week in two moves

1st movement: Point four

Last week (see here) I offered three instances that indicate how MAGA serves as a death cult for many people. An incident that developed last Saturday [12/12] in Washington D.C. adds another instance of a very sad fourth piece of evidence (by no means a new area of concern, just a new iteration).

On Saturday, December 12, a Black Lives Matter sign at the Metropolitan A.M.E. was destroyed by some “proud boys” as a tangent to the “Jericho March” in Washington—story here: Proud Boys leader says he burned Black Lives Matter banner stolen from church during demonstrations in D.C..

In response to the violent attack, Rev. William H. Lamar IV, clergy at Metropolitan, spells it out—see story here: “My church will replace our Black Lives Matter sign. Will America replace its racist myth?” Speaking about the mythology that drives the imagination of American imperialism, Lamar writes:

“….I am more disturbed by the continued mythology of imperial America. This mythology supports those who commit violence against human beings for political ends, deny citizens their right to vote, denigrate sacred spaces and claim as their own whatever they survey.”

I am not at all confident that I have ever written a paragraph as profound or powerful as the one Lamar writes next:

“It mattered not that the land was ours. It mattered not that the sign was ours. The mythology that motivated the perpetrators on Saturday night was the underbelly of the American narrative — that White men can employ violence to take what they want and do what they want and call that criminality justice, freedom and liberty.

Whoa! Unfortunately, all too frequently we closely resemble that remark. 

Finally, Lamar ties the idea of property to the historical life experience of Black people, to the experience of their bodies as property:

That is the history written into this nation, into the bodies of those brutalized by this mythology, and carried forth in this moment by human beings who have been malformed by a story of scarcity that precludes their own flourishing and the flourishing of others.”

These so-called “patriots,”—e.g., those who perpetrated these hateful sins of violent oppression against the people who are the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church (and all Black people)—these “Jericho March” participants, are the same ones who claim to represent America, the pinnacle of justice, freedom, and liberty they say (on their understanding). Legacy understandings of “justice, freedom, and liberty” are ultimately grounded in our American way of defining and relating to property and  property rights (cf. The Limits of Liberty: Between Anarchy and Leviathan, by James Buchanan).

Lamar makes it more than plain these so-called “patriots” had no regard for property, or the rights of the rightful owners of the property. Apparently that’s only for when it’s convenient. Problems like this have plagued these kinds of “patriots” ever since emancipation.

Lamar’s indictment is ultimately a gift as he is quite correct, no society will finally flourish when it is animated by a mythology of human property. Uncle Sam has an ‘original sin’ demon that haunts the American Dream, and that wicked curse must finally be summoned forth from all the shadows in which it resides/hides, and out into the light to be named and claimed for reconciliation and healing. 

“The political imagination of this entire nation is captive to a white-supremacist myth. Only a new narrative can change the way we order this society.” —Rev. William H. Lamar IV

Talking about the task of the needed “new narrative,” Lamar suggests:

“This new narrative must question everything if we are serious about imagining a better world. The media, academia and religious institutions alike often behave as if American capitalism was decreed by the divine. The economic infrastructure of this nation generates inhumane inequality. Religious fundamentalists believe in individual sin while turning a blind eye to the sinfulness of an economic system that forces working people to pay more of their income in taxes while refusing to pay them living wages, that deprives them of health care and humane retirements. And all this happens while the rich grow richer.”

Another WaPo piece affirms the inequality dimension—cf. “America’s biggest companies are flourishing during the pandemic and putting thousands of people out of work,“—when it reports:

Despite their success, at least 27 of the 50 largest firms held layoffs this year, collectively cutting more than 100,000 workers, The Post found.  

Meanwhile, “Nearly 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since the summer.”

However, all this concern for equity forms a difficult Catch-22 for BLM activists. Noticing the systemic connections between classism, economic inequality, and racism often produces a knee-jerk talking-point reaction from opponents who then declare the “BLM Movement is Marxist!”

 

In part, the president’s MAGA initiative seeks to recall a time when White supremacy was an overtly proud campaign pledge.

2nd movement: finding compassion

The last four years, culminating in 2020 and Covid-19, have left many, if not most, Americans feeling traumatized to one degree or another. I haven’t talked much about trauma here on the blog to date. Perhaps my own experience of trauma a little bit, but not too much. Simply put, for now, our society as a body has been severely traumatized. Polarization—by powerful money interests; talk-radio and cable-news entities who have monetized polarization; and social media platforms designed for addiction through leveraging polarization—is the product of political design. 

I live in Kansas, and, so, trying to pretend I can merely ignore the MAGA phenomenon is simply not an option. Some of my many neighbors who support the president are also my family and friends. So, it’s never been an option to simply walk away, but it’s been getting ugly as this NPR story reports—”Public Health Workers In Kansas Walk Away Over Pressure From Pandemic Politics.” So, how to make sense of the situation, that’s the open question. 

I ran across an article this week that, imho, presents a much needed opening for movement toward reconciliation and healing. The sad, yet informative, Politico story,What the Science of Addiction Tells Us About Trump,” may help explain the dynamics at work in the MAGA phenomenon. 

I feel as Christ followers we are led to recognize the compassion in any given situation. In our present 2020 Covid context compassion is the “opening for movement” that we’re seeking. I feel that compassion, through gaining empathy, is the path to reconciling our bifurcated society. 

Grievance/Revenge addiction

OK, breaking it down using the science of addiction frame, the article begins with this surprising finding: “It turns out that your brain on grievances looks a lot like your brain on drugs. And that’s a problem not just for the outgoing president, but for the rest of us.” Further, “In fact, brain imaging studies show that harboring a grievance (a perceived wrong or injustice, real or imagined) activates the same neural reward circuitry as narcotics.”

The article is persuasively suggesting that DJT has a grievance/revenge addiction that animates his life, and his presidency. The author also shows how this dynamic works in the whole MAGA phenomenon. The article is well worth a read, again: “What the Science of Addiction Tells Us About Trump.” 

What I would like to take from this article, and its addiction science’ way of framing what I obviously consider a significant problem, e.g., DJT and MAGA, is that no matter the cause of the addiction, whether it be trauma or whatever, it is an addiction, and, so, hopefully, we have already been learning how to appropriately see addiction as disease and, therefore, finding ways to feel compassion and empathy for those who struggle with the disease of addiction. 

When we factor in the use of addictive drivers by social media companies to drive profits and  growth (cf. The Social Dilemma), and the exploitation of polarization by talk-radio and cable-news to fuel their profits and growth, then we can see that DJT and MAGA‘s addictive dysfunction was a perfect-storm-fit for our current context.

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Image by Jeremy Thomas – Unsplash || CC0

Next week: We’ll continue in our “Picking-up after an Apocalypse” mini-series. Come and see. 

[this post approx. 1,800 words (7 min. read + Bonus Video || below)]

Your thoughts? 

I never know what I’ve said till I hear the response. What did you hear me say? 

Note: I know, trying to introduce a big-picture idea like Spiral Dynamics (a complex developmental anthropology) in this format is ambitious. So, I’m using a serial-approach. Blog introduction (June 30, 2018). First in series (July 1, 2018).

Bonus Video

Me (after watching): “I’m not crying, you’re crying.” 

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Archive of posts related to this mini-series:

Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 1),’ ~ Election debrief

Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 2),’ ~ “Racial anxiety”

Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 3),’ ~ This is really messed-up

Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 4)’ ~ Cancelling Christmas?

Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 5)’ ~ Common ground found

Picking-up after an Apocalypse (part 6)’ ~ Is MAGA a death cult?

 

One thought on “Finding compassion in the mix

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