Burning Down the House

Here’s his lesson for young minds: If you’re rich and boorish enough, you can get away with anything. Get away with sexual assault. Get away with not paying taxes. Get away with never telling the truth. Get away flirting with treason. Get away with stiffing people who work for you, while you take yours. Get away with mocking the disabled, veterans and families of war heroes.

.. Trump has made compassion suspect. Don’t reach out to starving refugees — they’re killers in disguise. Don’t give to a charity that won’t reward you in some way. Don’t pay taxes that build roads and offer relief to those washed away in a hurricane. That’s a sucker’s game. We’re not all in this together. Taxes are for stupid people.

Trump, Taxes and Citizenship

A healthy nation isn’t just an atomized mass of individual economic and legal units. A nation is a web of giving and getting. You give to your job, and your employer gives to you. You give to your neighborhood, and your neighborhood gives to you. You give to your government, and your government gives to you.

If you orient everything around individual self-interest, you end up ripping the web of giving and receiving. Neighbors can’t trust neighbors. Individuals can’t trust their institutions, and they certainly can’t trust their government. Everything that is not explicitly prohibited is permissible. Everybody winds up suspicious and defensive and competitive. You wind up alone at 3 a.m. miserably tweeting out at your enemies.

.. There’s a sense of how a lovely society is supposed to be. This means that the economic desire to save money on taxes competes with a larger desire to be part of a lovely world.

.. In a lovely society we all pull our fair share. Some things the government does are uncontroversial goods: protecting us from enemies, preserving the health and dignity of the old and infirm. These things have to be paid for, and in the societies we admire, everybody helps.

.. In a lovely society everyone feels privilege, but the rich feel a special privilege. They know that they have already been given more than they deserve, and that it is actually not going to hurt all that much to try to be worthy of what they’ve received.

.. You can say that a billionaire paying no taxes is fine and legal. But you have to adopt an overall mentality that shuts down a piece of your heart, and most of your moral sentiments.

That mentality is entirely divorced from the mentality of commonality and citizenship. That mentality has side effects. They may lead toward riches, but they lead away from happiness.

Is American Culture Asking Too Much of Marriage?

The relationship therapist Esther Perel thinks so—and argues that it’s time to rethink matrimony and, with it, infidelity.

.. It arose, the Belgian relationship therapist Esther Perel argues, from a collision of several forces that collided in the 19th and 20th centuries: among them capitalism, latent Romanticism, and the political and cultural notion of the primacy of the individual.

If Not Trump, What?

They’re going down meekly and hoping for a quiet convention. They seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter.

.. That means first it’s necessary to go out into the pain. I was surprised by Trump’s success because I’ve slipped into a bad pattern, spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata — in professional circles with people with similar status and demographics to my own. It takes an act of will to rip yourself out of that and go where you feel least comfortable. But this column is going to try to do that over the next months and years. We all have some responsibility to do one activity that leaps across the chasms of segmentation that afflict this country.

.. We’ll probably need a new definition of masculinity, too.

..  The author R. R. Reno has argued that what we’re really facing these days is a “crisis of solidarity.” Many people, as the writers David and Amber Lapp note, feel pervasively betrayed: by for-profit job-training outfits that left them awash in debt, by spouses and stepparents, by people who collect federal benefits but don’t work. They’ve stopped even expecting loyalty from their employers. The big flashing lights say: NO TRUST. That leads to an everyone-out-for-himself mentality and Trump’s politics of suspicion. We’ll need a communitarianism.

 

How to Fix Politics

But starting just after World War II, America’s community/membership mind-set gave way to an individualistic/autonomy mind-set. The idea was that individuals should be liberated to live as they chose, so long as they didn’t interfere with the rights of others.

By 1981, the pollster Daniel Yankelovich noticed the effects: “Throughout most of this century Americans believed that self-denial made sense, sacrificing made sense, obeying the rules made sense, subordinating oneself to the institution made sense. But now doubts have set in, and Americans now believe that the old giving/getting compact needlessly restricts the individual while advancing the power of large institutions … who use the power to enhance their own interests at the expense of the public.”

.. Partisanship becomes a preconscious lens through which people see the world.

They report being optimistic or pessimistic depending on whether their team is in power. They become unrealistic. Trump voters don’t seem to realize how unelectable their man is because they hang out with people like themselves.

.. If we’re going to salvage our politics, we probably have to shrink politics, and nurture the thick local membership web that politics rests within. We probably have to scale back the culture of autonomy that was appropriate for the 1960s but that has since gone too far.

How Covenants Make Us

The liberation of the individual was supposed to lead to mass empowerment. But it turns out that people can effectively pursue their goals only when they know who they are — when they have firm identities.

Strong identities can come only when people are embedded in a rich social fabric. They can come only when we have defined social roles — father, plumber, Little League coach. They can come only when we are seen and admired by our neighbors and loved ones in a certain way. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Other men are lenses through which we read our own minds.”

.. When we are situated within something it is because we have made a covenant. A contract protects interests, Pally notes, but a covenant protects relationships. A covenant exists between people who understand they are part of one another.

.. People in a contract provide one another services, but people in a covenant delight in offering gifts.

.. In an interview with Bill Maher last month, Senator Cory Booker nicely defined patriotism by contrasting it with mere tolerance. Tolerance, he said, means, “I’m going to stomach your right to be different, but if you disappear off the face of the earth I’m no worse off.” Patriotism, on the other hand, means “love of country, which necessitates love of each other, that we have to be a nation that aspires for love, which recognizes that you have worth and dignity and I need you. You are part of my whole, part of the promise of this country.”

Rod Dreher & Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on the Benedict Option [Part 2]

For us on the traditionalist side, it is a matter of justice too, “justice” being the right ordering of things. Noncelibate gay partnerships and gay marriage doesn’t make sense within our Christian conception of order ..

..

Nicholas Wolterstorff taught me that there’s a basic difference between understanding justice as the “right ordering of things” (i.e. “justice from above”) and understanding justice as a systemic effort to listen to the oppressed (i.e. “justice from below). His Reformed colleagues in South Africa justified apartheid as “the right ordering of things.” They forced him to reimagine justice biblically as God hearing the cry of Israel in Egypt.

.. Our problem is not so much with liberals (= Democrats and their fellow travelers) as it is with liberalism as an individualist mode of thought and politics that emerged from the Enlightenment. Conservatives — that is to say, Republicans and their fellow travelers — are as captive to liberalism, in this sense, as are their political opponents.

.. Sex is not the whole of the Gospel, of course, but fidelity to Scripture on sexual purity is precisely the area on which the world will push hardest against us. – See more at: http://www.redletterchristians.org/rod-dreher-jonathan-wilson-hartgrove-on-the-benedict-option-part-2/#sthash.LisFnw0Y.dpuf