Applying Malcolm Gladwell’s Taxonomy to the Unfolding Political Drama

A regular commenter brought the clip above to my attention. In it the Canadian journalist Malcolm Gladwell distinguishes among four categories of crime fiction. It’s short and I encourage you to watch it but here’s an even briefer summary.

In “Westerns” there is no law and the protagonist imposes law on a lawless territory.

In “Northerns” there is a flawless legal system in place which is effective in enforcing the law.

In “Easterns” the legal system is corrupt; it must be fixed from the inside.

In “Southerns” not just the legal system but everything is thoroughly corrupt—it must be fixed from outside.

I would point out that this taxonomy doesn’t just apply to crime fiction but to sci-fi in the movies and television and even medical dramas. Star Trek is a Northern. Star Wars is an Eastern. Serenity is a Western. There are even a few isolated Southerns (Riddick).

It occurred to me that it is productive to look at the way that different groups view the political drama that has been unfolding since 2016 using Gladwell’s prism. Democrats tend to look at the last nearly three years as a Northern. The system is working well to rid itself of a criminal. The Republicans, not terribly surprisingly, see it as a Southern—a man comes from outside to fix a thoroughly corrupted system.

These Truths (by Jill Lepore)

In the most ambitious one-volume American history in decades, award-winning historian and New Yorker writer Jill Lepore offers a magisterial account of the origins and rise of a divided nation, an urgently needed reckoning with the beauty and tragedy of American history.

Written in elegiac prose, Lepore’s groundbreaking investigation places truth itself—a devotion to facts, proof, and evidence—at the center of the nation’s history. The American experiment rests on three ideas—”these truths,” Jefferson called them—political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. And it rests, too, on a fearless dedication to inquiry, Lepore argues, because self-government depends on it. But has the nation, and democracy itself, delivered on that promise?

These Truths tells this uniquely American story, beginning in 1492, asking whether the course of events over more than five centuries has proven the nation’s truths, or belied them. To answer that question, Lepore traces the intertwined histories of American politics, law, journalism, and technology, from the colonial town meeting to the nineteenth-century party machine, from talk radio to twenty-first-century Internet polls, from Magna Carta to the Patriot Act, from the printing press to Facebook News.

Along the way, Lepore’s sovereign chronicle is filled with arresting sketches of both well-known and lesser-known Americans, from a parade of presidents and a rogues’ gallery of political mischief makers to the intrepid leaders of protest movements, including Frederick Douglass, the famed abolitionist orator; William Jennings Bryan, the three-time presidential candidate and ultimately tragic populist; Pauli Murray, the visionary civil rights strategist; and Phyllis Schlafly, the uncredited architect of modern conservatism.

Americans are descended from slaves and slave owners, from conquerors and the conquered, from immigrants and from people who have fought to end immigration. “A nation born in contradiction will fight forever over the meaning of its history,” Lepore writes, but engaging in that struggle by studying the past is part of the work of citizenship. “The past is an inheritance, a gift and a burden,” These Truths observes. “It can’t be shirked. There’s nothing for it but to get to know it.”

Richard Rohr Meditation: How Can Everything Be Sacred?

Christianity has far too easily called individual, private behaviors sins while usually ignoring or even supporting structural and systemic evils such as war, colonization, corporate greed, slavery, and abuse of the Earth. All of the seven capital sins were admired at the corporate level and shamed at the individual level. 

.. This left us utterly split in our morality, dealing with symptoms instead of causes, shaming people while glorifying systems that were themselves selfish, greedy, lustful, ambitious, lazy, prideful, and deceitful. We can’t have it both ways. Evil lurks powerfully in the shadows, in our unconscious complicity with systems that serve us at others’ expense. It has created worldviews of entitlement and privilege that were largely unrecognized until rather recently.

.. Only contemplative, nondual consciousness is capable of seeing things like this without also being negative or self-righteous. Once you can clear away the web of illusion you will be able to see that every created thing is still made in the image of God

.. There is no profane place, person, or creature. We can even find the sacred in seemingly secular human endeavors like sex, food, work, economics, and politics, as we’ll see later this year.

..  “Christ is everything and he is in everything” (Colossians 3:11). To see this is to have “the mind of Christ.”