Would You Want Your Daughter to Marry a Trumpster?
When I was a kid in the 50’s, the divide between Protestants and Catholics was still a big thing. For a Catholic to marry a Protestant, and vice-versa, was a big deal and often a source of serious family consternation. Nowadays that seems like something from a galaxy long ago and far, far away.
And today? Would you want your son or daughter to marry outside of the political tribe? In 1960 5% of people had reservations about their progeny marrying someone whose family was of a different political stripe. Today that number is 40% — according to the PBS Newshour last week.
There’s an irony here. In the liberal social world of my youth, the idea that there was a problem with marrying outside one’s faith was looked upon as hide-bound and unenlightened. Today, I suspect many a Seattle liberal would have serious issues with a child of their’s marrying into a Trump-inclined family — because of their liberalism. Turns out tribalism is bad unless it’s our tribalism.
Beyond that bit of irony, what does the 40% tell us? That despite the talk about how the significance of America’s two political parties has eroded (there’s some truth to that), more Americans than ever understand their own identity — and that of other people — in terms of their politics.
This is a variation on the identity politics theme. That is, “identity politics” usually means seeing politics through the lens of an identity that is defined by one’s race, ethnicity, gender or sexual-orientation. Here “identity politics” means that people’s identity, who they understand themselves and who they understand others to be, is largely defined by your politics.
Are you Blue or Red? Liberal or conservative? How many friends do you have of the other political persuasion? Would you want your daughter to marry one of “those people”? Can we break bread together with Trump supporters? With Clinton voters?
When politics translates into identity and who you talk to (or marry), politics has come to occupy way too large a place in our lives and society. I’m not saying that politics is unimportant or that people shouldn’t be politically active. You who know me, know that’s not the case.
I am saying that politics is occupying too much of our hearts, minds and souls. And I mean “occupying” almost literally. We have been colonized by MSNBC, FOX, CNN, and the 24-hour news cycle.
Or to put it slightly differently, we have allowed politics to take up the space that religion once held in our lives and culture. Perhaps because more traditional religions have declined, politics has become our religion. And by doing that we are asking politics to carry way too much freight, ultimate freight. Politics has become an idol. And our politics are idolatrous. We’ve turned our politics into our god.
Idolatry is, by definition, to make of some created and finite thing your god, your ultimate concern. But no created thing can bear that weight or deliver on that expectation. Moreover, idols, which appear so engaging initially end up by consuming their adherents. That’s how idolatry works. Like addiction. It feels great at first. But then it owns you.
Another symptom of this turning politics into our god thing is the incapacity of those in politics to conceive, much less achieve, any kind of compromise with members of the other party. That has clearly become anathema (a religious term, incidentally). Now if one party has a majority they ram through their agenda not even trying to get support from the other party.
But politics is, or should be, the realm of compromise. It is the realm of proximate, not ultimate, solutions. That this is no longer true of our politics is a good part of the reason the political atmosphere today is so toxic.
Politics has its place and importance. But that place is not an ultimate one. We will be better citizens and friends if we treat politics as an important, but not ultimately important, part of life.
I could also argue the converse of this post, namely, our religion has become too political. But I’ll leave that for another day.