Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What's With This Extremism?

I have been interested in the reaction from folks concerning President Obama's Back to School Speech. It seems relatively harmless, in fact it's probably a really good thing that he president does good natured, family oriented things like this. But I've heard some pretty extreme reactions, some going as far as to refuse that their children even hear the speech (we're not here to talk about parenting but I'd have some commentary on that approach). I've heard people say things like, "he just wants to spread his Socialism," etc. I don't remember ever hearing this much distrust from the U.S. for it's own president. There has always been polarization but I don't remember us ever treating the president like he's a foreign invader from some outside ideology. If you ask me, Obama has a very American ideology (most often to a fault). Where is the balance in the Republican party? Where are the voices of Republicans who see the strangeness and extremism in their fellows' response.

Two articles worth reading on this topic, both from Sojourners and both a little more down to earth than many of the extreme responses I mentioned, are A Stupid Made-for-TV Controversy by Jim Wallis and A Plea for a New Generation of Republican Leadership by Brian McLaren. Here's a quote from McLaren's article:
"I keep wondering — don’t more Republicans themselves see the danger of an increasingly reactionary Republican party becoming in the 21st century what anti-civil-rights/pro-segregationists and McCarthyites were in the 20th, or what the pro-slavery/anti-abolition movements were in the 19th — conserving an unjust status quo that deserved to be left behind? Out of love for their party and the good things it could potentially stand for in 2012 and beyond, don’t they want to step forward now and be counted?"
I don't want to see Republicans "win" and Democrats "lose" or vice versa. I want to see the extreme partisanship that's evident in so many controversies come to an end. I want to see unity in the midst of disagreement rather than stark division. And I would so love to see the church offer to the world such an alternative--a non-partisan community of diverse people with diverse thoughts--undivided and in civil dialogue as we work together and come together in the Body of Christ. Community is not always about agreement, neither is politics, it's about learning how to disagree well.

3 comments:

The Thief said...

The extreme right has been getting a lot of air time lately, especially with the hoopla about President Obama's speech, and that's really unfortunate - it's unfortunate that when the president does something that we all should agree with, many complain because they didn't vote for him and/or they hate him.

I think you've got a very short memory, however, Wes, because I certainly heard similar rhetoric regarding George W Bush and Dick Cheney.

"Not my president" anyone?

And just mention the name Clinton to the extreme right and see what kind of response you get.

Our country has been on a long journey toward this type of partisan political climate, and it didn't start in the 2000s, and neither did mudslinging...

...the big question is how will the church show something different? How will we show that we are bigger than all of this?

WES ELLIS said...

Thief,
Perhaps you're right. I do indeed remember the rhetoric surrounding George Bush and the rhetoric which still surrounds Dick Cheney but somehow I still think that there's something new about the talk I've heard lately. However much people hated Bush, and I am sure the hate was just as intense, I don't remember us talking as though he was trying to deceptively infiltrate our system with some foreign ideology... maybe with lies and deception but not with real brainwashing type stuff like what Obama has been accused of.

But I think you're right, for the most part this is nothing new. he partisanship has always been there but I think the scale has broadened... which is the opposite of what Obama's supporters had hoped for.

Another issue is that I have probably spent too much time in Ramona where people never really stopped liking Bush and where Obama has been called Osama from the start.

Good thoughts man, thanks for keeping me on my toes.

Rudy said...

Sadly humans have never been anything but a brutish bunch. Saw this article about John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on CNN.com. Thought you'd enjoy... or at least find interesting.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/08/22/mf.campaign.slurs.slogans/index.html