The paradox of American politics

This speaks to a paradox of American politics: It often feels most stable when it is least just, and it often feels least stable when progress is being made.
— Read on

That, right there, is everything. To those in power and those in positions of privilege, the injustices that brought stability were often wholly or even entirely invisible.

You grow up in the 1950s as a white kid in one of those newly developed suburban homes paid for with government assistance only available to whites, for example, and you don’t know what you don’t know, even if you do know everything is great. Then along come the 1960s and all these “others” demanding changes to your “way of life” and you’re thinking, “what did I do to deserve this? Why are they trying to take away what my parents and I worked for hard for?” You don’t see what their plight has to do with yours because you don’t see just how many of the benefits you had growing up came either at their expense or via opportunities engineered to be available to you but not to them.

It’s understandable, even if it’s a mistake. And it helps explain why the politics of backlash that is ways unleashed contains as one of it’s central elements what I call the “don’t kneel silently, stand! Don’t stand and yell, sit and speak quietly! Don’t sit and speak quietly, kneel silently!” dynamic. When the visibility of the disadvantage begins to feels like a threat to your forms of unexamined privilege, all protest by the disadvantaged becomes a threat. You begin longing to go back to the “good old days” when “those people” weren’t causing so many problems, when things were good for you and they were invisible and you didn’t know what you didn’t know and didn’t care to find out.

It’s a longing to return to the mythical past of your youth, one in which the problems of the world were invisible to you and yours. Andrew Sullivan seems to think this is Christian, but I’ve gotta say, I can’t imagine anything more antithetical to theofe of Jesus of Nazareth than the idea that things were better and less disruptive to civil society when we all agreed to just look the other way.

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