I had trouble falling asleep last night. I think, or rather hope, it was more because of a lingering nasty flu than the political news I was following yesterday. I finally drifted off between coughs about 4am. But given the wild dreams that followed, my subconscious must have been working hard to clean up that inner slate.
Lots of people on all sides asking, “How could this have happened?” Is Mr Trump’s successful candidacy a b****** offspring of economic hardship and racism? For a while I’ve caught the whiff of just plain rudeness. I don’t know if I’ve woken to some clarity after watching a deinonychus eat poodles in a mansion, but I see a few threads connecting today.
They say the Obama presidency was built on the internet. I don’t doubt it. I think the heir apparent is Donald Trump. People scratch their heads about his brash talk and ask how he gets away with it. Those folks probably don’t get online much. That brand of ugly has been all over the Catholic blogosphere for years. I’m sure that conservative Catholics are not unique in that respect. From what I see some Catholics get mad, attach themselves to a willing guru. Want to find a kissing cousin to Mr Trump? A conservative Catholic won’t need to look far, or even get past the end of the alphabet.
On one level, some people are just tired of being polite when their inner demon is just urging them to let loose. The whole array of online communities from Facebook to specialty locales like St Blogs shows numbers of people who are on a slow boil. Does the medium contribute to the indulgence of rude? I suspect it does.
Not disconnected from all this is the curious case of Tony Spence, reported here at Commonweal. I’ve known colleagues and friends to be ousted from jobs at the urging of an angry self-appointed Temple Police. It happens for any number of reasons and knows no single ideology: we don’t like the music, we don’t like musicians, we don’t want to pay, we don’t like their marital status, their Twitter feed, their politics, their not being as anti-abortion as we are … Many Catholics would love to get their claws into bishops and maybe a pope or two. Is this any way to run a Church? It seems like it’s the way we run a society these days. Stoke the anger, find somebody to blame, and run with it.
One of the commenters at Commonweal asked, “But why should the Church employ a person with such views?” What about this? He was excellent at his job. Mr Spence on his detractors:
What blows my mind is these groups are given so much credibility and have influence. They are destructive. We’re only talking about a few hundred people in a very big church, but church leadership sometimes doesn’t have confidence in its own voice and these shrill challenges make them jump for cover.
This is accurate. We have a lot of followers in leadership positions in both politics and in the Church. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. People can grow into good leadership. The key is to find trusty support: knowledgeable people who can keep the presumptive leader from running off the rails. We don’t see this in the cult of celebrity. How many big names in pop culture go down because fame and power have clouded good judgment?
Bullies smell fear and indecision. That is why they keep their power.
John Gehring’s conclusion from that Commonweal piece:
The bishops’ conference, and the American hierarchy more broadly, face a crossroads. Culture warriors are digging in. Self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy will only grow more emboldened now that they can claim another scalp. There is nothing joyful, inspiring, or authentically Catholic about any of this. Catholics on the left and right don’t have to agree on everything to recognize a better path is possible. The ideological purity tests and ugly character assassinations that sicken our secular body politic should be a cautionary tale for our church.
The Church has dealt with that tale for over a decade now, and select quarters seem disinterested in putting down that book. But not all. We are seeing a thaw, or at least something of a truce, as discerned here.
A lot of this energy has shifted to national politics now. Mr Trump is a natural consequence of the angry internet. However unforeseen by some, the fruit looks undeniable to me.