Brexit, Texit, Indiana

In the wake of the British vote to exit the EU, several of Texas’ more “colorful” politicians have renewed their call for Texas to exit the United States.

In my snarkier moments, I’d love to see Texas leave; for one thing, the federal government sends more of our tax dollars back to the Lone Star State than its taxpayers remit to Uncle Sam, and the rest of the U.S. certainly doesn’t benefit from most of the state’s forays into public policy, or from the wisdom of the people it sends to Congress. (Just losing Louie Gohmert would make “Texit” worthwhile.)

In my more measured moments, however, I recognize that Brexit and the subsequent efforts not just of Texan separatists but of far-right movements elsewhere represent a reaction to—and rejection of—modernity. We see that rejection everywhere, from the Taliban and ISIS trying to “purify” the Muslim Middle East, to the French members of Marie Le Pen’s National Front, to homegrown nativists wanting to “Make America Great Again.”

Elections have become a choice between accepting modernity with all its maddening complexities and frantic and futile efforts to “return” to a time that never was. That is just as true of local contests as it is for national referenda; Hoosier voters will face that choice in November.

Governor Mike Pence hasn’t just strongly endorsed Donald Trump, disqualifying as that endorsement is; well before Trump became the GOP nominee, Pence was advocating measures to keep Indiana from engaging with the 21st Century. (There’s a reason for the Facebook meme advising Hoosiers to turn their clocks back to 1800.)

Just a few of the more obvious examples: RFRA was focused on turning back the clock to a time when “God fearing” Hoosiers could discriminate against LGBT citizens with impunity. Signing the demeaning and punitive anti-choice bill (the most drastic in the country) was part and parcel of the old-time belief that women are not competent to make our own decisions about reproduction. His refusal to accept Syrian refugees (until a court reminded him that immigration comes under federal jurisdiction) was entirely in keeping with a worldview that looks askance at immigration, diversity and globalization.

In all fairness, Pence had plenty of help from Indiana’s GOP super-majority.

It’s easy to understand why so many people find modern life threatening. Change is constant; technology is confounding. Foreign people with different cultures and ideas can make us uncomfortable and unsure of our most foundational beliefs. The economic ground beneath our feet keeps shifting.

As disorienting as modernity is, however, the choice is not between a discomfiting now and a mythical then. If we find going forward too demanding, too frightening—if we vote for people firmly planted in an imagined past—we will simply be throwing in the towel, refusing to meet the challenges of our time.

What we won’t be doing is reinstating a world that never was.

A lot of people—including a number who read this blog—are unhappy with the candidates proposing to lead us forward. I understand that. But the choices this November are pretty stark: we can inch forward with people who are less than perfect, or we can go backward with people who live in never-never land.


When You Turn Over a Rock….

You never know what will slither out when you turn over a rock. This time, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry….

There is a website called “Christwire: Conservative Values for an Unsaved World.” A friend sent it and at first, I thought it was a more realistic version of Betty Bowers: America’s Best Christian; then I decided it was for real. Further checking was needed to convince me that it really was intended to be satirical.

This gem is titled “14 Outrageous Secrets a Homosexual Will Not Tell You,” and it begins with a dark introduction about corrupt legislators and “activist” judges. It then lets its readers into the details of the satanic “homosexual world.” (You can see why I thought it was real; I’ve seen very similar material from self-professed Christian sources.)

For example, did you know that gay men bleach their anuses? That the primary reason gay men join gyms is for mutual masturbation? That homosexual activity in the animal kingdom is not, as reported, a natural occurrence, but has been deliberately introduced into the animal population by gay trainers? That gay bars are just like Muslim terror cells?That Glee is a sinister plot to recruit children into “the homosexual lifestyle”?

These fevered imaginings sound very much like the bizarre fantasies conjured up by terrified–or titallated– good “Christians” we’ve all encountered.

There’s evidently something about the human psyche that needs to attribute horrific practices to people who are in some way different, that demands the utter dehumanizing of those who are in some way “other.”  Mere disapproval is presumably insufficient.

It’s the long history of that phenomenon that made this particular takeoff so believable.

Christians used to accuse Jews of killing Christian children and using their blood to make matzohs. Southerners used to swap stories of “endowed” black men “having their way” with the delicate flowers of Southern femininity. More recently, right-wing zealots mutter about the “terrorist cells” disguised as Mosques. These are real accusations–not satirical ones.

Here in Indiana, as the effort to place a ban on same-sex marriage in the Indiana Constitution heats up, I’m afraid we can expect genuine–and outrageous–efforts to paint our GLBT friends and neighbors as alien and forbidding. Because after all, why would they want to get married if they weren’t plotting the destruction of Western Civilization As We’ve Known It?

They couldn’t possibly just want to enter into socially-sanctioned relationships with someone they love, buy a house and file joint tax returns.

Hate must come from a very twisted place; it encourages beliefs that are so outlandish, so uncomfortably close to satire, that it can be extremely difficult to tell which is which.

It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if Eric Miller and Micah Clark started citing Christwire’s “research.”