Summary: I’ve tried to show, in previous entries, that the Republican Party of our times is acting in unprecedented ways. True, but a force similarly destructive arose in the decade leading to the Civil War. It is clear why that time was vulnerable to the entry of such a force of brokenness, inasmuch as the nation was divided by a persistent and quite fundamental issue: slavery. Today, there’s no such explanation for the rise of this force. No big issue. It is the brokenness that comes first, and whatever issue arises becomes a battlefield. It is as if our body politic suffers from a compromised immune system that has allowed opportunistic illness to move to a central place in the American system. There is some sort of “cultural AIDS” that has opened the door to the pathology. What explains the rise of so powerful an evil force in our times?
I have said repeatedly in recent years that the Republican Party has been taken over by a force more destructive and dishonest than anything before seen at center stage of American politics. The two previous pieces on “The Unprecedented” attempt to show how exceptional, extraordinary, abnormal in the context of American history this force is.
When I’ve made those declarations about the unprecedented nature of this force, I’ve frequently added the caveat: “with the possible exception of the decade leading up to the American Civil War.”
Soon, in a series-within-the-series under the title “This Evil Force Can Be Seen Moving Through Time,” I’ll try to show that indeed America has once before seen this “evil force” at center stage. I will seek to demonstrate a fundamental, organic connection between the force wreaking havoc in our times and that which drove this nation into Civil War. This will provide yet another means of making visible the empirical reality to which the idea of an “evil force” is pointing: for the replication of core patterns of conduct indicates the coherence of a force moving through time. What wrought havoc in the earlier time has now re-emerged and is manifesting again its destructive nature.
But even if we were to judge that the present eruption of an evil force is a second coming, as it were, and therefore not altogether unprecedented, there is something different about this time that we should find deeply troubling.
In the 1850s, the nation faced a deep-seated, quite major, and inescapably extremely difficult issue – slavery – through which an evil force could work its way to great power in the American political arena. With slavery, a significant dimension of brokenness embedded in the American body politic — a long-established way of life for a dominant American elite, representing a major share of the national wealth, was at fundamental odds with founding values of the American nation (“all men are created equal”); and there were important conflicts of economic interest between two well-defined geographical regions – provided the brokenness on which the nation could be split apart.
But in our times, there is nothing of the sort. Every issue that arises becomes a battlefield, but in our era it is not the issue that creates the brokenness but the brokenness that seizes upon any issue at hand. Our contemporary rise of an evil force to a position of great power seems to have happened just on its own, with no substance at its heart.
What this suggests is that there has been some deterioration in the overall fabric of goodness/morality/wholeness/integrity in the American civilization. It suggests that the American body politic suffers from a compromised immune system. It seems to be like the situation of a human body infected with the AIDS virus: with that immune system compromised, lurking diseases like Karposi sarcoma opportunistically take hold and kill the person. Likewise in America today: the political equivalent of Karposi sarcoma, lurking for generations in the recesses of the body politic, has opportunistically moved to a central place in the American power system because the system lacks the needed forms of resistance.
In its pure opportunism, this force has found in the Republican Party a channel to wreak destruction on the American organism. But it could only accomplish what it has done if the American body politic provided the opening.
It behooves us, therefore, to look deeper into the culture to see what has happened to weaken our cultural “immune system.”
How is it that something so extraordinary as today’s Republican Party can continue to be treated in our national discourse as “normal” and respectable, when it is so blatantly acting in unprecedented ways, all of them destructive of the fabrics of wholeness that have made this nation great.
Right before our eyes is something the likes of which no American has ever seen in a major political party– the terrible ugliness, the pack of lies, the destructive spirit, the spiteful and hostile way of rendering human relationships, the lack of even the suggestion of concern for constructive action to serve the common good.
Yet the American press, and the preponderant element of Liberal America, and the American people generally — i.e. the other major components of the American body politic — do not respond to this virulent pathology with anything like full recognition of how alien and dangerous and utterly unacceptable this party has become.
Beyond the Karposi sarcoma of which today’s destructive Republican Party is the manifestation, there is some sort of cultural AIDS that has opened the door to such pathology. More about this later in the series.