Saturday, September 24, 2016

Review: Politics of Vulnerability

I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a short magazine article before, but this is one which tells more (and more convincingly) than most, as it details facts about our culture not contained in many larger books.  R. R. Reno, editor of First Things Magazine, uses the October 2016 edition to present his views on the Politics of Vulnerability, and the changing culture in our country which has so many people confused --- and scared.
He begins by noting that “A pervasive disquietude is transforming our society and politics … We no longer have very clear answers about what makes for a decent, honorable and happy life.”  I think that is a good summary of things.  He then describes two conflicting metaphors for the journey of life:
“I’m just old enough to have internalized a fairly straight-forward set of expectations.  Life would be like a train ride with regularly scheduled station stops:  college, job, marriage, children, retirement, and the grave.  I could make mistakes and be diverted for a time, but the train would still take me forward, guiding me along the main course of life, however many side trips I might take.  This gave me a sense of security, a feeling that life would take care of itself.  (For long-time readers of this blog, you might remember I once described my own thoughts on life in a similar manner ---- before Medjugorje.)
A friend, somewhat younger than me, ventured a strikingly different metaphor.  He said life is like a sailboat heading toward a self-chosen destination.  The always changing winds require tacking first this way, and then that.  You must always be vigilant, assessing conditions and making decisions, all with no guarantee you’ll get where you want to go.”
I like those two metaphors with one exception:  the train ride I rode had God as the engineer, or at least as co-pilot, although quite honestly it took me a while to realize that.  To lead a good, happy life, I found that we need God.  We NEED God.
“(The) correlation of greater freedom and greater dissatisfaction (today) can be hard to process, which is one reason why our political culture has become so dysfunctional” … greater freedoms bring anxiety, uncertainty and fear.  “The paradox:  the most successful kids with the greatest opportunities seem to be the ones most eager for protection … Fragile people feel the slightest slights more acutely.”
The young today think: “Without a transcendent meaning to life, things are up to me.  I give my life meaning, but it seems that if I’m depressed, despairing or in any way unhappy with my life, it’s my fault.  I have failed.”  Reno summarizes that the young, detached from family, religion and culture feel a great vulnerability and isolation.
“The push for transgender rights … sets aside inherited assumptions about what it means to be a man or woman… I’m convinced the rising generation will be very unhappy indeed.  When everything’s up to me, including my sex, I can only count on myself.  This is not good news.”  Reno goes on to talk about the denigration of marriage and American history --- nothing seems to provide the young a base of comfort.  “Our loss of a sense of natural providence over our lives to say nothing of divine providence --- that’s at the root of our political turmoil … and in a rise in vulnerability and greater demands for protection.”
“The rising generation is more and more likely to ask big government to provide security and comfort.”
Pick up the October issue of First Things Magazine and read this article in its entirety, and share it.  It is a most clear explanation of where we, in our demands for unlimited, undirected freedoms, have gotten to.  We need to understand this.  And we need to pray.
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Here in Michigan this past week I heard the interview of a local college president on the radio.  He went to great lengths to explain how he was ensuring that students on his campus would be interviewed, as well as campus security people, and video cameras screened to perhaps find a license plate number, “so we can ensure the perpetrator is caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”  The horrible crime?  In a remote area of the campus, “not often visited,” someone had written on a wall the letters KKK and a racial slur.  The dean’s interview was in response to some campus protests, by what were apparently deeply hurt students.  Pull all stops to arrest the perpetrator??  I wondered what the dean (or the deeply scared and offended students) might think of all the graffiti everywhere in downtown Detroit --- should all big cities be made off limits to his fragile students, so they won’t be upset?
And on another day in Michigan I heard how the state legislature passed a new law:  if you can’t adequately read by the third grade, you will be held back a year.   (Currently, only 50% of Michigan third graders are proficient in reading.)  Why does it take lawmakers to pass a law to do what it seems schools SHOULD do?  Well, our state educators do not agree that kids should EVER be held back.  Why?  Well, the answer is in the vote to pass that law --- it was 100% along party lines.  The liberal thinking legislators --- and educators --- are not as worried about our kids’ reading ability as they are about their “maybe having hurt feelings because they are held back.”  This is just so sad to hear; this is how our kids are being taught, just as Reno summarized in his article.
I had reflected a while back how I perceived God was sad at the state of our culture.  Hearing things like those above about what’s happening in our schools and to our kids, makes ME sad.
As I wrote earlier, we need God.  We need to know that He is there for us.  We need to trust Him.  I fear, with our increasing fears of vulnerability, if we can’t find and trust Him, then we’ll find someone else.  And despite his (or her) self-proclaiming that they will save us, they won’t be God.
I had thought I might lead this posting with these events in Michigan, and I was going to title the posting:  “KKK,” but I had some fear that the posting then might be taken down, as other Facebook and Twitter accounts have been.  It’s what we’ve come to in our culture.  And I’m afraid this is only the beginning.

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