Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Tribal politics


The big story, nationally, is that the Democrats, in typical off-year fashion, took back the House. That's great news because it means that President Trump will soon have some opposition and not just a fan base. Their victory may well tie up the government again, since it's impossible not to believe that the Democrats won't begin some long-overdue investigations into the swamp our President splashes in. 

That they won't reopen Congressional hearings on the 2016 Russian election connections seems equally impossible, given that the Republican-majority committee last year simply handed out their mighty leader a hall pass. The wrangling that will almost inevitably go on in Washington will be necessary, but will clog things up even more and further disillusion millions of Americans.

Our system of government seems as broken as the system by which we choose Supreme Court judges and, certainly, the system--or lack of it--by which we deal with the millions of undocumented workers Trumpsters love to hate but need do the dirty work. I hope the Democrats tread lightly on issues they could investigate because there's so much more important work than cleaning out Trump's septic system.

Because the Democrats took back the House, it's hard not to believe that the elections swung their way; but it's impossible to say the election night produced a wave. Nope. Sadly, the Democrats three rising stars in Texas, Georgia, and Florida, all went down to defeat. It's hard to be triumphant when the marquee players get beat. 

Still, Trump has legitimate, voted-in opposition now, something he didn't have for the last two years. That's progress for which I'm thankful. The Democrats now run the House.

It's possible that throughout my life I have been too sympathetic to the story of my people, my tribe, to the immigrant folks in wooden shoes who came here as poor and needy as any from Emma Lazarus's famous poem. I may well have loved that story too much. After all, they were also a people whose devout faith wasn't as tolerant as it should have been. But it seemed to me my tribe built significant institutions with their faith, including strong churches. This morning, I'm heartbroken and disillusioned.

Almost 75 percent of my neighbors, just about all of them church-goers, voted for a man who was scolded by his own Republican party's election chairman for his unseemly bigoted comments, a man who on the day before the election offered up a slur to two Supreme Court justices for no other reason than what he said is what he thinks, what he believes. 

Just about 75 percent of Sioux County voted for Steve King, the man internationally derided for bigotry, even by his own. No other member of Congress so willingly and frequently says things so universally recognized and understood as putrid. 

Yesterday, the good Christian people returned Steve King to Congress. It's impossible not to wonder about "good Christian people."

Sometimes people who are not from here ask me how it is that northwest Iowa voted so overwhelmingly for a presidential candidate like Trump. The answer, sadly enough, has become more and more clear every day: because they voted their values. 

In my many years as a writer--fiction, plays, meditations, histories, occasional essays--I've honored my religious and ethnic heritage. I'm a board member of the Sioux County Museum because I really do appreciate the history of my people, my tribe. It's a story I love to tell--and have in many ways.

This morning I feel disowned. 

Yesterday I said some would be angry and sad this morning, the morning-after. 

Well, I am. I'm downright sick at heart and soul. Almost 75 per cent of Sioux County, Iowa, approve of Steve King. 

They're not my tribe. They're his.

22 comments:

June said...

We hear you, Jim. My husband appeared in an add in several newspapers, stating that while he had traditionally voted Republican, (write-in for McCain and Graham in 2016) this year he could not because “he was saddened by King’s hateful words toward immigrants.” Pretty safe he thought but gets the point across. The hate mail followed, “We hope all your great and grand kids all are aborted... you burn in hell for 3-5 million babies.” Pretty strong words for the anonymous writer who claims to be pro-life and accused my husband of being an “arrogate [sic] pagan”. It’s hard to imagine a dialogue.

Larry said...

Jim: Your dislike for Steve King is noted. You forget how to defeat him. Just maybe you should consider changing parties. The way to beat Steve King is in the primary. Northwest Iowa Republicans need to run a very charismatic exciting person possibly a woman. I dislike Steve King's rants but after watching the Democrat performance and lies in the Supreme Court hearing they are a disgusting bunch The end justifies ANY means. The evident double standard today is incredible.

KirbeeLee said...

I voted in the primary, where King actually had a contender - someone whose tone and attitude were exactly what we needed to replace this villain. But you know who else voted? No one. The turnout was a tiny core who always vote for incumbents. The fact is, for all the talk of disliking King’s tone, nobody actually cares enough to walk or drive a few blocks across their town to caste a primary ballot. They could have. And boy I tried to encourage everyone to join me, Instead, they opted out, and yet they did feel compelled to vote on Election Day to retain him. This is where I see the hypocrisy is truly revealed.

sara tolsma said...

Amen!

Anonymous said...

Will we all be held responsible for this sense of Creation Stewardship. It is written: "Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow, or the fatherless, the alien, or the poor. In your HEARTS do not think evil of each other". Zech. 7:8-10. It might be OT but, its still applies today as it did BC. (TC)

Janel said...

Thank you for your public opposition to Steve King's candidacy, Dr. Schaap. NW Iowa's voting record is a source of grief for me as well.

Unknown said...

I am with you, Professor Schaap. I do not understand how those Christian Reformed and Reformed Church folk tolerate such behavior... Eyes have they, but they do not see....

Anonymous said...

Why would any exciting, charismatic woman in Northwest Iowa want to be a Republican in the age of Trump?

Retired said...

Selective outrage. ..

James, I patiently have been waiting for you to address the outrageous behavior we witnessed during the Kavanaugh hearing.

"Innocent till proven guilty" was under siege and not a peep from the Ivory Tower in Alton.

J. C. Schaap said...

For the record, I didn't witness much of the wild stuff. We were--as you might guess from my posts--in Italy for quite a while. Frankly, I'm glad to have missed them. I'm slowly losing my interest in American politics. Maybe you can tell. We're going to have Trump until 2020 at least. So we'll all get fatter pocketbooks and become more and more like him and Steve King--big bellies, shriveled souls.

Brad said...

I found this article interesting: https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/the-political-theology-of-trump/

"How could it be clearer that God’s hand is guiding events than to witness a man who has never darkened the door of a church calling for greater public recognition of Christianity? What looks like hypocrisy, or at least deep irony, from the outside appears from within the evangelical perspective as the surest possible evidence that God is in control."

Do conservative Christians cling to genital-grabbing and white supremacist politicians because of those things, not in spite of them? Don't a lot of conservative Christians kind of like the idea of God using a very flawed person to do His Will?

Unknown said...

No, they're your tribe all right. You don't get take yourself off the hook so easily. Take a look at that sesquicentennial community celebration cover again -- who put that white man in the native headdress on the cover? Whose kids paraded down Main Ave with the flag of the Confederacy? Where does a Christian school get a 30-foot Nazi flag for a production of The Sound of Music? What happens to people who ask the wrong questions, don't fit in the right categories? Steve King is just another pustule coming to a head over the spiritual abscess of Sioux County.

Pick any year out of the past 150, and you will find intense tribalism front and center. You know this. If you have never imagined yourself on the outside of a persecutory community defined by race, ethnicity, sectarian religious doctrine, the only question is why not? That lack of imagination and empathy -- and the unafraid, mature freedom or mere childlike innocence that makes it possible -- is the whole problem.

It's both sad and fortunate that this persecutory community is an outlier. There are maybe 4-6 other counties (all of them in Nevada and Utah) where you find Sioux County's unique signature of high educational attainment, relatively high income, very high church attendance, very low divorce rates, and very high voter mobilization that has been overwhelmingly for Republicans, especially the most radical religious conservatives, since the 1970s. These are traits that do not, on their face, appear unhealthy or indicative of dysfunction at all -- but what they have come to be, more and more, are communities that relish opportunities to bully and rave about easy scapegoats while clinging to a religion of guns, war, and angry struggle -- a cult of religion, and an idolatry of faith that is more about belief in whatever they happen to believe today, arrogant and baseless certainties composed of alternative facts, and all of it cemented together by never admitting fault, apologizing, or forgiving.

While your pocketbook fattens and younger generations struggle under increasingly costly credit, debt, and austerity, the least you could do is reflect more deeply on how you got to this place and didn't notice the stench until 2018.

King's been in office since the 90s. His record and views have always been clear. Now it's just more embarrassing because he's getting national, even international attention. He's been operating internationally and aligning with racist and nationalist groups quite prominently since 2013 if not earlier. Thank God Kris Kobach was defeated by a classic non-nonsense midwestern Grandma -- but ask why you don't have more of those in office in Siouxland. The upper Missouri remains a place where it will not be inconceivable that some crazy sheriffs, some captured elements of the DOJ, and small mobs of armed men will not attempt to "enforce the law" en masse on so-called "illegal" human beings. Lose the illusions, stay alert, keep fighting for the good!

John Hiemstra said...

Good to see you take a stand in this dismal reality. I see our church communities have become captured by ideological thinking (re. Bob Goudzwaard et al, Hope in Troubled Times), and have swallowed it hook line an sinker. The ideology of Nation, Ideology of Security, and the Ideology of Economic Growth and Material Prosperity have overtaken the United States. These ideologies, melded with the theological heresy of the exceptional character of the USA, are producing a storm of destruction. This religious syncretism (Christians with these ideologies) needs to be religiously exposed. Bonhoeffer helps in this regard. Keep up the fight, and please do not ignore current American politics, the window of opportunity to act and write is now...

J. C. Schaap said...

To Brad--I guess one of us is sorely mistaken.

Brad said...

Don't get me wrong. If you ask, people will most certainly say they are appalled by those things but I've heard more than once the all-too-familiar "God has a plan" used not as a statement of hope but more as a justification.

Ruth said...

The only correction I would make is in your last sentence;

They're not my tribe, dammit. They're his.

Retired said...

I read through these posted complaints. Whining, intellectualizing and putting King in a box won't solve the problem. Do what it takes to beat him at the ballot box. We the people.

Jerry27 said...

What is a biblical remnant to do in this tsunami of cultural marxism we are facing? As the Leage of non-voters says "Do'nt vote -- it only encourages them" Menonites will always take anyone in -- and not ask too many questions.

Why do Leftists hate white people?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVruEq-Gupk

With apologies to H.L. Menken --- allow me to throw a dead cat into the sanctury.

In resisting the genocide that ZOG is imposing on them, the instincts of the local tribe (my tribe) are valid. In the Talmudic tradition of Katyn -- people who show any signs of leadership are the first liqudated.

God's ways are not man's ways.
thanks,
Jerry

ann weller said...

What lies were told in the Supreme Court hearing, and by whom? The Democrats on the committee (as well as the Republicans, who basically threw him softballs) had a duty to question Kavanaugh thoroughly. And to watch his disrespect for the women on the committee was eye-opening and should have been shut down immediately by the chair.

Randy Buist said...

I hope you are not suggesting those who supported King are the biblical remnant - because that's how your comment reads...

And suggesting that we have horrible leaderships because God placed these people in power -- God allowed for horrible kings when the Israelites clamored for them... (deep sigh)

Brad said...

Randy, I hope you see that I wasn't suggesting that.

Unknown said...

Jerry from Worthington exemplifies the local white nationalist protestant belief in a "Zionist Occupation Government" ("ZOG") victimizing a "biblical remnant" of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants. He's your average voter and pew-sitter in Smells-like-Poo-land, hoping to revive the Turd Reich.

Goudzwaard's fanboy overlooks the real ideology at work: Capitalism. You cannot serve a materialist master where everything has a price and at bottom slavery is the objective while also claiming Christ. Christianity captured by Capitalist materialism is a theology of domination, of social darwinism, of tribal might makes right.