EPISTLE TO DIPPY

Several weeks ago I met a man named Paul at one of Miranda and Tommie J’s salon evenings. He is an old friend of hers from college and he’s very intelligent, engaged, and charismatic. He has spent considerable time abroad in the Peace Corps and is generally a decent person. Miranda was surprised to learn that he has developed Libertarian political leanings and has thrown his support behind Ron Paul. What made the evening interesting, however, was when Paul mentioned the North American Union. This was like throwing raw meat in front of a wolf and I tore into him. I’ve been reading about this nonsense for months-it’s a favorite topic of wingnutdaily and a pet conspiracy theory of Jerom Corsi (you may know him from his fine work with the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth). There is an excellent debunking of the idea here. Eventually I settled into a more civil mode and Paul explained himself in a more thorough way and everything was groovy.

I find the fearmongering behind these arguments shamelessly cynical and my responses to them are simple. First of all, there is a false premise to the logic that because the nations of the continent of Europe have decided to form a transnational union the nations of the North American continent will follow suit. Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin have a very different geographic and historical relationship than Quebec, Baltimore, and Tijuana. Secondly, it is absurd to think that the United States of America are about to hand their soveriegnty over to the Mexicans and Canadians or that the dollar will be replaced by the ‘Amero’ anytime soon. And finally, for those that worry that someday something like that could happen is to believe that the United States would allow itself to be screwed on a land transaction and that is displays a stunning ignorance of history. If ever the US should enter into a continental political union it’s the Canadians and the Mexicans who should be worried about our terms, not the other way around.

Cynicism is an enemy of the Republic and humanity in general. The behavior of our elected officials unfortunately inspires cynicism all too easily, but they are only elected officials and should not bear the weight of all our faith and hope. The United States of America is the most successful political experiment in history, creating both a free, prosperous citizenry and the mightiest nation state on the planet. Of course, slavery, genocide, exploitation, and simple brutality are part of that history and present day America is no paradise if you live in one of her prisons, institutions, or neglected ghettos, to say nothing of the plight of her Gulf Coast residents. However, the story of America is fundamentally one of progress from ignorance to enlightenment.

There are those who say that our society is corrupt and beyond redemption; that we are debased, immoral, and damned. I could not more strongly disagree. Our golden age hasn’t even arrived yet; any glitter you see in history’s dark cavern is only a gilded shadow of what humanity can become. I am not speaking of mere technological advancement; though that is surely a significant factor in measuring our success. I despair of modern people who over-romanticize the past-we are only generations removed from the discovery of the germ theory of disease and the development of antibiotics, to say nothing of anesthesia and modern surgical practices and already these miraculous boons of the scientific method are taken for granted. One only needs to briefly scan the technological wonder of the internet to find users who angrily deny the science that underlies it. Religious fundamentalists, reactionary conservatives, and mentally disturbed individuals have a particular loathing for modernity, but a similar impulse can be found on the left primarily amongst environmentalist extremists.

This is not to say that I think that history will teach us nothing. It is a matter of which lessons need to be drawn that is the question. Neither do I believe that we should dispense with all of our cultural, religious, and folk traditions, however, neither do I feel beholden to continue any practice simply because my ancestors did it. The great religious traditions of the world contain at their cores the most precious treasure humanity posesses; a wisdom of enlightened spirituality that is so profound that to contemplate it is to confront an awesome divine love. But that enlightened spirituality demands that we do not confuse the great religious traditions with that awesome divine love; the wisdom of individual bishops does not match that of Jesus, even if those bishops say they do. What Jesus demanded of us in the Sermon on the Mount was to have righetousness that exceeded that of the scribes and pharisees, not to do whatever the scribes and pharisees tell us to do. He gives us the tools to do this, and like the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, they are ethical guides applicable to all human situations (hence their relevance thousands of years later) rather than rules designed to keep a cultural peculiarity in existence until the end of time.

What is demanded of us is what is demanded of every human of every era; to leave a world that is better than when we inhereted it. Cynicism does not help to achieve that. Cynicism demands that nobody can follow the Noble Eightfold Path and tells us that the peacemakers are weak. Cynicism insists everyone is either a mercenary or a mark and that hope is something to be exploited. Cynicism believes that nobody really believes anything except for fools. Cynicism is the opposite of faith; it appeals to our fear and anger and makes us distrustful. Cynicism is an easy refuge. The leap of faith is difficult.

One Response to “EPISTLE TO DIPPY”

  1. Rev. to be Says:

    I think this is a great mission statement for evangelism. Evangelism has always been a difficult topic for me. It has always seemed arrogant. Yet, a Christian in general and a soon to be member of the clergy, evangelism is my job! Perhaps keeping these words in mind will help ease that confusion. Thank you for helping me along my path.

    I agree with you the Faith is the opposite/counterpart of cynicism. Faith is an interesting thing. It is at once, a Platonic quality (or “form” if you prefer). But in a more Taoist/Yin-Yang sense Faith is a way of being in the world. It is at once a process and a destination. Similarly, Cynicism is yin to Faith’s yang. Although this is a departure from the neutrality of Yin and Yang, It is an effective way to understand that Cynicism is a type of faith. (“Atheists” really hate when you tell them they are being faithful to their atheism!)
    What seems to me to be the key to defeating cynicism is humility. Cynics are almost universally arrogant. They believe that they have The Truth and The Truth sucks! If one is humble, one is open to the possibility that things might actually get better!

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