Civic Geek: The Enemy Problem

One of the major problems, perhaps the problem, of American politics is the need for enemies.

This pretty much defines popular “conservative” thought, soaked and saturated in media methods and conspiracy theories.  It’s all about how things would be better except for “those people” – which of course means people who promise to fight “those people” can clean up with legislation, nepotism, favors, and contracts.

But when your whole life is about fighting “those people” with the assumption everything will be magically fixed when they’re defeated (and they’re never defeated because you’ll find new enemies) then you build nothing.  The “fight those people” mentality strip-mines the soul and the culture, until only the battle is left – and the people making bank off of it.  It’s a terribly meaningless attitude.

Way back when Bush Junior was president, I was concerned that he’d too easily become the Hated Enemy, and that dealing with his bad policies (and seeking good policies) would be obscured by people just hating the man.  This did not happen, fortunately, though part of it was probably how fast his previous allies tried to forget him.  I am concerned Trump may end up the bogeyman, even if he is, honestly, an incredibly shitty president and human being.

The key thing in this country – in any civilization – is building, strengthening, and connecting social institutions and people’s connections.  From education to social behaviors, building is what makes us who we are.

Building also provides us real satisfaction.  You can’t be satisfied endlessly looking for someone to fight in the vague hope some day life is better.  This gives us meaning.

A challenge – a true challenge – in America is to get to a building mentality first.  We have to balance that with dealing with a truly terrible administration and its enablers.

A further challenge is to propagate this “builder mentality” so it spreads.  Without it, even the most enlightened and forward-thinking society is endlessly fighting manipulated, angry people all the time.

  • Steve