Living in Madison has brought home to me how fragile is the American body politic. People here assume, for example, that I don’t want to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding because I hate gay people. Those on the other side, assume that people who want me to bake the cake hate Christians.
Of course, I’m a priest and not a baker so the only cakes I bake are at home.
But disagreements about the prudence of public policies are taken as “proof” that the other side is evil. Living in a very socially and politically progressive city and writing for a conservative, free-market think tank has taught me the one thing that unites many people on both the Left and the Right is the frightening ease with which both assume the other side isn’t just wrong but evil.
And, of course, I see this tendency in myself.
Here’s what brought all this to mind (you can read the whole essay here):
The Democrats’ obsession with identity politics has colluded with Trump’s provocations to split Americans into polarized tribes—American versions of Croat and Serb, Hutu and Tutsi, Sunni and Shi’ite, Hindu and Muslim. There seems no way to stop this. An infection—a kind of Ebola—has gotten into the American body politic. It’s the old fable about the scorpion that persuades a frog to give him a ride across the river—and then, in midstream, stings the frog, dooming them both: “What did you expect? I’m a scorpion.” In the 2020 version, the frog is America and both political parties, alas, are scorpions.