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Rural White MAGAs And What 'Woke C.S. Lewis' Got Wrong | Fred Clark

  

Category:  Religion & Ethics

Via:  outis  •  one month ago  •  27 comments

By:   Fred Clark (slacktivist)

Rural White MAGAs And What 'Woke C.S. Lewis' Got Wrong | Fred Clark



We resent those we have wronged.

We resent those we have harmed.

We resent those we are harming.


original

This is a take on MAGA that I have never seen before. Very probably, you haven't either.

So please... read the seed and try to understand it before Commenting.





S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


A heated argument among political scientists studying white rural voters has me thinking again of C.S. Lewis’  Reflections on the Psalms.

The common thread here is resentment. That’s a central theme in both of these discussions. And, I think, it’s a source of confusion for both as well, because both are focused mostly on resentment as something that people who have been wronged feel toward those who have done them wrong. And that ain’t what it is. Resentment  mostly  flows the other way. It is something that people who have done — or are doing — wrong to others feel toward those they are harming.

The political scientists arguing about what drives the defiantly self-defeating behavior of white rural voters are fighting over different interpretations of the causes and effects of those voters’ resentments. C.S. Lewis was compelled to wrestle with and write about the Psalms because he was unsettled by the imprecatory Psalms of wrath and cursing. His reflections on the legitimate resentments of the oppressed and how those can curdle into the sin of wrath closely parallel the political scientists’ argument, which centers on this same distinction between “resentment” and “rage.”

original “Rage” is right there in the title of the new book from one faction in this poli-sci argument. Tom Schaller and Paul Waldman’s  White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy  was published in February. Nicholas F. Jacobs’ book,  The Rural Voter: The Politics of Place and the Disuniting of America,  (co-written with Daniel M. Shea) was published just a few months earlier. Jacobs’ book probably should’ve been called “The  White  Rural Voter,” and the fact that he didn’t call it that or fully realize that’s what it was about is also a big part of the argument here.

Jacobs fired the first shot in this niche academic turf war, writing a long polemical attack on the rival book for  Politico : “ What Liberals Get Wrong About ‘White Rural Rage’ — Almost Everything .” Schaller and Waldman responded, at length and in specifics, in  The New Republic,  “ An Honest Assessment of Rural White Resentment Is Long Overdue .”

Both articles are personal and a little catty and both sides land some punches. Both are presented as explanations for why their book is the one that politicians seeking the support of white rural voters need to read while neither one actually offers much practical or substantive advice for any such politician. I do recommend both articles, though, to anyone compiling lists of contemporary euphemisms for racism. You’ll find  plenty  of those.

The best cut-to-the-chase summary of this argument I’ve seen comes from Tom Scocca: “ A basket of nothing .” Scocca remains an enemy of and an antidote to  smarm and discussions of what motivates white Trump voters tend to be rich in smarm.

Here’s Scocca’s summary of the part of this argument that has me re-reading C.S. Lewis on the Psalms:

Accusing white rural Americans of being driven by rage, Jacobs wrote, will “marginalize and demonize a segment of the American population that already feels forgotten and dismissed by the experts and elites.” What Democrats and big-city liberals might want to call “rage,” he wrote, is correctly understood as “resentment — a collective grievance against experts, bureaucrats, intellectuals and the political party that seeks to empower them, Democrats.” The key difference, Jacobs wrote, is that unlike rage, resentment “is rational, a reaction based on some sort of negative experience.”

That echoes Lewis’ efforts to parse a distinction between the legitimate, logical resentment of the oppressed and the disturbing “wrath” of  Psalm 109  or  Psalm 137  (“Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!”).

This led Lewis to consider the  double  evil of oppression. To treat others unjustly, to “take from a man his freedom or his goods,” is the first sin. The second is the way this injustice tempts the oppressed person by arousing “resentment” that can become “vindictive hatred.” Lewis writes:

The natural result of cheating a man, or “keeping him down” or neglecting him, is to arouse resentment; that is, to impose upon him the temptation of becoming what the Psalmists were when they wrote the vindictive passages. He may succeed in resisting the temptation; or he may not. If he fails, if he dies spiritually because of his hatred for me, how do I, who provoked that hatred, stand? For in addition to the original injury I have done him a far worse one. I have introduced into his inner life, at best a new temptation, at worst a new besetting sin. If that sin utterly corrupts him, I have in a sense debauched or seduced him. I was the tempter.

This leads Lewis to consider the ways in which he and those like him — privileged white citizens of the British Empire — are guilty of such double-sins against multitudes of people around the world:

We had better look unflinchingly at the sort of work we have done; like puppies, we must have “our noses rubbed in it.” … We ought to read the psalms that curse the oppressor; read them with fear. Who knows what imprecations of the same sort have been uttered against ourselves? What prayers have Red men, and Black, and Brown and Yellow, sent up against us to their gods or sometimes to God Himself? All over the earth the White Man’s offense “smells to heaven”: massacres, broken treaties, theft, kidnappings, enslavement, deportation, floggings, lynchings, beatings-up, rape, insult, mockery, and odious hypocrisy make up that smell.

That passage made a splash on social media back in December where it was half-jokingly described as “Woke C.S. Lewis.” (I wrote about that here: “ Merry Christmas from Woke C.S. Lewis “).

Yes,  ha-ha,  Lewis was “woke” in that he recognized injustice and oppression — “massacres, broken treaties, theft, kidnappings, enslavement, deportation, floggings, lynchings, beatings-up, rape, insult, mockery” — as moral depravity and abominable sins. “All over the earth the White Man’s offense smells to heaven” is exactly the kind of sentence that “anti-woke”* white evangelicals are trying to ensure that schoolchildren never read. So the jokes about how this passage from Lewis would seem to land in the context of our current culture wars** were funny and apt.

And Lewis was surely correct about the way in which the oppressor — Pharaoh, Caesar, “the White Man” — also becomes guilty of tempting the oppressed to succumb to the sins of despair, resentment, and wrath.

But — and here’s the point — I don’t think Lewis fully understands the dynamics of resentment. I think he misunderstands that in precisely the same way that Nicholas F. Jacobs seems to.

Because  most  resentment doesn’t punch up.  Most  resentment punches down. The rich resent the poor. The hegemonic majority resents the disenfranchised minority. The enslaved resents the enslaved. The abuser resents the abused. The usurer resents the debtor. The powerful resent the powerless.

Yes, of course, the “logical” form of resentment also exists. Exploited workers sometimes do resent the bosses exploiting them. But not always. And 100% of those predatory bosses resent those exploited workers.

That passage made a splash on social media back in December where it was half-jokingly described as “Woke C.S. Lewis.” (I wrote about that here: “ Merry Christmas from Woke C.S. Lewis “).

Yes,  ha-ha,  Lewis was “woke” in that he recognized injustice and oppression — “massacres, broken treaties, theft, kidnappings, enslavement, deportation, floggings, lynchings, beatings-up, rape, insult, mockery” — as moral depravity and abominable sins. “All over the earth the White Man’s offense smells to heaven” is exactly the kind of sentence that “anti-woke”* white evangelicals are trying to ensure that schoolchildren never read. So the jokes about how this passage from Lewis would seem to land in the context of our current culture wars** were funny and apt.

And Lewis was surely correct about the way in which the oppressor — Pharaoh, Caesar, “the White Man” — also becomes guilty of tempting the oppressed to succumb to the sins of despair, resentment, and wrath.

But — and here’s the point — I don’t think Lewis fully understands the dynamics of resentment. I think he misunderstands that in precisely the same way that Nicholas F. Jacobs seems to.

Because  most  resentment doesn’t punch up.  Most  resentment punches down. The rich resent the poor. The hegemonic majority resents the disenfranchised minority. The enslaved resents the enslaved. The abuser resents the abused. The usurer resents the debtor. The powerful resent the powerless.

Yes, of course, the “logical” form of resentment also exists. Exploited workers sometimes do resent the bosses exploiting them. But not always. And 100% of those predatory bosses resent those exploited workers.

If it weren’t for them, after all, we wouldn’t have to spend so much time and energy reassuring ourselves and others that we’re still good people. If it weren’t for our annoying, bothersome victims, we’d be so much happier. If not for them, we wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not our offenses smelled to heaven.

And so we ask for mirth from those we torment, demanding that they “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

That is the most common, pervasive form of resentment. It may not seem as “rational” or “legitimate,” but it is very much, and almost always, “the natural result” of oppression and wrongdoing.

And that is the resentment that eludes those enmeshed in the poli-sci feud over white rural MAGA-fever, even as it preoccupies them.

Schaller and Waldman come closest to grasping this when, after acknowledging all of the legitimate reasons that white rural voters have for feeling exploited, neglected, or abandoned, they consider the non-white rural Americans who go mostly unmentioned in Jacobs’ book and seem invisible in his argument:

We would ask rural scholars to confront this question: How is it that rural minorities, who by most measures face even greater challenges in health care access and economic opportunity than their white counterparts, do not express weakened commitments to our democracy, or the anti-urban, xenophobic, conspiracist, and violence-justifying attitudes so many rural whites do? … Those who have risen to defend the honor of rural whites insist that they have good reason to feel resentful … But if the rural experience justifies resentment, should not rural minorities be equally if not more resentful than rural whites? Why aren’t they threatening their local elected officials, or marinating in conspiracy theories, or supporting demagogues eager to tear down American democracy? Too few scholars of rural politics confront these questions.

That’s an important question that ought to lead to an even more important question, and then to some even more important answers. And those questions and answers are necessary not just for understanding the political science of rural America, but for understanding all of American history and religion.

* You already had “anti-woke” in that list of euphemisms for racism, right? OK, just checking.

** Should also be on that list.














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Outis
Freshman Principal
1  seeder  Outis    one month ago

I didn't put this seed in the "Politics" category because it isn't about politics.

It's about us, and how we relate to others.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1.3  JohnRussell  replied to  Outis @1    one month ago

do you think that people who are utterly delusional deserve sympathy?  if their delusion is leading to the fall of our democracy ?

 
 
 
Outis
Freshman Principal
1.3.1  seeder  Outis  replied to  JohnRussell @1.3    one month ago

Anyone who is handicapped deserves sympathy. An inability to distinguish reality from fantasy is a serious handicap in our real world.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
2  Sean Treacy    one month ago
Because  most  resentment doesn’t punch up.  Most  resentment punches down. The rich resent the poor. The hegemonic majority resents the disenfranchised minority. The enslaved resents the enslaved. The abuser resents the abused. The usurer resents the debtor. The powerful resent the powerless.

Yes, elites resent rural whites. That's been obvious for decades. 

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Professor Expert
3  Nerm_L    one month ago

Does everyone understand that less than 20 pct of the population of the United States is rural?  The rural white population is a minority in the United States.  And that minority is being treated like other minorities.  

Greensboro, NC, ain't rural, folks.  These white urban academic phony intellectuals will try to convince you otherwise.  But that's nothing more than a lie.  You see, the bigotry of phony intellectuals toward other minorities has been denounced.   So these intellectuals need to find some other recipient for their prejudice.  And the white rural minority allows academic bigotry to flourish simply because that minority is white.

80 pct of the US population occupies 15 pct of the land area of the US.  The Federal government owns 30 pct of the land area of the US.  And the Federal government owned much, much more than that when the oppressed were being oppressed.  Doesn't that suggest the source of oppression in the United States has been the government?  Aren't these very white phony intellectuals attempting to utilize government for oppression, just as happened in the past?

As the seeded article points out, the oppressor resents those they oppress.  Why wouldn't that interpretation apply to intellectual institutions and government?  Why shouldn't we conclude that academia and the Federal government resents the people of the United States?  Those institutions are in a position to oppress anyone they choose.

Blaming less than 20 pct of the population of the United States seems rather ludicrous.  Especially since that rural minority is less affluent than the urban majority.  That simple fact reveals that the intellectual arguments are phony but acceptable bigotry.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
3.1  Sean Treacy  replied to  Nerm_L @3    one month ago
hy wouldn't that interpretation apply to intellectual institutions and government? 

I don't think the author understood the argument he was trying to make. 

specially since that rural minority is less affluent than the urban majority. 

The idea that rural whites in Appalachia are privileged oppressors is laughable. 

 
 
 
Outis
Freshman Principal
3.1.1  seeder  Outis  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1    one month ago
The idea that rural whites in Appalachia are privileged oppressors is laughable. 

That's pretty much the contrary of what the seed is saying.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Principal
3.1.2  Sean Treacy  replied to  Outis @3.1.1    one month ago
hat's pretty much the contrary of what the seed is saying.

I doubt the seed even understands what it's saying. the author sure has no problem just hand waving the dishonesty of Schaller and Waldman in misrepresenting data as a poli scii feud.  Their dishonesty was reported  by others than their rival author.  The entire piece is premised on this:

Because  most  resentment doesn’t punch up.  Most  resentment punches down.... Exploited workers sometimes do resent the bosses exploiting them. But not always. And 100% of those predatory bosses resent those exploited workers.

There's no support for this. It's just claimed as fact and then the author uses it and shaller and Waldman's dishonest claims to claim that rural whites are uniquely resentful. 

But if the author wants to attack the modern progressive (who, after all are the ones with actual power)   as those who resent and despise the less fortunate than so be it. I, no friend to progressives, believe their motivations are not so base. 

 
 
 
Outis
Freshman Principal
3.1.3  seeder  Outis  replied to  Sean Treacy @3.1.2    one month ago
author uses it ... to claim that rural whites are uniquely resentful.

Once again, this is diametrically contrary to the seed.

 
 
 
Outis
Freshman Principal
3.2  seeder  Outis  replied to  Nerm_L @3    one month ago

Very interesting post. Your opening is spot on.

I don't follow, though, about the government. I think you have the cart before the horse. The government is the agent of oppression, not the instigator.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Professor Expert
3.2.1  Nerm_L  replied to  Outis @3.2    one month ago
Very interesting post. Your opening is spot on.

Thanks.  I do try to bring a different perspective to so-called conventional wisdom.  But that doesn't make me responsible for other's cognitive dissonance.  

I don't follow, though, about the government. I think you have the cart before the horse. The government is the agent of oppression, not the instigator.

That seems to be an attempt to make a distinction without a difference.  The government is the entity responsible for the oppression regardless of being agent or instigator. 

Characterizing government as agent of oppression would try to shift responsibility onto the democratic majority.  But, as I have pointed out, the rural white population is a minority in the United States.  (And has been for quite some time.)  So, even the distinction cannot shift responsibility onto the rural white population.

The narrative (bigotry?) being promoted by academic intellectuals cannot accommodate distinctions within the white population so must ignore the differences between a rural lifestyle and urban lifestyle.  Is it surprising that the urban population (representing the democratic majority) wishes to shift responsibility for oppression onto a minority population?

 
 
 
Outis
Freshman Principal
3.2.2  seeder  Outis  replied to  Nerm_L @3.2.1    one month ago

Is the gun the killer, or the shooter?

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Professor Expert
3.2.3  Nerm_L  replied to  Outis @3.2.2    one month ago
Is the gun the killer, or the shooter?

The liberal argument is that banning guns will prevent the killing.  We know that guns, by themselves, do not kill so it's reasonable to conclude that guns are only agents that allow killing.  The gun example argues that banning the agent prevents the adverse outcome.  It doesn't matter if the gun is the agent or instigator.  

Applying the gun example indicates that government should be banned to prevent oppression.  It doesn't matter if government is agent or instigator any more than it matters if the gun is agent or instigator.

Disregarding the influence of a career bureaucracy on government would allow a straightforward conclusion that government is an agent of the democratic majority.  But that does not alter the fact that the rural population is a minority rather than a majority.  The only way to shift responsibility for oppression onto the rural minority is to claim that our government is really not a democracy.

How can a rural minority be responsible for urban oppression?  

 
 
 
Outis
Freshman Principal
3.2.4  seeder  Outis  replied to  Nerm_L @3.2.3    one month ago
How can a rural minority be responsible for urban oppression?  

It can't. No one says it can. Certainly the seed doesn't say that. 

I probably should have found a better analogy than a gun. Maybe a car would be better. Both of them are just tools used by someone. It's that someone who is the killer, whether they use a gun or a car. Likewise, the government is just a tool. Like the car or the gun, it can be misused by bad people.

 
 
 
Nerm_L
Professor Expert
3.2.5  Nerm_L  replied to  Outis @3.2.4    one month ago
I probably should have found a better analogy than a gun. Maybe a car would be better. Both of them are just tools used by someone. It's that someone who is the killer, whether they use a gun or a car. Likewise, the government is just a tool. Like the car or the gun, it can be misused by bad people.

What drives the defiantly self-defeating behavior of white rural voters?  That is the central theme of the seeded article.  The intellectual argument being put forward is that government has become a tool of white rural resentment.

But the rural population is a minority.  In fact, the white rural population is about the same size as the total Black population.  (The rural population is not exclusively white.)  The government being a tool or agent for white rural resentment means the government can not be a democracy.  Minority rule is the opposite of a democracy.

So an equally apt question would be what drives the defiantly self-defeating behavior of Black voters?  The same academic intellectuals disparaging white rural voters are hiding behind racial differences to argue for authoritarian government to overcome racial oppression.  These intellectuals are exploiting a minority to manipulate white urban voters into accepting undemocratic, authoritarian government. 

Isn't it reasonable to conclude that minority participation in politics promotes the interests of the minority?  Does it really matter if the minority is white or Black?  The academic intellectuals avoid addressing that comparison by ignoring the distinctions and differences between rural and urban social conditions.  The reality is that these academic intellectuals are using the rural white minority to manipulate the urban white population.

Should we be surprised that a minority resents oppression?  And why would that resentment be self-defeating?

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
3.2.6  Tessylo  replied to  Outis @3.2    one month ago

Nerm has no clue whatsoever what he is talking about.

 
 
 
Outis
Freshman Principal
3.2.7  seeder  Outis  replied to  Nerm_L @3.2.5    one month ago
The intellectual argument being put forward is that government has become a tool of white rural resentment

I don't see that at all.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
4  Perrie Halpern R.A.    one month ago

Multiple threads have had comments removed for off topic by author. 

 
 

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