Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What's Your Mythology?

We all have a mythology.  We all have a story we tell in a certain way that may or may not be completely accurate.  It's usually not by intention that we fudge the details. We just tell the story over and over and eventually the way we tell it becomes "the" story and after awhile it becomes our mythology.

For instance, when I talk about how we potty-trained Middle One I say that he was done in a day.  Well, that's true.  I know that he never had a daytime accident after his Potty Party (remind me to tell you about Potty Parties some day).  I know he never wore a daytime diaper again and it only took one day.  What I don't recall is if we diapered him at nap or bedtime.  My memory says we didn't.  But did we?  Did he really never wear another diaper?  Is it the truth or the mythology?  (Can you tell we're discussing Little One and being done with diapers around here?)

Anyway, I've been thinking about mythologies and the things we believe because that's what we "know" to be true.  And of course, anytime I spend any amount of time considering something, eventually I start thinking about it in political terms.  

We're in a mythology battle in America.  Yes, it's the culture war, but I think simply calling it a "culture war" makes it sound as if the pro-gay marriage folks are against the evangelical Christians who are against the Yankees who make tough biscuits who are against the Southerners who want to fly the rebel flag.  "Culture war" sounds too convoluted and complex to me.  There are too many mental images that come to mind with it and too many people who appear to be at odds who are really on the same side.  O'Reilly has some good points in his book, but the title is misleading.

We're dealing with a mythology problem.  It's basic.  Our American Mythology boils down to a single yes or no question:

Do you believe America is good?

If you answer "yes" then you inherently believe America does good things.  Sure, we're don't always make the best decisions, but on balance we're a good country.  We're a good nation with good intentions with a good history and should get back to the roots that made us "good."

If you answer "no" or had to think about your answer awhile, then you probably believe we are a faulty nation, that we are no better than any other nation, that "American Exceptionalism" is pompous and arrogant.  Chances are you believe America makes too many mistakes and that we should be more like other countries or that our system of government is wrong.

For me, therein lies the problem.  It's mythology.  If you're a "yes" person, then we're seeing the same America.  We believe that on balance, we're a good country and were founded on sound, timeless principles. If you're a "no" person, I'm not sure we can ever see eye-to-eye on where we are as a country, where we've been, or where we're going.

To my mind, the two main political parties lie along those fault lines of  "yes" or "no."  Granted, I'm speaking in generalities and, of course, there will be exceptions to the rule.  I am convinced, however, that the Republicans like America.  They like the Constitution as it was written and attempt to see it in its historical light.  Democrats don't really like America.  They perceive the Constitution as a "living" document to change with the times and that we need to constantly change it to make it work for us.

And that's what's dividing our country.  Sure, we have some cultural differences, but I think our great divide can be boiled down to a simple question: Do you like America?

~ G

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