24 Comments

Great writing, Aaron. Your comment on a positive vision reminded me how much I have enjoyed your past posts (or was it Rod Dreher?) with photos and captions that point to the joys of fatherhood and family life.

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I suppose my thought is that, while we live in an era of exceptionally negative political coalitions in the US, it's a very natural condition for broad political (or geopolitical) alliances to be primarily negative. For an obvious reason: it's usually easier to get a very broad coalition of people to agree on *not* liking some other group than to agree on what we all *do* like. The problem arises when you draw too much of your identity from that political coalition.

I like Aaron's comment about "decolonization". I think I made an observation before that, 100 years ago, Communists were seen as highly progressive and optimistic. The envy and the grievances were always there, but they weren't entirely steering the ship. There was excitement about the new world to be built and the Marxian Man that would come to inhabit it. Honestly, no matter how far left and out of touch with reality you are, I think it's hard not to react to the fall of the USSR and the poor results of post-WW2 decolonization with a more pessimistic attitude.

When your ideas are old and tired, you spend most of your time having to make excuses for why they have failed for so long -- presumably not due to your own side's mistakes but the actions of nefarious enemy saboteurs. That doesn't leave much time or energy to paint a picture of the bright new future they present.

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The problem with the early part of this article, which talks about how to deal with propaganda, is that truth claims are being made, and cannot be left uncontested.

Krupos gave mask-wearing as an example. In addition to the mass hysteria aspects, a truth claim was being made: Wearing masks will make a big difference in reducing the pandemic. How can you counter the hysteria without countering the truth claim?

It is easy to make oh-so-clever comments such as Kruptos made, but what was his alternative approach that did not include countering the lies with truth?

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Thanks for another thought-provoking essay. A couple of responses.

First, I have some Amish friends. Amish communities are variable but I have heard from them that plenty of their group does in fact have at least some aspects of what you call a "negative identity." As the fellow you interviewed some time back, who lived among Amish-type folks for years and now sells soap, wrote in his book, some decent number of Amish/Mennonite kinds of people are fleeing something they find intolerable about "modern life."

This suggests to me that it's not an either-or but perhaps more of a both-and. We both need to fight what is evil and establish what is good. Those in fact seem to be two sides of the same coin, as fighting evil *is* protecting the good. Your point is that we can't ONLY fight evil without some reason to do so, some actual concrete positive good we are protecting. That's a good point. I'm sure many of us spend more time shadowboxing evil online when we'd be far more productive building good with our own two hands.

I've heard good sermons about race from my pastor, who points out that in Revelation all the Christians are discernible by their tribe and tongue and nation. The Apostle John can see that people are from a certain nation in heaven by their speech and outward appearance. My pastor draws from this that we don't lose our cultural heritage, ancestry, and identity in Christ, but it is perfected and brought into unity. We are all adopted brothers and sisters of the One True King. Our race and nation, tribe and tongue, are part of our identities and perfected in Christ.

That suggests any aspect of a heritage or identity that is sinful should be discarded but any that is not is part of the beautiful richness of Christianity, which is meant for all peoples. So I would say no to incorporating pagan gods into Christianity like the Spaniards in Aztec Mexico. But would it be wrong to build an earth mound to the glory of Jesus? I don't think so (again, provided pagan practices are not intrinsically connected to that act...I'm just giving a speculative off-the-cuff example).

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Isn't it the case that negative identity comes from reacting to someone else taking an aggressive position that pushes boundaries? You can either ignore it as you would trolling, push back with a negative stance, or perhaps, as the article suggests, double down on your own position.

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I totally agree with articulating a positive vision, but I'm not sure we need to do a lot of soul-searching to find one. The scripture provides that vision. We should be building a culture, a nation that seeks to glorify God through our actions. This starts with strong two-parent (male and female) families with as many children as feasibly possible. These families are to work and thrive in their communities through their regular attendance and participation in their local churches. These families love the communities that God has planted them so as to be vigorously involved in their thriving which includes safety, spiritual and material growth as well as compassion for their fellow neighbors. This compassion rooted in Christ is not just verbal compassion but is an active hands-on compassion that discerns those who are in need and how to truly assist them.

The concept of race is founded on the biblical model - that we are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve - that while still sinners, we are one family - one race - human.

With these building blocks we establish a foundation that reduces the need for government assistance and interference at the local then state and federal levels which tends toward authoritarianism.

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Completely agree. It's a temptation for every conservative-ish person to become addicted to the dopamine of defeat. So much harder (yet we have to do it) to let go of how bad things are and build something that will survive it, especially because that something will likely never gain notoriety in his lifetime.

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I disagree on a couple of counts.

1) It is arbitrary to disqualify “I don’t see color” as a positive vision. In fact, it’s the only vision that doesn’t degenerate into racial bean-counting and one-drop rules. I would go a step further: I would ban all race-based organizations (NAACP, Unidos, etc). The vision is to use as many standardized tests as possible, blind auditions, etc. in order to remove race as a factor.

2) Conservatism is inherently anti-vision. The point is not to innovate with a grand plan that typically ends in disaster, but to reject innovation in favor of that which worked before. I don’t see how that can change.

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This is a good corrective, Aaron. But surely, we would all agree there is a time to build and a time to war (break things). From my observations, today's world requires a flexibility to both build and fight on a dime, depending on the day or the issue. For instance, I want to support positive, new credentialing systems while also - if they refuse to reform - destroying the current higher educational systems currently in place.

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