I was asking my coworker about his reaction to those new billboards in town “I’m gay and this is where I pray” and feeling around to see how the billboards are being perceived. I mean it seems like billboards should play a role in sending messages to move positive social messages. Anyway, the billboards might be effective, along with other messages, in the long term, but my coworker was pretty much set in his conservative ways citing the bible etc.
What was really interesting was that once he got rolling about gay marriage he went straight into a rap about how people can’t discipline their kids anymore because CPS will come and get them if they spank their kids (not true says my social worker wife but facts don’t really have anything to do with these views).
And from there he slid straight into a rant about how we can’t even say “Merry Christmas” anymore. I muttered something about retailers being smart about wanting to invite Jews and Muslims (and whoever else) into their stores to spend their holiday dollars as well but I might as well have been speaking Chinese.
But interestingly enough he really seemed to care about the Christmas subject. This is the fascinating thing. From my liberal Mr. Spock perspective these issues are just illogical. I can’t fathom how two gay humans getting hitched is any threat to me. And I can’t even begin to understand why it is wrong to try to be inclusive to non-christians. I mean it’s just the nice thing to do.
But that’s why it is so incredible. For all our basic underlying similarities, conservatives and liberals really process data differently. Our values are so profoundly different that we aren’t even speaking the same language. My coworker genuinely feels threatened by the changes in our society. It isn’t logical. But it is totally real for him. This stuff really freaks him out. He and I can talk abstractly about how things in the past weren’t so hot and how we need to change but that doesn’t address the core feeling in his being that these social changes to the existing social hierarchy are threatening. I think there is a fundamental anxiety about losing one’s place in the social order. It could be about being averse to change, but I think it has more to do with feeling like one has finally achieved one’s place within the social pyramid and possible disruptions to the social order can only mean one thing- loss of status.
From my bohemian perspective, this stuff doesn’t compute. I’ve spent the last few decades developing an identity outside of dominant social rules and mores, grappling with a different set of definitions of what constitutes “success”. I like to think that I’ve done some heavy existential lifting but probably I’ve plugged into a subculture that just doesn’t feel that attached to hierarchy. Or maybe it’s a different hierarchy. I really can’t tell. Meaning that I’m equally submerged in my own consciousness. Just as blind to my own being.
Anyway, all the Christian hand wringing about whether our society is going to acknowledge the supremacy of Christmas in the last two weeks of December, or whether the forces of liberal accommodation will relegate Christmas to Just Another Winter Holiday. To us liberal Mr. Spock types, Christmas has always been some kind of bizarre marriage between consumer capitalism, Christian colonialism and American folklore. I mean you’ve got the baby Jesus stuff, the grafted on Santa stuff (arbitrarily defined by Clement Moore and depression-era ad campaigns for Coco Cola) , the Christian cooptation of pagan yule/solstice ritual, and full bore marketing. In my mind it’s like those pineapple tacos in Los Angeles. Purity and tradition? You’re kidding, right? Seems like nothing but continual social evolution, adaptation and change to me.
The insanity seems summed up by this figurine, previously available from Church Supply Warehouse, but now, alas, sold out.baby jesus, Jonathan Haidt, pineapple taco, santa