What is helpful? Dark times call for serviceable imago—no Disney mouse, no reiteration of that oldest American thing, Puritan optimism, the “city on a hill.” Better to say we’re the help we need. Better to say Donald Trump isn’t one of us. “Life is unfair,” he said when asked why athletes are being tested for Coronavirus while ordinary Americans are not. If the point of democratic governance is lost on him we should say as Governor Cuomo of New York is now proposing, “we must be the help.” When the presidency is held hostage by a grifting conspiracy theorist and racist who doesn’t want government to work, indeed thinks a functioning government will hurt him, well, we’ve got some reimagining to do.
Forgive me my rampant tone. My grandfather was a Finnish Lutheran preacher and I fear I’ve inherited his moralist’s stole. I try to take it off most days. When I’m forced to show it I think it’s best to know why. “You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say” Luther wrote. I’m owning what I do not say. This should be done by all. One thing I do not say is I believe life is craftsmanship. Luther again: “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” (Luther was making fun of the Pope’s shoes but he too was a fallen man.) I have no idea why God should be interested in good craftsmanship, and have no interest in ideas of universal design, but let’s imagine every life is the raw material of what Auden called “the cave of making” and yes this leads me back to democracy for the aim of the democratic nation state is to provide the means to pursue happiness which I’m calling craftsmanship. When Trump says life is unfair during a pandemic he’s saying democracy is of no interest to him. He’s saying you have no right to pursue your life. And yes, I’ll dare to say it, he’s being un-Christian. The latter is not news.
John Locke was the ghost behind Jefferson: “Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”
John Locke: “Personal Identity depends on Consciousness not on Substance.”
Being an idea, democratic government is hard to defend in a nation devoted to commodity fetishism. Every run on toilet paper reminds me of this fact. Without consciousness, no crafted lives. Without craft no freedom. And that’s when you get a tricked out shill for oligarchy telling you life is unfair.
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