When I saw the Confederate flags and angry signs and heard the rhetoric of frustration coming from Dick Armey’s protest rally at the Capitol grounds on Saturday, I thought: So now it’s come to this—white people having to stake their claim to social space in a culture they think is overrun with foreigners and people of color?
I guess it has come to this. As Eric Reitan noted in these pages recently, a significant portion of the population has been seriously and superstitiously unnerved by the disorder represented by a President who (in their eyes) is both racially "other" and a foreigner.
We have long understood that nostalgia is the most dangerous of emotions in respect to political and cultural life. The nostalgia of the Weimar Germans for a strong and aggressive Reich, the current nostalgia of many Russians for the gold old days of Stalin or even Czar Alexander, and now—in our country—the nostalgia of white people and white men especially for a better time when, to be white, male, and Christian stood for something. A time when white men cold take certain things for granted, like the right to be ill-informed and obtuse but still receive deference and some degree of social privilege.
In yesterday’s New York Times, Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad point to the irony of white folks believing that black people will get all the goodies in Obama Time, when in fact it is African American families—many of them new entrants to the middle class—who have taken and will continue to take the worst hits in the Great Recession that continues to unfold.
But the thing about a mythos—in this case about an entire worldview shaped by resentment and fear of falling—is that it is not susceptible to being corrected by mere facts.
I think it might be helpful to look back at expressions of White Faith from a century ago—Buffalo Bill's Wild West show and the Uncle Remus tales of Joel Chandler Harris—before returning to consider the possible religious significance of Dick Armey and his tea-partying troops.
Read it all here