This is why I’ve been saying for so long that modern humans, very much including Americans, put far, far too much faith and hope in government. Most people have let government become a god to them.
A god, as in a real “God” god, one who tells them what to think and do about everything, and defends them from the bogeymen of their nightmares, and wipes their tears and changes their diapers. A “God” god who writes moral law on their hearts, and tells them who’s good and who’s bad.
That’s the way millions of Americans, and billions of people around the world, see temporal government now. As an entity that isn’t functioning properly, if it isn’t standing in that relation to them.
But the quintessentially American political project was not to design a God-like government that would do cool and amazing things for the people, requiting all their hopes and validating all their emotions.
The American project was to design a constitution that would leave the people in a remarkable condition of freedom, by limiting what their government would ever be allowed to do.
America’s Founders intended to make government easy to immobilize and hard to move, precisely so that it couldn’t be dragooned into service as a surrogate “God” god. Such surrogate gods, as they well knew, always ended up punitively taxing and otherwise bludgeoning the “bad people” to satisfy the “good” – and all too often ended up seizing the property of the “bad,” blaming them for public crises like the Black Plague, studying the effects of torture on them (for the sake of science), because after all, they were heretics or infidels, and burning them and their children at the stake.
The marvelous thing about “God” god government is that it is always instituted in the pursuit of justice. No one has ever, even once, enlarged the scope of government for any bad purpose. It’s always done, so we’re told, for the noblest of reasons, and justice is always at the top of the list.
So after eight years of government playing a “God” god – what is a “God” god government, after all, if it isn’t one that tells us what we’re required to recite about topics like marriage and gender, lest we lose our livelihoods and property? – America now faces the aftermath. We have grown women with children, who decide that the election of Donald Trump to head their government makes it too scary to search for a life partner.
The problem here isn’t Trump, nor is it Trump voters. The problem is the expectation of too many people about what temporal government is, and should be, in their lives.
If people can be induced to change their plans about marriage and family, because of abstract, theoretical expectations created when someone gets elected president, that means their expectations of government are WAY out of whack.
The problem isn’t created by either those people’s political opponents, or the proponents of limited government. It’s created by the unrealistic, dysfunctional expectations of government in their own heads. No human institution can legitimately fill the role they want government to fill.
This is how WaPo’s author concludes her lament:
That urge to cling to my family while keeping our foundation strong didn’t mesh well with continuing to date the man I’d been seeing. He also has a daughter. He, too, had been feeling a lot of the same emotions I was experiencing: hopelessness; fear; uncertainty about the future; panic over having to talk to my 9-year-old about anything that might come up at school, or what to do in the instance of sexual assault. But I couldn’t reach out to him anymore. He was too new, too unfamiliar.
My focus had to be on my community of friends that are my family. I need to fiercely love the people close to me instead of learning to love someone new. To reach out to others could weaken the bonds that hold my family together.
“I can’t,” I told him. “I just can’t.”
I’ve lost the desire to attempt the courtship phase. The future is uncertain. I am not the optimistic person I was on the morning of Nov. 8, wearing a T-shirt with “Nasty Woman” written inside a red heart. It makes me want to cry thinking of that. Of seeing my oldest in the shirt I bought her in Washington, D.C., that says “Future President.”
There is no room for dating in this place of grief. Dating means hope. I’ve lost that hope in seeing the words “President-elect Trump.”
Understand, please, that I am not making fun of her. I am profoundly saddened that she has been so misled about what government is supposed to be in her life — and about what it means to see things differently.
I do think we have entered an epic “teaching moment” about that very topic. A whole lot of misguided people are going to discover in the next few years that a “government they approve of” cannot be the Perfect Author of existence, or the divine entity in which they live, move, and have their being. Government, no matter who’s in charge, is just a bunch of other people sitting around making decisions from a store of very limited knowledge, and some amount of personal baggage and weltanschauung hooey.
That’s what human government always is. It can never be anything else, which is why if you’re wise, you don’t, on principle, let it do very much. If you don’t think your neighbor across the street, as fine a fellow as he may be, would make a very good “God” to bow down to, that’s the best reason there is to not make a “God” god of government.
Courage, friends. Be kind when you can to these folks who feel that they are staggering under a great blow because Trump won. Their god isn’t hearing and answering, and they’ve been terrorizing themselves for years with what something like that may mean. There isn’t much we can do in the short run about the theories of cause and effect that have them so confused. But simple human kindness, one on one, will make a difference.