I know what absolutism is and feels like. I grew up in a religion that owned it. I was taught early on if a person didn't think, believe, declare the same faith as we did, they did not fully belong and were bound for hell. Yes, they had a choice. They could join us or go to hell - literally.
We are seeing this kind of absolutism at play in some of Bernie Sanders supporters today.
But it must be made clear - absolutism is not progressive or revolutionary. It is actually regressive and reactionary. It is also exactly what radical Republicans want both from us and for themselves. They want us to be absolutists so in a battle of absolutes they win - and surely they will win.
What can be more progressive than to see we do not own the truth but can sit down, learn from each other, and construct a platform together that speaks to our hopes and dreams for the nation? What can be more revolutionary than to say we will see the best in each person, even those we hate, those we see as our enemy, those we believe are worthless, including - or better said, enveloping - the powerful? What can be more radical than forgiveness?
If the practice of empathy, interpathy, compassion, forgiveness, non-rigidity, and inclusion are not included, we are not talking revolution or progressivism but old-school absolutism. It is Goldwater saying, "extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice." It is George Wallace saying, "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." It is Vietnam War supporters shouting at protesters, "my country, right or wrong." It is Vietnam War protesters shouting at soldiers coming home, "Baby killers!"
Bernie Sanders has repeatedly called his movement a "political revolution." However, I think some, though thankfully not at all most, hear cultural revolution instead of political. They are not satisfied with 90% political capitulation to Bernie Sanders' platform, which they got. They want not just 90% political capitulation, but 100% cultural capitulation, it seems. They want Hillary Clinton to make it completely obvious that she "Feels the Bern." I am not sure what her meeting that litmus test would look like. But they know, and she has to pass that cultural test or else... And in this case, or else Trump.
Make no mistake, one does not have to be religious to be an absolutist. The Cultural Revolution in China was full of card-carrying atheists who nonetheless mowed down those who didn't adequately exhibit devotion to Mao and his brand of communism. The Cultural Revolution was an astoundingly horrendous event. It began with a sense of idealism, civic spirit, loyalty to a leader, and patriotism. It ended with ruined lives, enslaved lives, dead lives. It really saddens me and surprises me that in those protesting Bernie Sanders calling for unity today I saw small sprouts from the same dangerous seed that bloomed the Cultural Revolution.
These are dangerous times. We are at the precipice of electing a man with dictatorial ambitions, plans, and persona to the presidency of the U.S. He wants to be king.
The forgers of our Constitution constructed it to guard against the only operative absolutisms they knew - mob rule, absolute monarchy and the Church. They instituted a representative democracy, checks against the executive branch and a separation between church and state. But I am sure they could not imagine the kind of ideological absolutism behind things like Communism, Nazism, Fascism, and Trumpism. They also could never envision Social Media and the kind of compartmentalizing of people and groups that so easily results from it. They presumed debate and dialogue and meeting the other side in the competitions of ideas. We are not seeing that much these days. And we certainly did not see it earlier today in Philadelphia when supporters of Bernie Sanders booed Bernie Sanders.
What the Founders could not see, we must see and guard against. The near to all out absolutism we are seeing exhibited is dangerous and must be resisted.
All of this is to say: Yes, Hillary Clinton may seem to represent "Same ol, Same ol" to you. I agree in many ways she does (though the most progressive platform in decades suggests differently). But isnt' Same ol, Same ol better than the Neo-Putin style dictatorship that we are so dangerously close to letting be elected?
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