Do you know that feeling when you hear or read something that just offends something about your sense of fair play, but you don’t take the time to tease out the details? You just know in your gut something is wrong. Fred Clark‘s recent post*, well, yesterday’s, put a tidy label on some concepts that I’ve had a difficult time labeling, things that bugged the devil out of me but that I hadn’t taken the time to logically articulate against the noise of daily living. I mean, like everybody, I’ve been busy, right?
So here are some of the rich terms/expressions and concepts Fred articulated yesterday that are destined to become part of Tim-speak. They actually extend way beyond the single topic Fred covers in his post. After listing them, I’m providing a very brief overview of each.
- Same range of complaints, same range of complainers
- Cause and Response
- Disproportionality, non-comparability, non-mutual
- Privileged distress
- Compassion versus Justice
- Reactions: Adaptation or counter-revolution
I love this expression. It says so much. I don’t know who first coined it, but its urban richness can not be escaped. The precise definition from the Urban Dictionary is: a stressed out chicken. The word seems to have its roots in another rather similar expression that has an even more colorful urban expressiveness with origins in the military. You have the idea.
But for me, a flustercluck carries additional and richer connotations. To me it says: a group of people who are so flustered they start clucking and inciting others to madly cluck until they completely lose their minds in their flustered state of fevered frenzy. I think of FAUX News as nationally televised flusterclucking. The notion of adding cowardice to the concept also adds a bit of emotive depth.
There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” —Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 17, 2002
Same range of complaints, same range of complainers
Such a marvelous expression. So True. On both sides of most issues. I get tired of hearing the same old noise. People talking past one another. Generating noise for “their side,” naturally, the “correct” side.
Come on! Give me something new to think! (And thank you Fred Clark for just that!)
Cause as a direct result of Response
Many people are often oblivious to the fact that they themselves cause their own difficulties. Folks are quick to point this out in others but slow to own it for themselves.
I love how Fred expresses it:
Nor can the unpleasantness of being criticized and ridiculed be separated from the immediate cause of that criticism and ridicule — the fact that the criticism and ridicule is a response to those folks trying to enforce, encode and defend legal discrimination.
So both sides have real grievances, but those grievances are in no way proportional or comparable.”
Disproportionality, non-comparability, non-mutual
And this is exactly the point that most resonates with me. Those who try to codify their place of privilege vehemently declare that the loss of their privileged status is exactly equal to the injustice they wish to perpetuate to keep that privileged status.
The concepts of loss of privileged status and forced injustice are not the same, are not comparable, are not interchangeable. At all! None!
In the context of Fred’s article, “defending” the concept of “Biblical” or “traditional” marriage is not defending anything other than privileged status—a privileged status that is an assault on justice and equality. “Defend” and “assault” are polar opposites.
I appreciate Fred’s Pleasantville movie analogy, which he credits to The Weekly Sift: The Distress of the Privileged. It works! The distress of the privileged, when they lose their privilege, is indeed very real and tremendously unpleasant for them no matter what the lost privilege is. Requiring anyone to make a fundamental change in their perceptions of what is fair, what is in balance, what is just and appropriate is difficult. But experiencing this accommodation when you believe you have something significant to lose is excruciating!
But what is being lost by the privileged elite? I propose that it’s not what is being claimed. Fred’s blog post specifically is about marriage equality. Married straight people actually lose nothing when gay people can marry. And the only thing society loses when any two adults who love one another can marry is the injustice of preventing this.
But the privileged elite are losing something. IMHO: the leaders of irrelevant and unkind faith practice are losing a very public argument in the public space—an argument that they themselves demanded having out loud and front and center. Their positions are being identified by the American people as the immoral positions. This argument is not about marriage equality, it is about the power and control loss of the religious extremists. And that, well, that really hurts them. In some ways, it even forces them away from the public microphone. I actually believe this to be a really healthy thing for America.
Compassion versus Justice
I appreciate the fact that Fred calls this to our attention: those who feel the very real discomfort of losing their privileged position (the right wing extremists) deserve our compassion. But, those who have suffered the distress of intolerance deserve justice. Again, this is because privileged distress and the codified discrimination the privileged elite have tried to foist on others are not at all comparable. Therefore, they each require a different response.
And for the privileged elite to demand tolerance for their positions that codify injustice into law as if their desire for tolerance is on an equal footing with those demanding the tolerance that is marriage equality would be laughably absurd if it were not so offensive to the national sense of fair play. The distress the privileged elite feel at their losses warrants a different response than the injustice dealt those who lack marriage equality. The former may warrant benevolent compassion**; the later requires the swift rectitude of justice.
Reactions: Adaptation or counter-revolution
Fred’s argument for compassion for the privilege distressed is self-serving if nothing else. These extremists have a choice to make, if they have that much self-control. They can choose to adapt to the real world in which they live, or they can choose to make one last grand stand to try to hang on to their privileged status.
Yes, Glenn Beck is out there blathering on about a coming civil war. Texas has been on the secession from warpath. While they may be just blowing off steam (maybe not), they will do themselves and others a great disservice by recklessly continuing down this path. They simply delay and make more painful their acceptance of a new and inescapable American reality.
Regrettably, the Republican party as a whole seems to be determined to make one last grand stand. They will lose. The America of today is not the America of the Grand Ole Party. American reality has changed.
So thanks, Fred Clark. You have once again given me a lot to think about. And to those reading my little summary, take the time to read Fred’s entire article, ‘There’s nothing mutual about it’: White evangelicals, privileged distress and grievance envy. It’s excellent!
*I’ve really gotten turned on to the writing of Fred Clark over at Slacktivist: Test Everything; Hold Fast that which Is Good, via patheos: Hosting the Conversation on Faith. (Tip of the fedora to my friend, Dan!)
**I’m not so sure I can muster it up.