I have been mulling over last week’s Gallup Poll finding that 49% of Americans view our government as the greatest threat to their individual liberty. I don’t believe this means that we are on the brink of revolution, but it does encapsulate the pervasive angst about the role and purpose of government that is putting wind in the sails of any candidate who can wear the mantle of “outsider” as we move toward the 2016 Presidential elections. I suspect we are preparing to enter an angry and exceedingly divisive period in American politics for two reasons: pervasive federal government now plays such a huge role in every facet of our lives and these same federal programs and agencies are bankrupting our nation while lavishly rewarding the corrupt and the incompetent. Something has to give.
We are seeing a similar scenario playing out in Illinois at the moment – in our case a staring contest between our Republican Governor and Democratic Legislature over how (and if) to start living within our means. Not surprisingly, much the same fiscal dynamic is playing out in Athens on the Potomac as face the prospect of yet another federal government shutdown. Whether at the federal, state, or local level, I strongly suspect that the collision between entrenched government and empty taxpayer pockets will be the defining political battle for many years to come.
The outrage over the refusal of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis to issue same-sex marriage licenses, which Pope Francis seems to agree is proper if it is based on a moral objection driven her religious faith, has got me thinking about the almost insurmountable divide that now seems to exist between the academically-credentialed elite and those of faith. I remember the incredible pleasure with which one Psychology professor whom I used to know in New York repeatedly related the tale of the campus Christian organization’s visit to his office when they read that one of his recent research topics was “religiosity”. As the students expressed their happiness over finding a rare man of faith among the faculty, he leaned back in his chair and coldly explained that he considered religious belief to be “a symptom of profound mental illness” for which he was currently seeking potential treatments. Needless to say, his anecdote always provoked knowing chuckles among his colleagues regarding the undergraduate yokels who actually bothered with something as silly as Christianity – right before everyone refilled their glasses with Chardonnay and discussed their grant applications. Same planet but very different worlds. I am not at all certain how we move toward a respectful dialogue between all involved.