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Blue Rage

November 9th, 2004 · No Comments

I just saw a re-airing of the first post election Daily Show and the levels of Blue Rage are off the charts. Often it was fairly amusing (Stephen Colbert: “You see, John, here in New York, we’re too close to the terrorism and the gay people. The red states are far enough away to take in the big picture. So thanks, red states, for savign us from ourselves.”) but it did get to be a bit much, and continued in a subsequent show where Stewart interviewed Bill “Smiling Warrior” Kristol. Now that we’re seeing a bunch of pieces debunking the notion that this was a fundie-turnout election (since, in fact, churchgoers turned out at about the same rates as in 2000) maybe that’ll cool down a little. Still, for my fellow Blue Rage sufferers, it’s probably worth noting that all this is at least in part a sign of Red desperation, not some new long-term ascendance. As V-Po notes in a much quoted column, the efficacy of church-centered politicking is an artifact of declining religiosity. The demographic trends on gay issues are all pointing in the right direction; the fervor now is precisely a sign of how far the battle lines have been pushed. It’s not so much a “backlash” as a dying gasp; polls I’m seeing show majority support for at least civil unions. Rhetoric comparing red staters to jihadis is overblown, but I think it’s instructive to note a good passage from Olivier Roy’s Globalized Islam (an excellent book, incidentally; I find myself underlining long passages on each page):

Fundamentalism is both a product and an agent of globalisation, because it acknowledges without nostalgia the loss of pristine cultures, and sees as positive the opportunity to build a universal religious identity, delinked from any specific culture, including the Western one perceived as corrupt and decadent—a constant topic of fundamentalist literature. But maybe this last twist is the real victory of westernisation.

The quest for a ‘pure’ Islam entails also an impoverishment of its content, which has to be thoroughly explicit and not linked with inherited cultural habitus or collateral knowledge.

The gist here is that increasing interconnectedness reveals the local, contingent character of (Islamic) practices that are supposed to be universal. In the face of a need to define oneself against Western secularism, this prompts an attempt to construct a genuinely universal ummah, or community of faith, but one that is therefore, of necessity, “thinner.” I haven’t really given sufficient thought to whether and how much this applies to the American situation. But it’s at least possible, and I throw this out super-tentatively, that to the extent Red voters conceive themselves as a broad class in opposition to the forces of secular Blueness, they’ll be pushed to embrace greater pluralism. Maybe, if I can excessively flatter my Blue state neighbors for a minute, those who grapple with angels are transformed as well. Anyway, fairly muddled thoughts at this point; more later.

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