In 1911, Afro-Caribbean intellectual activist Hubert Harrison wrote in the New York Call that “politically the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea.” This touchstone metaphor is both startling and profound.
As this campaign season reels recklessly, leaving a wake of increasing intolerance, those holding differing opinions can find little common ground. Past seasons of “come, let us reason together” have disappeared; unreasoned assertions from the chronically ignorant now dominate the increasingly purchased airwaves. Little from any side appears balanced or fair. We craft dollar-driven hegemonies of self-satisfied ignorance, cultures of the titillated and thoughtless. Where we once enshrined the ideals of freedom, we now erect a golden calf of contempt atop a tower of babble. Call it the gospel according to the uninformed. When creed gives way to screed, who speaks into our opinionated age with a staid voice of wisdom?
Maybe it’s because I’m Japanese-American that I feel skeptical reading Western political philosophy. When were we ever born as free individuals into a state of nature, as Locke and Rousseau asserted? I’ve always believed that we’re born into families, with binding ties, benefits, and obligations. The Bible affirms that relationships are not merely social constructs for us to make and break as we choose.
Last week, God’s Not Dead 2 hit the nation’s movie screens. The sequel to the 2014 sleeper hit tells the story of Grace Wesley, a high school teacher dragged into court for talking about Jesus in her classroom. The movie imagines a hostile government bent on rooting out any trace of religion in public life. As the prosecuting attorney threatens, “We’re going to prove once and for all that God is dead.” The timing of this film’s release may have been intentional.