The Scared Americans?

As I was reading about the Supreme Court’s decision to allow family-owned businesses to deny contraception to women, I began to wonder—what kind of a person decides he knows better than his employees what is right and what is wrong for them?

Mr. Hobby Lobby is characterized as a Christian. But he doesn’t seem very Christian to me. He forgot the Golden Rule. A Christian believes you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In fact, I thought that was the whole Christian message and that all the folderol that some religions claim Jesus meant or didn’t mean has nothing to do with acting as a Christian.  Who the heck knows what Jesus meant? The rest of that stuff is all about power (mostly men’s) and money, and, I suspect, fear of sexual impulses, unless it was the founder of Mormonism, and then it was about having several wives. (Ladies, never trust a religion where men have several wives. It’s bound to go badly for you.)

I bet I can predict how Mr. Hobby Lobby would like it if someone higher up tried to deny him an opportunity to control his reproductive life.

There is another problem that bothers me. Mr. Hobby Lobby is certain he is right. He is so certain that he’ll go all the way to the Supreme Court to prove it.

How is it that some people are so certain they are right even though many others disagree with them? ISIS, the Taliban and the other Islamic extremists have this certainty in such abundance that they will kill for it. Christians have been just as bad – think Spanish Inquisition, think the Crusades.

But also think America today. Americans are taught that they can believe and do whatever they damn well please, and impose that belief and action on others, despite how nutty that belief is or crazy their intentions are. We see it play out daily with climate change and evolution deniers. We see it with supply siders, who try to impose their economic “theories,” even though they have been consistently proven wrong. We see it with that bigoted guy in the West who’s grazing his cattle on our land for free. We saw it with Cambridge liberals who, a few years ago, wanted to give immigrants the right to vote. No—those in my family who have green cards can always become citizens if they want to.

Some of these extremes come from extreme people. Extremism is protected in America, and always has been. But ever since Newt Gingrich blustered into Congress and sanctified meanness, our protected proclivity to be as nasty and as extreme as possible has become revered rather than chalked up to some person being crazy.

Mr. Hobby Lobby comes from the prairie. When I lived on the prairie, my neighbors were tolerant and forbearing. You didn’t impose your beliefs on others. You didn’t cause a stir. I can imagine 30 years ago Mr. Hobby Lobby might have said to himself, “I can tell that not all my employees believe like I do, but I don’t want to make a fuss so I’ll just go along.” He wouldn’t have given someone an opportunity to challenge him.

But now, a good number of people carry a gun because they expect to be challenged. People are ready to scream and shout. They’ll deny someone else’s rights all the way to the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court, not filled right now with the most scholarly justices who ever sat, will add fuel to the fire.

I have a suspicion about where this all comes from.

America is being “over-run” by the “other,” some people think. Certain Americans believe their habits and their culture are in danger, if not their lives.

Mr. Hobby Lobby may be one of them. He may not be a medieval-style miscreant who doesn’t trust women to manage their own reproduction. Instead, he may be a man who has decided to stand his ground, because his ground has shifted, and he’ll hold onto it in any way he can. He’s just scared.

I don’t know if we’ll come out of this period of meanness, meddling in other people’s business and bedrooms, and the let-no-bill-get-passed-in-Congress because it might help a black president, not to mention the American people.

But I have hope, based on the slim lessons of America’s history, the practices of the most of my current neighbors and my own diverse family, that we can figure out a way to all get along together, that we can allow people to enjoy their own beliefs without imposing ours on others, that we can tolerate shifting ground because there is bedrock beneath.

I could be wrong.