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Archive for the month “January, 2020”

Templeton Project: Utopian Dreams

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Utopian Dreams.”

See also:


One must remember when in dialogue with unbelievers that a utopian longing may be present.  Christians believe the kingdom of God will become fully realized in the future. It is by God’s power, not by human strength, that all things promised come to fulfillment.

For five-hundred years in the West  a number of authors have described fulfillment by human power.  Thomas More enlisted the Greek derived word. Utopia (meaning nowhere), as the title of his book, describing an ideal society.  A host of books, published since then, have dwelt on the same subject.  Dystopian (referring to highly dysfunctional societies) novels, mostly written in the Twentieth and Twenty-first centuries, e.g. 1984 and Brave New World, are available in abundance.  A novel, The Light in the Ruins (by yours truly), that has recently been published by Westbow Press, is an example of this type of writing.

Many secular-minded individuals, certainly not all of them, long and work for an ideal society in which all human beings flourish.  Communism is a utopian ideology that has produced dystopia.  One need only read about the modern history of Russian and China or the equally nightmare reality of Cambodia.  Utopia seems as far away as ever.

The problem with utopia is that the requirements of a perfect society do not at all match the nature of human beings who from a Christian perspective are sinners.  Imperfect beings cannot produce a perfect society, but are more likely to produce its opposite.

In the literature many different kinds of utopia have been described.  Different writers have different ideas about what is ideal. Utopian and dystopian novels are most often critiques of present reality.

The fact is that only God can bring about a perfect society under His reign of love.  You may have opportunities to share this perpective when in dialogue with unbelievers.

It is good to listen carefully to others to discover their aspirations and hopes about the future.  Few people live under a regime of pure nihilism that denies any sort of fulfillment in the future.  Human beings were not made to look into the face of nothingness and exclaim, “All is well.”  Christians can encourage the belief that God will fulfill our lives through the coming of the New Jerusalem where love conquers all.  It is a matter of faith, not sight.

MIchael G. Tavella

August 20, 2019

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

YesSource: ARW Live in Vienna, 9/13/17

Here are my latest uploads to YesSource, my Yes rarities youtube page (about which you can read here).  This post is another addition to my series of Yes music posts and a collection of all my Yes-related posts is here.  Yes, of course, is a, if not the, premier progressive rock band, and I am an enormous fan of it.

You can see all of my Yessource uploads here.

My latest YesSource uploads can be found here:

Video Games and Culture

Video games have become a fascinating place to see people recognize and deal with the fallout of postmodernity.

by Fr. Blake Britton, on January 29, 2019
It would be rather simple to write a series of articles discussing the positive and negative aspects of video games or commenting on the coolest graphics and best storylines. But such a set of articles could not genuinely be called “Catholic.” Something that is “Catholic” deliberates the whole of things, meaning it does not interpret reality as piecemeal or a set of facts in isolation. The Catholic thinker is someone who contemplates, discusses, and writes radically (from the Latin radix—“at the root of things”) seeing reality as it is in its entirety; seeing a thing as it fits within the entire framework of existence. Thus, before we begin a dialogue about specific video games, we must first situate the topic within the context of civilization as a whole. We must go to the origin of this phenomenon and why it has taken the world by storm. The question therefore is, “Why are video games?”

Video games are first and foremost an expression of contemporary culture. A brief study in etymology will clarify our point. The word “culture” comes from the Proto-Indo-European root kwelə meaning “to revolve,” “sojourn,” or “dwell.” This would later evolve into the Latin word incola, “someone who inhabits/dwells” in a certain area. The activities of an incola for the care of his or her sustenance is the verb colere, “to cultivate/till” the earth. Colere is also a word of self-awareness, a recognition of humanity’s capacity for agriculture, construction, and landscaping. The human being is not like other creatures; humans can interact and cooperate with the world around them in a drastic way. One has only to recall the great edifices of Giza, Athens, and Rome for proof.

Even amidst their achievements, however, ancient people were mindful of mystery. They sensed that at the deepest core of reality, the world is given to man, not made by him. It is something simultaneously for us to be subdued and beyond us to be wondered at. The ancients’ realization of this fact led to the development of the verb colere into the noun cultura (culture), denoting “an acknowledgment of” or “honoring of” those things which are essential to a community’s livelihood yet not under their immediate control. One could plant the seed at harvest time (colere), but ultimately, it was the cosmic work of Renenutet, Demeter, or Ceres to provide for its growth (cultura). By studying this etymological and historical relationship between the words colere (to cultivate) and cultura (cult/culture), we can come to a better appreciation of “culture” in the proper sense. Culture appropriately defined represents a claim about the human person’s role in the infrastructure of the world; it is the fruit of a seeing where one truly is in the grand scheme of things; it is the expression of a person’s understanding of reality and their relationship to the order of the universe.

In light of the above-written reflection, let us return to our original question, “Why are video games?” Everything in a civilization is directly influenced by culture: language, food, clothing, music, inventions, architecture, etc. Each of these is a tangible manifestation of a metaphysical presupposition. In other words, the stuff we say, how we say it, what we wear when we say it, and the design of the building we say it in…all these things come from the same place. They are the fruits of culture, the consequences of a philosophical judgment made by society about the essence of reality. Video games are no different. As a matter of fact, I see video games as an apex expression of our postmodern technological culture. More than any other media, video games respond to and affirm the keystone assertion of our civilization: reality is what I make of it.The following quote from Shigeru Miyamoto (the famous creator of MarioThe Legend of ZeldaStar Fox, F-ZeroDonkey Kong, and Pikmin) summarizes the point lucidly: “Players [Gamers] are artists who create their own reality within the game.”

As such, video games have become a fascinating place to see people recognize and deal with the fallout of postmodernity. The virtual world is a seemingly limitless medium in which gamers can experience, suffer, respond to, and escape the egoism, relativism, atheism, and mechanism of culture. I recall one person on YouTube who posted at the bottom of a video game soundtrack: “This Soundtrack, this Game…it feels like a therapy. Especially when you feel down it feels like every sound, every movement you make, everything you can see is there to heal your wounds, your soul…I really love it…” This comment is a perfect example of what we have been discussing.

On the one hand, video games make clear where our culture has failed, where we as a people have lost the language, skill, and discernment to engage the deepest and most vital facets of our being. On the other hand, video games are a rich mine in which to excavate the needs of our people so as to reintroduce basic human qualities and reignite the divine spark of a sedated society.

In the end, what we millennials and post-millennials want is the real world, not the artificial world. Our wanderings in the lands of Minecraft and the mountains of Skyrim are a crying out for reality, not a rejection of it. We long to witness the breath-taking beauty of creation, soar into the heights of authentic heroism and experience the life-giving dynamism of true freedom. “We want reality!” This is the rallying cry of our generation. Unfortunately, many of us are convinced that it no longer exists. So, we seek in the virtual world what we wish existed in the real world.  The world outside our suburban home or terraced row-house is a cold, uninviting place flanked on all sides by the ravenous beast of materialistic industrialism and the constant noise of the machine. We sympathize with Romano Guardini when he first saw the decrepit smokestack of a modern factory disrupting the flawless majesty of Lake Como, Italy. At that moment, he knew the “world of natural humanity, of nature in which humanity dwells, was perishing” (Romano Guardini, Letters from Lake Como). A world of money, flashing billboards, and high-rise corporations is nothing compared to the peaceful islands of Uncharted 4 or the awe-inspiring scenery of Final Fantasy X.

Besides, why should we participate in the “real world” when all it seems to offer is passing fads, superficial pleasures, and relativistic opinions? We would rather save a magical kingdom, run through endless leagues of virtual pristine forests, or complete a daring mission to gain XP for our avatars. At least then we can feel like we have purpose; we can feel like we have the opportunity to achieve greatness and see a world left better by our living in it.

Show us something beautiful. Prove to us that the world outside our game room can be as inspiring, challenging, and fulfilling as the world within our game consoles. If you can do that, then you will awaken the hearts of millions and summon a generation of men and women ready to complete the greatest quest of all time: the quest to holiness and sainthood in Jesus Christ.

The original article can be found here.

YesSource: 2017 Yestival Tour Vlog Collection

Here are my latest uploads to YesSource, my Yes rarities youtube page (about which you can read here).  This post is another addition to my series of Yes music posts and a collection of all my Yes-related posts is here.  Yes, of course, is a, if not the, premier progressive rock band, and I am an enormous fan of it.

You can see all of my Yessource uploads here.

My latest YesSource uploads can be found here:

Unemployment Compensation is not an Automatic Entitlement

Many potential clients who contact me assume that anyone who leaves a job for any reason is automatically entitled to receive unemployment compensation benefits. That is far from reality.  Unemployment compensation benefits are administered by each state, and the state in which one has worked, rather than the state in which one lives, makes a determination of entitlement to benefits, based on that state’s laws. I have been a seminar organizer and presenter for unemployment compensation issues in Pennsylvania, and this Firm has handled hundreds of matters dealing with all facets of unemployment compensation.

Unemployment compensation is sometimes a complicated process, and although an applicant doesn’t necessarily require the presence of an attorney at the hearing stage, it is highly recommended. One can generally receive unemployment compensation if one has been laid off, one has been terminated without committing willful misconduct, one does seasonal work, one doesn’t appear for work, or one feels they were forced to leave their job due to some action committed by an employer.

One generally cannot receive unemployment compensation benefits if one hasn’t developed enough working credits, one has broken a work rule or committed some other type of willful misconduct, one resigns without cause, one is working at another job for a certain number of hours a week, or one is operating an independent business.

The above conditions are the broadly set parameters, but they are subject to individual interpretation or a referee’s decision. At the application stage one of four things can happen:

  • The Agency decides that an applicant is eligible to receive benefits. If the former employer doesn’t disagree benefits will be received.
  • The Agency decides that an applicant is not eligible to receive benefits. The applicant can then appeal and request a hearing before a referee.
  • The Agency decides that an applicant is eligible to receive benefits, but the former employer disagrees. The employer can appeal and request a hearing before a referee. If a hearing is not requested by the employer, the applicant will receive benefits.

Let’s examine a typical situation when an applicant applies for unemployment compensation benefits which can result in loss of benefits:

Mary worked for a large company which was undergoing a reduction in force. Mary was given the option of accepting a severance package although it wasn’t certain that Mary would lose her job, and there was also the possibility that she could work in another department of the company if she lost her job. Mary accepted the severance package and applied for unemployment compensation benefits. Her former employer stated that she voluntarily accepted the severance package although her job had not yet been eliminated, requested a hearing, and Mary lost the hearing and benefits.

Remember that the hearing before the referee is a quasi adversarial process, and the legal concepts of presenting evidence properly, entering objections properly, cross-examining witnesses, raising legal arguments, etc. will be adhered to. The hearing is likely the only, and certainly the best opportunity that an applicant will have to make their case, because higher levels of appeal generally do not involve the granting of another hearing.


By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady”

HHS Says California Violated Federal Conscience Protections On Abortion Coverage

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights today issued a Notice of Violation (full text) to the state of California finding that the state violated federal law by making elective abortion coverage mandatory in all policies offered by insurance companies regulated by the state’s Department of Managed Health Care. A Christian church and a Catholic religious order filed complaints with HHS saying that California’s Mandate Letters to health care plans resulted in the religious organizations being required to offer their employees policies that cover abortions, in violation of the conscience provisions of the federal Weldon Amendment.

The Notice of Violation explains:

… [T]he only exemption California offered (to a health plan issuer) was limited to plans covering a narrow set of “religious employers” under California law. However, the Weldon Amendment protects from discrimination all plans that decline to cover abortion, without requiring any plan issuers, sponsors, or beneficiaries to have a religious character or have a religious reason for not providing or paying for such coverage…. [E]ven a categorical exemption of “religious employers,” as defined by California law, would have only been available to approximately 37% of those employer groups who, prior to the Mandate Letters, had health care coverage that limited or excluded abortion.

The Notice of Violation concludes:

If OCR does not receive sufficient assurance that California will cease requiring all health care plans, as a class, to cover abortion, or that it is willing to negotiate in good faith towards that end, OCR will forward this Notice of Violation and the evidence supporting OCR’s findings in this matter to the appropriate HHS funding components for further action under applicable grants and contracts regulations. Such referral may ultimately result in limitations on continued receipt of certain HHS funds in accordance with the Constitution and applicable Supreme Court case law.

HHS also issued a press release explaining its action which in part quotes the Director of HHS’s Office of Civil Rights:

We are putting California on notice that it must stop forcing people of good will to subsidize the taking of human life, not only because it’s the moral thing to do, but because it’s the law.

You can learn more about this issue here.

YesSource: Yes/ARW Live in Saratoga, 8/28/17

Here are my latest uploads to YesSource, my Yes rarities youtube page (about which you can read here).  This post is another addition to my series of Yes music posts and a collection of all my Yes-related posts is here.  Yes, of course, is a, if not the, premier progressive rock band, and I am an enormous fan of it.

You can see all of my Yessource uploads here.

My latest YesSource uploads can be found here:

Templeton Project: Humor in Dialogue

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Humor in Dialogue.”

See also:


Humor is appropriate in apologetic dialogue and witness, but there are boundaries to it.  I suggest these guidelines:

  1. No humor is acceptable that is at the personal expense of the other individual or individuals or is meant to discredit them.  It is the world view that needs to be discredited and revised through new insight, not the person.  If the person is deceptive, the strategy will probably show without help.
  2. Disarming humor to prove a point is acceptable, but one should be careful not to insult another.
  3. Off-color jokes have no place.
  4. Illustrative humor to explain your Chrisitan perspective is appropriate. (See Matthew 5: 27ff and 19: 24–examples of hyperbole)
  5. Telling jokes can be good if they are pertinent to the point that is being made. They should never serve as a distraction.
  6. One shouldn’t seek to show that the other is a fool.  This will come to light by what the other person or persons say and do.  They do not need your help. (Proverbs uses the word fool, for those who are fools.  But, in the course of a dialogue one should refrain from its use, for it does not promote conversation).
  7. Humor should always serve to further defense of the faith and witness to Christ.
  8. Laugh with, never at another person.  (Though it may be good at times to laugh at ourselves for our own foolishness).
  9. In the Warner Brother’s cartoon “Robin Hood Daffy,”  Daffy Duck shows that he is an incompetent Robin Hood.  Throughout, Porky Pig in the role of Friar Tuck laughs at Daffy.  At one    point, Daffy says, It is to laugh” with a sour, ironic humor.  He obviously does not mean what he says.  At the end Daffy becomes a friar like Tuck rather than pretending that he is an effective Robin Hood, “Defender of the Poor.”  Was Porky’s laughter helpful (I don’t think he meant to be helpful).  We should use humor to help others gain insight, not to get a good laugh.  We would expect the same treatment.  (I must admit, the cartoon made me laugh, but it’s only a cartoon).
  10. We should never be patronizing, showing in our words and actions that we feel superior to another.  (Being contemptuous can backfire).

Always remember what the author of Proverbs says:  “The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.” (Proverbs 10: 14 ESV)

Michael G. Tavella

August 20, 2019

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

Yes, From a Page: a Review

As most of you know, I am an enormous fan of the progressive rock (sometimes shorted to “prog”) band Yes (I have written more about the genre of progressive rock here and more about Yes here).  On October 25, 2019 Yes released the E.P. entitled From a Page.  This album was released in tandem in a box set with a re-release of the live album In the Present – Live from Lyon.  I will only be reviewing From a Page, which is comprised of previously unreleased studio songs.

Before I get into the meat of the review, here is the basic information for the album:

Track List:

  • To the Moment (Wakeman), 6:09
  • Words on a Page (Wakeman), 6:18
  • From the Turn of a Card (Wakeman), 3:24
  • The Gift of Love (Wakeman, Squire, Howe, David, White), 9:52



From 2002 – 2004 the “classic” Yes line up (Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Alan White, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman) toured extensively and successfully, but in 2005 the band inexplicably went on a hiatus.  Finally, in 2008, Yes reformed with Jon Anderson continuing as lead vocalist, but without Rick Wakeman on keyboards due a conflict with his prior commitments.  To replace Rick Wakeman, Yes hired on his son Oliver Wakeman to play keyboards, who is a very skilled keyboard player in his own right.  This quintet went ahead and scheduled the Close to the Edge and Back Tour.  Unfortunately, this tour was cancelled due to Jon Anderson suffering a severe asthma attack.  Controversially, Yes went forward without Jon Anderson and hired Youtube Yes cover singer sensation Benoit David to replace him.  This lineup of Yes toured consistently until its final tour in the spring of 2011 (see here and here and here and here and here).

In 2010/11 Yes felt its new lineup was sufficiently road tested to finally reenter the studio.  Yes then began the writing and recording of what was to become Fly From Here.  Over the course of these sessions, Yes – with the line up listed above – wrote and recorded several songs and pieces of music.  During the sessions for Fly From Here, Yes persuaded Trevor Horn to return and help produce the song “We Can Fly” which Horn, along with keyboardist Geoff Downes, wrote for Yes back when they joined the band for the recording of Drama in 1980, but never officially recorded or released (though did play live on the Drama tour).

As Yes recorded and arranged We Can Fly – which evolved from an approximately five minute long song into a twenty-three minute epic suite – Yes thought bringing Geoff Downes back into the fold to play keyboards on the song he originally brought to the band in 1980 would be a good idea.  Unfortunately for Oliver Wakeman, Trevor Horn’s influence grew and Geoff Downes eventually did more than just lay down some keyboard tracks on his old song.  As the recording of Fly From Here progressed, Oliver Wakeman found himself out of the band and Geoff Downes in as keyboardist.

Once Geoff Downes was a full member of Yes again, some of what Oliver Wakeman wrote and recorded with Yes for Fly From Here was shelved in favor of more material written and arranged by Trevor Horn and Downes.  Oliver Wakeman’s Yes material was returned to him and shelved for many years until the untimely death of Chris Squire (see here), which inspired Oliver Wakeman to take another look at it.  Oliver Wakeman then began working on the music as a personal project for his own enjoyment and memory of the band, but after musing about the music on Twitter, Yes (now constituted by Jon Davison, Billy Sherwood, Steve Howe, Alan White, and Geoff Downes (with Jay Schellen as a touring drummer)) expressed interest in revisiting these songs with Oliver Wakeman.  As the only remaining members of the lineup that wrote and recorded the songs, Steve Howe and Alan White approved their release as an official Yes album.

Oliver Wakeman took the lead in writing these songs (which is presumably why he was given them upon his departure), though one song was more of a group effort.  This release consists of the only studio recordings made by the Oliver Wakeman lineup of Yes, which, on that basis alone, makes it a really valuable and interesting release for any Yes fan.  It also makes one wonder “what if” this line up stayed together and what it could have accomplished.  I am grateful that, at the very least, we have this release to offer a window into this lineup and I am looking forward to what the current lineup of Yes can produce.  It is also worth noting that these recordings contain the bass playing and singing of Chris Squire.  This album may turn out to be the last album of finished studio recordings by Yes (aside from “unreleased” tracks or demos or studio sessions and the like that could be contained on archival releases) on which Squire performs and, for that reason alone, this collection of songs is valuable to any Yes fan.

Before I get into the songs, it should be noted that the song “From the Turn of a Card” was used on another album featuring Oliver Wakeman (Ravens & Lullabies with Gordon Giltrap) and “The Gift of Love” features elements written by Chris Squire later used on “The Game” (specifically the wordless vocals and the melody for the chorus which includes the title of the song) which was eventually recorded and released on the album Heaven & Earth (see here).

The Songs:

I wanted to wait on writing this review until after the euphoria of new Yes studio songs wore off of me.  My first reaction to the songs was very simple: joy.  Since I received the album, I think I have listened to it a thousand times and I have continued to enjoy it nearly as much each time.

As Oliver Wakeman is the primary composer, the music tends to be led by keyboards – indeed often piano – more than a typical collection of Yes music.  This approach is somewhat refreshing and offers an interesting take on what is otherwise a classic Yes sound.

The first song “To the Moment” is a rollicking song based around a crunching guitar lick.  The singing is melodic with really nice backing vocals over the chorus, which quickly becomes an earworm.  The keyboard features are classic progrock synth solos in a very (Rick) Wakeman-esque style.  The instrumental interlude is somewhat brief, but Steve Howe’s guitar soars.  Indeed, his playing is more adventurous, soaring, and melodic on this album than most of his playing on Fly From Here and Heaven & Earth.

“Words on a Page” could almost be the “And You And I” of the 2010s.  The melodies are strong and emotionally evocative, and Steve Howe’s steel guitar really brings out the emotion.  The music is piano based at first, but slowly builds into a traditional “big” Yes sound with memorable themes which build and recapitulate with different instruments.

“From the Turn of a Card” – in terms of the basic song – is nearly identical to the version release on Ravens & Lullabies.  On Ravens & Lullabies the song is, ironically, a lot more “prog rock” and sonically diverse and, in some ways, I like it better.  The version on From a Page is basically a piano solo with harmonized vocals.  O. Wakeman recorded entirely new piano parts for this song and used alternate takes of Benoit David’s vocals that he recorded on Ravens & Lullabies.  In fact, perhaps the most interesting part of this song is the register David sings in throughout.  While his range is certainly generally consistent with Jon Anderson on nearly every other Yes song he has ever sung, he sings in a significantly deeper (i.e.: lower) register on this song, far lower than nearly any other Yes song and/or singer in Yes history, and that offers a new and welcome sort of sound for Yes.

“The Gift of Love” is the traditional long Yes track for this album.  This song is a melodious multi-part song with its sections being introduced, modulated, and recapitulated throughout the song in the standard Yes way, often contrasted with countermelodies.  This song, I think, can fit into best of the Yes canon.

“The Gift of Love” hits almost all the right notes for a Yes fan.  In fact, these songs do, in many places, what I love most about Yes songs.  There is very little straight up chord playing.  Instead, in the classic Yes style, the bass, guitar, keyboard, and singing are often playing different melodic lines that all seem to somehow work together in harmony.  The depth and complexity of what one should expect from Yes is present in this music.

The playing on the album is excellent.  Wakeman’s playing is perhaps the best keyboard playing on a Yes album since the Keys to Ascension collection.  Steve Howe’s guitar soars throughout, especially his steel guitar, however his acoustic work is atypically understated.  The singing is top notch and the backup singing is strong.  In fact, David’s performance on this album is much better than on Fly From Here.  The bass playing bears Chris Squire’s signature style and sound, however I have to say that of all the great parts on this album, there are no real memorable basslines or bass parts.  The drumming is sound and a lot stronger than what Alan White can muster today, but aside form a handful of interesting and subtle moments (like toward the end of “The Gift of Love”), the drumming is unremarkable.  Finally, perhaps another criticism that could be leveled at this album is that there is no really rocking and/or high tempo song.  They do not really get much beyond the mid-tempo “To the Moment.”

Overall, this album is a fantastic Yes album and can easily stand with the Yes canon.  It bears all the hallmarks of the traditional Yes sound, while also bringing a fresh, rejuvenated, and joyful approach that, for the Yes fan, makes for a very satisfying album.  Profound thanks to Oliver Wakeman for writing most of this music, inspiring Yes to play and develop it, and motivating the release of it.

Finally, the album art is a traditional Roger Dean Yes album cover.  The cover is one of his better ones from the last few years, as it has some unique elements (e.g.: the ship).  The back cover is, more or less, an artistic sequel to the artwork he provided for In the Present.

How Everything Became the Culture War

America’s petty tribal arguments are now driving the bus on serious policy. Here’s why we should worry.

Michael Grunwald is a senior staff writer for Politico Magazine.

You can find this article here.

To understand how American politics got the wayit is today, it helps to rewind the tape to the presidential campaign of John McCain—specifically to his effort to win back a listless crowd at an otherwise forgettable campaign event in south-central Pennsylvania in the summer of 2008. The Republican nominee had opened by promising a country-over-party approach to politics, recalling his compromises with Democrats like Ted Kennedy: “We’ll have our disagreements, but we’ve got to be respectful.” The Republican crowd sat in silence. McCain then denounced Vladimir Putin’s incursion into independent Georgia, warning that “history is often made in remote, obscure places.” No one seemed interested in that particular remote and obscure place.

McCain just couldn’t connect with the crowd, until he unleashed a garbled riff about how Congress shouldn’t be on recess when gasoline prices were soaring. “My friends,” he said, “the message we want to send to Washington, D.C. is: ‘Come back off your vacation, go back to Washington, fix our energy problems, and drill and drill now, drill offshore and drill now!’” It lacked the poetic brevity of the “Drill, baby, drill” line his future running mate, Sarah Palin, would use to fire up crowds, but the York Expo Center suddenly erupted with raucous cheers. It felt visceral, almost violent, as if McCain had given his supporters permission to drill someone they hated. McCain flashed an uneasy grin, like a kid who had just set off his first firecracker, delighted but also a bit frightened by its power. He wasn’t really a drill-baby-drill politician, but he could sense his party drifting toward drill-baby-drill politics.

A decade later, McCain is dead, bipartisanship is just about dead—his funeral felt like the rare exception that proved the rule—and the leader of the Republican Party is a world-class polarizer who mocked McCain’s service while cozying up to Putin on his way to the White House. President Donald Trump has pioneered a new politics of perpetual culture war, relentlessly rallying his supporters against kneeling black athletes, undocumented Latino immigrants and soft-on-crime, weak-on-the-border Democrats. He reverses the traditional relationship between politics and governance, weaponizing policy to mobilize his base rather than mobilizing his base to change policy. And in the Trump era, just about every policy issue is a wedge issue, not only traditional us-against-them social litmus tests like abortion, guns, feminism and affirmative action, or even just the president’s pet issues of immigration and trade, which he has wielded as cultural cudgels to portray Americans as victims of foreign exploiters. These days, even climate change, infrastructure policy and other domestic issues normally associated with wonky panels at Washington think tanks have been repackaged into cultural-resentment fodder.

At a time when Blue and Red America have split into two warring tribes inhabiting two separate realities, and “debate” has been redefined to evoke split-screen cable-news screamfests, this ferocious politicization of everything might seem obvious and unavoidable. But it’s also dangerous. It’s as if the rowdy cultural slap-fight the kids were having in the back seat has moved into the front, threatening to swerve the national car off the road. Transforming difficult analytical questions into knee-jerk emotional battlegrounds will dramatically increase the danger that thoughtless short-term choices will throw off our long-term national trajectory. And even beyond the impact on the quality of our public policy decisions, the ferocious politicization of everything is not healthy for the American body politic, which is why a Russian troll farm used fake social media accountsto gin up protests and counterprotests about hot-button issues like police shootings and Trump’s border wall. Our foreign adversaries like it when we yell at one another.

Honestly, though, we don’t need much prodding. Democrats and Republicans are increasingly self-segregated and mutually disdainful, each camp deploying the furious language of victimhood to justify its fear and loathing of the gullible deplorables in the other. One side boycotts Chick-fil-A (over gay rights), Walmart (over sweatshops) and companies that do business with the National Rifle Association, while the other boycotts Nike (over Colin Kaepernick), Starbucks (over refugees, gay marriage and non-Christmas-specific holiday cups) and companies that stop doing business with the NRA. We live in an era of performative umbrage. Every day is Festivus, a ritual airing of our grievances about Kathy Griffin, Roseanne Barr, fake news, toxic masculinity and those fancy coffee machines that Sean Hannity’s viewers decided to destroy for some reason. Every decision about where to shop or what to drive or what to watch is now an opportunity to express our political identities. The 24-hour news cycle has become a never-ending national referendum on Trump.

Politically, it makes sense that debates over highly technical challenges like energy and climate change have been transformed into shirts-and-skins identity issues. Ron DeSantis, the Trump-loving Republican former congressman running for governor of Florida, recently proclaimed that he’s “not in the pews of the Church of Global Warming Leftists,” a very 2018 way of expressing opposition to carbon regulations, renewable energy subsidies and other forms of climate action. He wasn’t disputing that the planet is getting hotter, or questioning the scientific data on the dangers of fossil fuels. He was clarifying which team he’s on, and more specifically which team he isn’t on, the team of tree-hugging scolds who look down on ordinary Americans for eating bacon and using plastic straws. You can see that sentiment expressed in less genteel ways if you search YouTube for “rolling coal,” where pollution-porn videos flaunt diesel trucks (sometimes dubbed “Prius repellents”) retrofitted to spew thick clouds of black smoke into the air, the transportation version of a middle finger to the opposing tribe. And there’s no denying that the opposing tribe of conspicuous composters and recyclers and Tesla drivers have their own identitarian rituals that pointedly broadcast their wokeness.

As long as America keeps sorting itself into two factions divided by geography, ethnicity and ideology, pitting a multiracial team of progressives who live in cities and inner-ring suburbs against a white team of conservatives who live in exurbs and rural areas, this is what debates about public policy—or for that matter about the FBI, the dictator of North Korea and the credibility of various sexual assault allegations—will look like. We will twist the facts into our partisan narratives. The self-inflicted wounds will infect more and more of our lives. And if you want something else to worry about, consider where it might be spreading next.

Politics has always been adversarial. Traditionally, though, we’ve had a fairly robust national consensus about a fairly broad set of goals—a strong defense, a decent safety net, freedom from excessive government interference—even though we’ve squabbled over how to achieve them. What’s different about drill-baby-drill politics is the transformation of even nonpartisan issues into mad-as-hell battles of the bases, which makes it virtually impossible for politicians to solve problems in a two-party system. Cooperation and compromise start to look like capitulation, or even treasonous collusion with the enemy.

Take infrastructure spending, which was once reasonably uncontroversial, at least in principle. Today, many conservatives portray it as a liberal plot to siphon rural tax dollars into urban bike paths, subways, and high-speed rail boondoggles that unions will build and Democratic city slickers will use. The Trump administration actually changed the rules of the most prominent grant program for local transportation projects so that it explicitly favors rural projects, infuriating liberals who now see it as a slush fund for sprawl roads to nowhere serving out-in-the-boonies Trump voters. The war over Obamacare has a similar mine-versus-yours feel; many Republicans see it as a scheme to redistribute tax dollars (and the hard-earned Medicare benefits of older Americans) to lazy and entitled Barack Obama voters, while Democrats see the intense opposition to universal health care as generational warfare on behalf of the aging white GOP base.

There’s no denying that the opposing tribe of conspicuous composters and recyclers and Tesla drivers have their own identitarian rituals that pointedly broadcast their wokeness.

Trump has never shown much interest in the details of policy, but he does understand how to use the levers of government to reward his allies and punish his enemies. He froze the pay of federal employees, a key Democratic constituency, while approving a $12 billion bailout for farmers, who, like other industries, have taken a hit from his trade wars, but, unlike other industries, tend to vote as a Republican bloc. Trump’s tax bill hammered blue states by reining in deductions for state and local taxes, while his energy policies have provided relief to red states that rely heavily on fossil fuels. His administration has picked fights with California, the epicenter of coastal-elite Blue America, over fuel-efficiency standards, net neutrality and water policy.

It’s probably not a coincidence that this shift is happening at a time when college-educated voters are trending Democratic and noncollege whites have been Trump’s most reliable constituency. Policies that hurt colleges, like policies that hurt cities, are policies that hurt Democrats. To listen to pols talk about college these days is to watch a wedge issue in its embryonic stage, as substantive questions about the cost and relevance of higher ed, the burdens of student debt, the adequacy of worker training and the power of political correctness on campus start to morph into red-meat attacks on pointy-headed elitists who look down on ironworkers and brainwash America’s youth. Republicans are starting to fit the Democratic push for universal free college into their larger critique of the Democratic urge to hand out free stuff to Democratic voters. And they’re portraying a liberal arts education as a culturally liberal thing, like kale or Kwanzaa or reusable shopping bags.

I saw a soft-edged version of this anti-college theme at a manufacturing roundtable that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Republican candidate for governor, held in September in Youngstown. DeWine listened for an hour as a group of executives complained how teenagers are constantly told they need college degrees to get ahead in life, how students who might flourish in programs to prepare them for factory jobs are steered into mainstream classes they hate. DeWine perked up when the director of a local career center said that only 12 percent of students who pursue four-year degrees end up earning enough to pay off their loans and that many never learn about other options. “The goal should be exposing kids to more things, not forcing them into anything,” DeWine interjected.

“We need to stop pushing everyone into college,” Renacci said. “Let’s get this stigma off our backs: You can live the American dream without college.”

Renacci’s event was supposed to be about trade, but none of the local farmers expressed any concern about the beating they’re taking from Trump’s trade war. What they expressed concern about was illegal immigrants who commit crimes and demand handouts; the deep state; Democrats who want to steal from Medicare to fund Obamacare; and Antifa thugs. Even though their party controls Washington and Columbus, they believe they’re under siege; one 60-something farmer told me he’s afraid to speak out because “radical Democrats will burn your house down.” When I said that seemed unlikely in the rural expanses of Ashtabula County, he said I should check out the angry leftist millennials he’s seen when he’s visited the Ohio State campus, “wearing boots and backpacks and shouting stupid slogans.” I asked him whether he supports government spending on higher education for those millennials, and he shot back: “I’ll tell you what I don’t support: free college for illegals and higher taxes for me.”

There are real policy debates to be had over higher education, and they’re important. U.S. universities aren’t blameless: They’ve jacked up their tuition costs much faster than inflation, overpopulated their faculties with liberals, failed to hold themselves accountable for the employment outcomes of their students and policed speech to the point that they look more concerned with stamping out “micro-aggressions” than promoting free inquiry. At the same time, a lot of work has been done to try to make colleges, especially community colleges, more relevant to the job market; DeWine’s roundtable event highlighted a model partnership between local educators and manufacturers. The Obama administration also established tough new rules limiting federal dollars to institutions that don’t move students into gainful employment. Ironically, the Trump administration is trying to roll back those rules, as well as others providing relief to students defrauded by Trump University-style for-profit diploma mills.

What they expressed concern about was illegal immigrants who commit crimes and demand handouts; the deep state; Democrats who want to steal from Medicare to fund Obamacare; and Antifa thugs.

But modern politics isn’t about these nuances of policy substance. It isn’t evidence-based. The debate over immigration isn’t really about measured wage effects or growth effects; it’s about whether a diverse America is the “real” one, and whether nonwhite newcomers make the country great. The Trump fans who came to see Renacci in Ashtabula County didn’t care any more about the details of higher education studies than they cared about the details of Paul Manafort’s guilty plea or our trade deficit with Canada. (It’s actually a surplus, a fact that will change approximately zero minds about Trump’s trade rhetoric.) The signal of substance breaks through the noise of politics so rarely that the noise has become the signal.

Donald Trump was not the first Republican president to exploit America’s divisions. Think of Richard Nixon rallying his “silent majority” against bra-burning, free-loving, acid-dropping hippies, or even George H.W. Bush running against flag-burning and Willie Horton. And Trump didn’t create the so-called Big Sort of Americans into two ideologically polarized, geographically and racially segregated, mutually suspicious partisan camps. The rift between the mostly white camp of gun-owning, evangelical-church-going Fox News watchers who live relatively spread out and the more diverse camp of Whole Foods-shopping, funky-cafe-going NPR listeners who live closer together has been widening for decades.

Trump may be America’s leading culture warrior, but a war requires two armies. The frequent journalistic safaris into the right side of America’s divide tend to focus on the unwavering faith that Trump supporters have in Trump, but polls suggest the left side is just as prone to motivated reasoning about politics, and perhaps even more consumed by anger over politics. In a Pew Research Center survey, 47 percent of liberal Democrats said that if a friend supported Trump, it would put a strain on their friendship, and 68 percent of all Democrats said it’s “stressful and frustrating” to talk to Trump supporters. Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, had to fire his youth outreach director for posing for an Instagram post while wearing a shirt featuring the 2016 electoral map, with blue states labeled “United States of America” and Trump states labeled “Dumbfuckistan.” It was a perfect manufactured-outrage episode for our time—needless to say, similar shirts on which the blue states are labeled Dumbfuckistan are available for purchase—but it did reflect a common Democratic disdain for Republican rubes in the provinces.

So the culture war is not all about Trump. But Trump has a destructive genius for exploiting the culture war, exploding Washington’s norms of decorum and euphemism to trash his adversaries and torture the truth, portraying Puerto Ricans as ungrateful, immigrants as dangerous and Democrats as un-American. You’re with him or you’re with the terrorists. And the rest of Washington, which was already uncelebrated for civility, has followed him into perennial attack mode, to the point that even Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh bellowed partisan conspiracy theories during his confirmation hearing.

Our higher education system is still one of America’s most valuable competitive assets, and breaking it in a fit of cultural fury would be the national equivalent of choking on diesel smoke to own the libs.

It’s hard to have serious public debates about the massive changes in public policy that Trump is pursuing, because there’s no longer a clear path for facts and logic to break through the daily onslaught of demonization and obfuscation. We’re too busy fighting to think. It’s especially tough to have an evidence-based debate about an issue like trade when Trump proclaims at one rally that his tariffs have prompted U.S. Steel to open seven new plants, and after fact-checkers point out the actual number is zero, he ups the number to eight or nine at his next rally. He understands that modern political debates don’t depend on facts or logic. Where you stand—on questions of whether to believe Kavanaugh’s accusers and whether there was any collusion with Russia, as well as questions about corporate tax rates or lifetime insurance caps—depends almost entirely on where you sit. Deficits are bad when your team is in charge, benign when my team is in charge. I’m being denied due process by a witch hunt, but you belong in jail. I’m no puppet; you’re the puppet.

This is presumably how entire countries turn into Dumbfuckistan. The solutions to our political forever war are pretty obvious: Americans need to rebuild mutual trust and respect. We need to try to keep open minds, to seek information rather than partisan ammunition. We need to agree on a shared foundation of facts from authoritative sources. But those words looked ridiculous the moment I typed them. Americans are not on the verge of doing any of those things. Once the dogs of war have been unleashed, it’s hard to call them back. And we should at least consider the possibility that we’re fighting this forever war because we like it.

The thing I remember most about Trump’s rallies in 2016, especially the auto-da-fé moments in which he would call out various liars and losers who didn’t look like the faces in his crowds, was how much fun everyone seemed to be having. The drill-baby-drill candidate would drill the Mexicans, drill the Chinese, drill the gun-grabbers, drill all the boring Washington politicians who had made America not-great. It sure as hell wasn’t boring. It was a showman putting on a show, a culture-war general firing up his internet troops. It wasn’t a real war, like the one that Trump skipped while John McCain paid an unimaginable price, but it made the spectators feel like they were not just spectating, like they had joined an exhilarating fight. They got the adrenaline rush, the sense of being part of something larger, the foxhole camaraderie of war against a common enemy, without the physical danger.

It’s not clear how a fight like that would ever end.

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