New story needed
To the Journal editor:
Our everyday moods, interests, and feelings are largely determined by how well our present experiences match up with our currently favored “inner story” of how things ought to be. When things follow our inner script, we’re happy and hopeful.
The unfolding inner stories of individual people will largely determine with whom they will interact. Social media and cable TV news networks provide like-minded adherents with an encouraging refuge where everybody seems to share similar inner narratives.
Truth be told, the so-called American “melting pot” has always been more like a boiling cauldron of competing stories than a place where people bringing different stories come together to share and appreciate them. All of us came here from somewhere else. Even the earliest known human occupants of North America probably came here from Asia via Beringia. We’re all immigrants. Immigrants with our own peculiar favored stories.
Religious systems might be thought of as clusters of stories. Humans do not innately know where they came from or what their supposed to do, so groups collect important stories from their respected elders. The supposed sources of some of these stories seem bizarre and fanciful; burning bushes that talk or disappearing tablets written in a secret language that requires magical glasses. Nevertheless, religious stories seem to inspire and elevate their particular adherents. Most of the time, however, we embrace our own stories and look askance at those who are different.
The story of American religion is also the story of the Protestants rejecting the Catholics, the Christians fearing the Moslems, persistent prejudice against the Jews, and everybody acting like exploiting African slaves for four hundred years isn’t as bad as it might seem; unless, of course, you’re the child of a slave ripped out of the arms of your mother and sold.
We often employ a double standard in assessing the behavior of those outside our narrative tribe. People in our tribe “fall on hard times”. Outsiders are worthless welfare cheats. After all that bellyaching about not wanting government handouts during this pandemic, it turns out less than one percent of those receiving automatic stimulus checks chose not to cash them or to send them back. So, I guess that makes us all welfare kings and queens.
We desperately need a new story to share before it’s too late. This one has a very, very bad ending.