Some of us envision our universe as a jewellike globe cupped lovingly in our Savior's hands. Others see only a swirling free fall through rippling spacetime with no meanings of support except the inherited relations and loyalties we cultivate.
Each viewpoint can afford us wide measures of good-humored compassion. Either can also stir up deep cauldrons of embittered fear and fury.
Each outlook can fortify us against much that might annihilate our physical existence. But what about threats to our perceived identities? Is a protean identity (one that embraces change) more or less conducive to emotional and physical wellbeing? Are our physical and cultural environments pressing us to embrace flexible or fixed identities?
Do we even have much choice as to who and what we allow to mold our sense of "self"?
I think of the MAGA boys, especially the nervous sneerer faced off temporarily against the old warrior. I think of the culture clash over the meaning of that scarlet MAGA cap snapped into infamy by social media. I think of what it means to defend the personhood of the unborn - or the personhood of any class of human who has traditionally been ignored or denied full status.
How often is personhood part of a zero-sum game where the assertion of personhood for one group means the diminution of status to another? In the abortion debate, women are divided between those who feel their own personal integrity threatened by reproductive restrictions v. those demanding protection for "persons" with absolutely no faculties for any form of self-defense. Not all of those who defend the unborn associate themselves with the MAGA cap or the malignant magus who promotes them. But the MAGA boys did.
The snapshot battles over the MAGA boys are rarely about abortion. They are even more rarely about the churches who martial their forces to favor the unborn. Each fracas is generally focused on the extent to which the red caps signify racism, and from there whether or not the sneerers and the whoopers had "racism in their hearts". But their unformed and unfathomable hearts have nothing to do with the significance of the cap which, like it or not, is just another avatar of the burning cross, the white hood, and the Confederate flag.
No doubt the diocese of Covington has done some measure of soul searching about the symbolism. The rest of us, though, must battle it out. We must battle it out knowing that so-called established churches are willingly aligning themselves behind their modern day Cyrus to make magnificent thunder against those who battle for their own personhood beneath the bleak winter sun.
Is it a good thing when people who unfurl Confederate Flags and sport MAGA caps deny the racist significance of these symbols? Is this the homage that vice pays to virtue? Or are these the soulless prevarications of childish wraiths who would shout all of us down - or worse?
Maybe someday, with or without the help of organized religion, we can find ways to affirm and advance everyone's personhood. But to do that, we must look beyond the identities which some of us cling to like the last oak leaves in winter cling to jagged branches. We must look to whatever is true inside us which we all might be able to perceive no matter how we conceive of our "creation".
Joe Panzica (Author of Democracy STRUGGLES! and Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass for which he is seeking an agent . . .)