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The Secret Triggers Behind The American Identity

September 12, 2010 1 comment
Wagon Circle

"The white folks wouldn't let us into they're wagon circle, so we made our own." --Blazing Saddles

Picture a wagon train from the old west. What do they do when they encounter an Indian war party? They circle-up, point all their guns outwards, and pray.

That picture is the prototypical metaphor of America. It goes a long way to explain who we are and why we want what we want.

About six months ago, I started wondering why the Tea Party had caught on so strongly in America. There are several general reasons, but no obvious causes for such strong emotion. Its core platform has to do with deficit spending, which does not have the emotional wedge of abortion, immigration, crime, or national security. The movement seems to be thriving on an anti-taxation platform despite the fact that so far, taxes have not increased. By contrast, Clinton actually raised taxes midway through his first term, and it did not spark the visible outcry we see today.

The Tea Party makes a nice, visceral example of American moral and political outcry, but my questions are broader than that. Is there some subtle nerve being hit here, that runs deeper than the obvious surface issues? Some secret anxiety that runs through the core American identity, of which this is just one example?

It seems to me that secret triggers are working below the visible surface of these issues. And I believe that these triggers are core to the fundamental American political traditions and beliefs. Read more…