Well after all, Ritual is just sentimental foolishness. It’s all fluff and no substance. Why celebrate and commemorate a birthday, a wedding, a death? What is real and true are the forces in the world and the universe that churn away relentlessly; they are out there beyond us and have no interest in our petty subjective concerns. We hanker for objectivity and the independence of real fact, real forces, and the objectively true!
Yet on Wednesday, January the 20th, a calm settled over this nation. A sense of relief and normalcy began to restore itself, in many a mind. Songs were sung. Oaths were taken. Speeches were made. Promises were bestowed. Parades were (virtually) marched. History was cited and speculations as to our future abounded. It’s what we do as an American People at our best. We re-establish our unity. We confirm our commitment to the shared Principles, Goals, and Behaviors that will facilitate our close proximity: house to house, apartment to apartment, farm to farm, city to city, “from sea to shining sea.”
Ritual is one of the pillars of Human Mind. It is an essential way for us to ‘get on the same page’ Subjectively! Far from subjectivity being arbitrary, largely private, and lacking in orderly substance, it was in Ritual —as a rehearsal, idealization, test run, and then a constitution of our many coordinated behaviors— that the eventual conceptual split between the Subjective and the Objective was initiated, but not necessarily accurately. Group hunting, mate selection, birth and death, verbal communication, fear and joy, curiosity, were all being orchestrated and objectified for various human groups, and most especially “our group”, which ever you happened to be in. The Human Mind is our coordinated behavior and our coordinated ideas and emotions about that Collective Behavior, Our Larger Unity. These are Patterns that are Objective to Us, but not totally independent of us, says the philosopher Dan Dennett.
(ORGANIZING OUR BEHAVIOR, IDEAS AND EMOTIONS THROUGH RITUAL: the American Nation (top left), Anansi the trickster god for West Africa, the Team, the Hunt of caribou, the Scientific Method, mistletoe with Meaning for ancient Druids (bottom left), Birth and Womanhood portrayed in a Venus figure of Cro-Magnon Europeans, a Commemorative Hindu expression, modern American’s feeling The Spirit. EXAMPLES IN A HISTORY OF HUMANS ATTEMPTING TO ORGANIZE THEIR BEHAVIOR AND THEIR EMOTIONAL LIVES. IT IS AN ONGOING SEARCH, AN ONGOING DISCUSSION concerning our joint behavior and its interpretations.)
Yet The American Nation remains seriously divided. Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris have pledged to work for unity, but too many Americans, too many Republicans, refuse to adequately disavow the obvious illegal and unconstitutional behavior of the thug Trump.
And also in My Family; who will work to restore its unity? The “soothing realities of American Democratic Ritual” have yet to take hold firmly enough here also. On the day of the Trump-Led Insurrection, in complete exasperation, I called my Pro-Trump Brother In Law as I watched. I said (in effect), “Look where you guys have gotten us!” He was shocked by it and watching too, but he refused to take the lion’s share of the blame. “It is also the Democrats”, he insisted. Pelosi and Schumer and Cortez, just as much as Trump and his whack-job conspiracy-mongering followers, “They got us here too”, he insisted.
We did not talk long; it was going nowhere.
Later I found out that his wife, my sister in law, also received a phone call from her brother that day. He too put the pressure on, again basically saying, “Look at the nonsense you have helped create!” She also tried to shift too much blame onto “The Democrats”, I learned.
I had told my wife I had called her brother that Wednesday of the lawlessness, when I was off work and watching as she was at work, teaching. She took it pretty well, at that point, partly because I assured her I did not push it too far or too long and it was not an overly acrimonious conversation. But several days later, as we were relaxing and enjoying some wine and reviewing all the upsetting historical developments, her fears and anger came forth. It was I who started talking politics with her family, she said. “Look at the mess you have created now!” (a familiar phrase in this whole story) she now demanded of me!
My wife had always been cautious not to bring politics into her family, and initially when I had, it went well. Those were before the days of Trump, when her brother and I had polite, quiet, and interesting exchanges of opinions and facts. But since the poisonous Trump, conversation had stopped, only to burst forth again with the emotions of insurrection!
What soothing rituals will help bind these wounds and bring this family back together? And our Nation? Oh, woe is me!