Three Reasons the 'MAGA Bomber' Is a Warning About Turning Politics Into a Religion
Something is wrong with America's political culture, and Cesar Sayoc, the alleged "MAGA bomber," can help illustrate what it is. What drove Sayoc to allegedly send incendiary devices to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros? Was he just insane, or was he turning to politics to find his ultimate meaning? Was his attack the expression of America's eroding civility?
Just over one year ago, I warned that James Hodgkinson, the congressional baseball game shooter who almost killed Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), offered a warning about turning politics into a religion. That may seem an odd concept, but it helps explain why liberals and conservatives have become more bloodthirsty about political disputes, and why some have vocally encouraged harassment and even violence against their political opponents.
Shortly after President Donald Trump's inauguration, National Review's David French wrote, "I'm beginning to get a sense of what it was like to be alive in ancient times when a marauding warlord melted down your village's golden calf. Weeping. Gnashing of teeth. Rending of garments. Wearing of vagina hats. Their god failed to protect the village, and now he's a bracelet on the warlord's wrist."
This visceral reaction revealed that so many Americans had placed their ultimate loyalty and identity in their political tribe, and that made the victory of their opponent an existential crisis.
Aristotle wrote that man is a political animal, and by that he meant that human beings flourish best in the context of a shared tribe — a community that gives individuals a sense of identity and meaning, the belief that they are part of something larger than themselves.
This tribal instinct binds together families, towns, churches, and nations, but it needs to be directed to the right things. Augustine's "The City of God" presented a model of civility by separating politics (the City of Man) from religion (the City of God). It's not that politics doesn't matter, he argued, but a Christian's ultimate loyalty is to God.
This Christian model of civility inspired America's pluralistic culture, enabling disagreement on fundamental issues even while Americans remain united as a country. America is built on the notion that politics exists to enable human beings to do more important things.
Cesar Sayoc emphatically rejected that notion, and he provides key insights into why Americans are rejecting civility.
1. His father left when he was young.
Cesar Sayoc was a boy when his father left the family, The New York Times reported. This may seem an odd place to look for insight, but children who grow up without their fathers are more likely to end up poor, to struggle in school, and to engage in violent crime. About 24.7 million kids in America grow up without their fathers.