The left is politicizing our calming safety-valve institutions—the national anthem, marriage, statues, even leisure—damning them as expressions of an oppressive regime that must be overthrown. But these institutions need to be defended in order to relieve the pressures that are mounting and tearing society apart…
If there is an image that represents the present state of the nation, it might be a pressure cooker. Such cooking devices are not much used in these microwave days of instant everything. The hermetically-sealed appliance uses steam pressure to penetrate foods and cook them quickly with a lower loss of vitamin or minerals associated with normal boiling. The key to successful pressure cooking is the proper functioning of the safety valve that can release excess steam and prevent explosions.
The situation inside America today is very much like a pressure cooker. The powerful forces involved in today’s events and debates build up pressure that quickly penetrates into the culture and political arena. As the conflicts between the diverse factions increase, the pressure is reaching dangerously high levels.
The Need for Safety Valves
Differences are natural to the political life of any nation. People, groups, and political parties will always disagree on some issues. However, there are usually shared principles, symbols, ideals, or even pastimes or places that serve as safety valves to alleviate the inevitable frictions of living life in common. Every society needs safety valve institutions to serve as outlets for pent-up energy or emotion.
The problem today is that these safety-valve institutions are under attack everywhere. In fact, they are now deliberately thrown into the pressurized debate and not allowed to function as they should. It is an explosive situation.
The debate about the national anthem in NFL football stadiums is a perfect example. The national anthem and flag always served as symbols of unity for the nation. They were like safety valves representing an ideal that transcended the pressurized tension of daily life. Everyone could identify with them. As symbols of unity, they calmed down the passions of political debate. Likewise, football was a safety-valve pastime that united Americans of all persuasions around a local team. The national anthem controversy has irreparably damaged these safety-valve institutions.
The Causes of Damage to Safety Valves
The causes of this damage are many and embrace all sectors of society.
- When people become self-absorbed and insensitive to the interests of others, they block the safety valves of charity and civility. They are turning America into an uncivil nation.
- When people indulge in the fantasies of self-identification, they abandon the safety valve notion of embracing reality. They then create a tyranny of unreality (and new English pronouns) to which all must bend their knee.
- The frenetic intemperance of living a fast-paced life without restraint creates a brutal climate in which the safety valves of leisure and social interaction suffer.
Today, even places of entertainment, which serve as safety valves, are no longer safe. The Las Vegas and so many other shootings have made any venue where people gather a target for deranged killers.
Politicizing Safety-Valve Issues
However, the greatest cause of damage is the fact that the left is politicizing these safety-valve institutions. They see these calming safety-valve issues as expressions of an oppressive regime that must be overthrown. Even the slightest recourse to safety-valve traditions is decried as intolerable oppression that must be eliminated. The left understands the importance of the safety valve to stability in society. That is why they are using safety-valve issues to advance their cause. These include the flag, political correctness, marriage, transgenderism, statues, leisure, or even bathrooms. Everything must be challenged. Change must be brutally imposed.
Pressures build in such a climate and can lead to radical social shifts. Indeed, life becomes impossible without safety valves. A pressure cooker without one quickly becomes a stovetop bomb.
That is why these small cultural issues which seem so insignificant are very important. They need to be defended to relieve the pressures that are mounting and tearing society apart. Many people think that the nation can be turned around by economic stimulus, populist rhetoric, or legislative packages. They are mistaken.
America will recover only when it returns to a framework of principles under the protection of God. It must also return to a society bristling with calm, stabilizing institutions that serve as safety valves to relieve the pressure of social conflict and to restore the human element of a truly organic Christian society.
The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now.