Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Trouble We're In

Gary Kimaya writes a nearly perfect encapsulation of the thinking of many on the left, "Is There Life After Bush?"

Like so many, Kamiya has become so focused on the excesses of the Bush administration, he has a hard time seeing the bigger picture. Which unfortunately is quite grim.

Back when South Carolinians were electing the 90+ year old Strom Thurmond, I used to joke (mostly) that the problem wasn't Senator Thurmond but rather the people who kept voting for him. Indeed, I used to propose that states or other jurisdictions which made obviously foolish choices -- choices that were not merely unwise or foolish, but choices that bespoke a fundamental lack of judgment such as sending an obviously incompetent man to the Senate -- should be penalized by having the right to send a representative suspended for some time, say 10 years.

The point of this was to focus blame where it belonged: on the people hiring these guys. And as awful as these guys can be (I'm talking to you, Junior Bush), they aren't the problem. The problem is our fellow Americans who keep voting for them. And they're not going anywhere.

In some imporant ways, people like this have been here since the Puritans landed. There have been sporadic clashes between these forces and the rest of the nation as long as there has been a nation.

But what's happening lately takes this to a new level. This slice of America is becoming radicalized as it is becoming organized and entrenched. It is a religious phenomenon, but it is also unmistakably a political and cultural phenomenon. Alexandra Pelosi's Friends of God offers a compelling glimpse of the alternative society now growing withing our larger society: a distinctively militaristic and persecuted society, in which almost any measures are acceptable because they are mandated by God (whose word is delivered by humble servants like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell). It is a society that proclaims its commitment to Christianity while it actively works to thwart Christian values.

Unfortuantely, the harm is not confined to the many good people who have been fooled into buying into this nonsense. No, this pool of people is an ocean of gasoline waiting for a match. And the flames will threaten us all.

In "American Fascists," Chris Hedges describes this movement. Comparing it to movements he witnessed in other parts of the world, he told Salon

Those of us in New York, Boston, San Francisco or some of these urban pockets don't understand how radically changed our country is, don't understand the appeal of these buffoonish figures to tens of millions of Americans.

This build-up of fear and hate, of expressed longing for a cataclysm that will finally give their lives the meaning they now lack, will not just go away when Bush goes away. No, as Hedges told Salon

It takes time to acculturate a society to a radical agenda, but that acculturation has clearly begun here, and I don't see people standing up and trying to stop them.

So the problem, friends, is not merely this or that horrendous politician or preacher. The problem is with our fellow Americans themselves. Bush didn't vote himself into office (Supreme Court or no, the man got a lot of votes.) Bush is the symptom of a much larger problem we will have to confront -- sooner or later.

God in America

A lot of talk about religion in our society these days. The thing that always strikes me is that the people with the most passion in their assertions about God, Jesus and all the rest are mostly trying to convince themselves.

Watched Alexandra Pelosi’s “Friends of God” on HBO, and was struck by this with renewed force watching Ted Haggard, who was earnestly explaining how great it was to be a heterosexual Christian because of all the great sex within marriage. I can’t believe he was trying to convince anyone as much as he was himself.

Alexandra showed us all manner of Pharisees and scribes, all of whom were fixated on telling other people what God wanted. (Evidently, He is much consumed with marriage.) I seem to recall the New Testament as being fairly clear that faith is something that is personal and that the important part is what is between each person and God.

So I’m fairly certain that all this talk about God and religion is in fact not really connected to religion at all. If someone really has faith, I’m not sure what’s gained by talking about it.