Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Rallying Cry For Reason

This weekend blowhard du jour, Glenn Beck, and his air headed cheerleader, Sarah Palin, are rallying the country to "take it back."

Some folks are cheering them on. Some folks are scared. Some are indifferent. Me? I'm just incredibly sad. What has this country come to?

Here is a quote from Beck:

"My role is, as I see it, to wake America up to the back-sliding of principles and values and, most importantly, of God. We are a country of God. As I look at the problems in our country, quite honestly I think the hot breath of destruction is breathing on our necks."

From Palin:

"What else do we have, at the end of the day," beyond faith in God."

Well, Sarah, that's a good question.

I'm sure many of the people reading this are asking, "What's wrong with what they're saying? God is an important part of my life and how dare you tell me it can't be. You're Christian bashing."

Let me assure you that I am not. I believe strongly that everyone has a right to believe what they wish as long as they do not harm or control others. I will defend your right to be a Christian with my dying breath. What I don't like is that politicians are using religion, something that should be deeply and profoundly personal, to further their own ends.

Many Christians have the strongly-held belief that it would be a better world if everyone were Christian. Why should they not believe it? If you find happiness, inner peace, and a moral compass in your faith, it is natural to want to share that with everyone. My question is do you believe it is the role of government to bring all of us down that very personal path?

I will out myself right now as an agnostic who often leans sort of pagan and sort of atheist depending on my mood. I don't believe in the Abrahamic patriarchal God/Allah figure, or should I say that I believe He exists because human belief has called him into existence and given Him power. I don't believe that a radical Jew, executed for treason by the Romans in ancient Palestine is somehow responsible for the state of my soul after I die. I consider myself a skeptic on most things, but I'm always interested in hearing about the bizarre and unexplained.

Although I don't consider myself better than anyone else, I don't think I'm terribly immoral either. I consider myself a pretty empathetic, compassionate, and ethical person. There are those who would say my liberal beliefs are due to naivete` or even plain stupidity, but I think they are more due to the fact that I long for a just world. I want a world where children don't starve, where the air and water aren't poisoned, and where people don't kill each other over land, personal honor or differing beliefs. I believe everyone benefits from a well-educated populace and that education should not be a privilege of the wealthy. I believe that the traits that genetics hand us should never hold us back from any opportunities we pursue. Is that immoral?

I have seen during my lifetime a scary political trend. Growing up I lived in a world where those who witnessed massive social and political changes in society were becoming apathetic, jaded and disappointed after Vietnam and Watergate. They weren't politically motivated anymore. Opportunistic politicians began to turn their attentions elsewhere. They saw a group of religious people who were not swept up on the tide of change of previous decades. They felt left behind and disenfranchised and saw a world on the fast track to Hell. They saw society as becoming morally bankrupt. Then there were young people who simply saw a broken world around them. They never knew war or institutionalized racism, or the Depression or the horrid fallout of the Gilded Age. They only saw the past through the filter of television and wished they could be a part of that world too.

The politicians fed on these fears and these wishes. They pandered to these religious groups, and to these hopeless young people, promising a more morally sound world. Our country would return to its nonexistent religious roots if only they could have those votes. The promised the overturning of Roe V. Wade, the reinstatement of prayer in school, and later on, Constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage along with tough immigration laws that played to their fears about strangers taking over their country. They plied them with scare tactics that the opposition would overturn the Second Amendment.

In my lifetime I have seen 26 years of Republicans in the White House and 14 years of a Republican-dominated Congress. Not once during any of this time has anyone introduced legislation to over tun Roe V. Wade. George W. Bush talked a good talk about his marriage amendment during his campaigns, but that fizzled out pretty quickly once he was re-elected. I have also seen 26 years of a Democatic Congress and 14 years of a Democrat in the White House and never once has anyone ever introduced legislation to overturn the Second Amendment. No one has made religion illegal either.

Yes, I know it's supposed to be about taxes, but whose taxes are being protested here? The first of these silly Tea Parties took place when Americans were still paying the taxes imposed by the Bush administration. Since then, I haven't seen any real changes in the tax structures - at least none that affect me personally. I can't imagine anyone else is truly suffering (or not) more than I am just because we have seen exactly one year's worth of Obama's tax structure. It seems to me the protests are really more over imagined taxes rather than real ones.

Let's take a look at who is sponsoring these rallies. As grassroots as the whole organization is meant to look, they are being sponsored by the large corporations who stand to lose the most from a change in the tax structure. We're talking about the top 1% of wealth holders in this country who are controlling the 90% of the wealth. They want to keep their piece of the pie.

Ordinary citizens, particularly those of the Tea Party variety are being played like a country fiddle at a hoedown.

These corporate-funded tea-parties are not a true, grassroots citizens' revolt. They are a joke. They are simply a venting of rage, but they are raging at the wrong organizations. They're raging at the government instead of at the corporations who are pulling the government strings. The peasants will never revolt against their true oppressors. Doing so would be seen as anti-capitalism and that is considered anti-democracy (or perhaps just pro-communism).

Republicans promise to legislate moral values in exchange for votes just long enough to bring a certain segment of the population to the polls. However, once they have the votes, they hardly ever bring it up again until it's time for re-election. They know if they actually enacted any of this legislation, many "values voters" might stop coming to the polls if they had what they wanted. They dangle the carrot in front of the religious right, but they have no intention of giving them what they want and losing their vote in the future.

They promise lower taxes, but taxes really aren't lowered significantly for most segments of the population. They simply cut government programs, which gives the illusion that they're lowering taxes and spending less money. What they're really doing is lowering taxes only for a lucky few and continuing to spend money on things like defense contracts - a far different thing from spending money on properly outfitting our military or seeing to their family needs and health benefits as many Americans might believe. The problem is that once someone needs the programs that have been cut, like education or Social Security, they realize after it's too late that some government programs are serving a vital purpose.

The other boogieman is immigration. I noticed immigration becoming a huge issue when the Iraq war began spiralling out of control and was losing popular support. The Bush administration needed a smokescreen, a scapegoat for the state of the economy, a focus for people's rage. 9/11 gave Americans a fear of the scary brown people from across the sea. Now we could fear scary brown people from directly south of us. So what does the government do? It riles up that fearful segment of the population who are going to look to the government as a protector from the scary people. They have someone to blame for the economy, for their own joblessness.

I wish people would wake up and realize that dictatorial border patrols are not the answer. They're a security blanket and a Band-Aid solution. Illegal immigration is here to stay and it's here to stay for one reason. Companies like Monsanto, ADM, and every other large agribusiness depend heavily on the slave labor of illegal immigrants. They need desperate and impoverished workers to work their fields and processing plants and slaughterhouses. These companies can pay substandard wages and keep their workers in the most deplorable working conditions knowing that their workers can never complain. Whom would they complain to? If we managed to do away entirely with illegal immigration, the prices of our food would likely skyrocket as the labor costs would grow. If that happened, I'm sure most of the population would consider illegal immigration to be a good thing.

Stronger border control is never going to stop illegal immigration. Desperate people will always find a way in. If you want to stop illegal immigration, the government needs to start punishing the corporations that hire illegal immigrants. Since the government is in the pockets of these corporations, this is never going to happen.

If you really have issues with illegal immigration, let's ask why the government isn't doing more to end illegal immigration from human trafficking? Think of all of the women and young girls suffering under such brutal and inhuman conditions. There's a moral values issue for you right there!

But let me get back to the God issue for a moment. How do folks like Beck and Palin conceive of making the government, and the general population, more godly? What would be the structure for such change? Plenty of Americans believe in a god of some sort. They don't all believe in the same god. Even those who do worship the same God as the blowhards claim to worship, they may not worship Him the same way. There are as many ways to worship one God as there are gods in the pantheons of all other religions combined. Isn't the point of the First Amendment about the idea that the government is allowing Americans to choose these things? Yes, for some Amercians, freedom of religion does mean freedom from religion because some of us choose not to have a religion at all. No government should take that away.

So what if the dominionists truly did win? Then what? We establish a religious government based on what religion? The blowhards say "God" in a way that is inclusive right now. Say "God" and most Americans can get behind you because God can be Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. These people aren't really about extending a hand to Jews and certainly not to Muslims. They want a Christian government, using the excuse that the Founding Fathers were all Christian (although most of them were actually Deists). "America is a Christian nation" is the rallying cry of a few. Well, you can say that if you mean numbers-wise as the majority of the population identifies as Christian. In a dominionist world, the Christians will reign supreme.

So the Christians are in control, but what type of Christianity prevails? The religious leaders lusting after political power aren't Catholic. They're not Episcopalian (the ones who ordain women and accept and ordain gays). They're not Quakers (God loves war. Down with pacifists!). They are a very narrow-minded sect of evangelical Christians whose beliefs seem so far away from the teachings of Jesus that they seem like a different religion altogether. I'm sure in the beginning other Christians would be willing to band together with them because they're Christian, but once the dominionists have control, they won't have much use for other types of Christians. Catholics are useful for anti-choice and anti-gay support, but if we overturn Roe V. Wade and legally force gays back into the closet, there won't be much use for Catholics and their belief in aid to the poor anymore. Even Glenn Beck himself would be in serious trouble as he is a Mormon. Christians will accept Mormons as Christians only when it's politically expedient to do so.

Will a Christian government truly bring us to a better country? Will it make us all more morally sound? History doesn't prove that. Some of the most heinous deeds of humanity have been done in the name of God. I know I am not saying what hasn't been said a thousand times before, but it wasn't atheists who were behind the Crusades, or the Spanish Inquisition or The Holocaust or the burning of "witches". The 9/11 hijackers weren't atheists either. If you think a theocracy is the right thing to do, I will ask you if you would like to live under the Taliban. Religion doesn't guarantee morality. What is the one standard of morality that everyone should follow (other than those already in our code of law)? Who should enforce that code, and how should it be enforced?

Here is a quote on a website that opposes religious dominionism.

"In the 19th and early 20th centuries, people thought they could create utopian societies where all of life’s problems would be solved and everyone would be blissfully happy. The only problem with making people happy was the people themselves. They needed to be fixed and changed and molded to fit the ideal, so the ideal society would actually work. But it never did, somehow. . ."

I believe we're a better society if we embrace a diversity not only of race, but of religious beliefs, and yes, even of political beliefs. It makes us better, stronger, happier people if we acknowledge and accept each other's differences.

This is why I implore my fellow Americans to please stop this insanity. Stop these rallies of thinly-veiled hate. Let's take our true power back, and welcome the return of reason. Remember, our Constitution was written during the Age of Enlightenment. Let's enlighten ourselves once more. Let's truly take our country back from those who want to divide us.

No comments:

Post a Comment