September 4, 2008

Why Susan Eisenhower matters

Or part B to Tuesday's post on ID and knowledge. And thanks to everyone for not jumping on the fact that I mistakenly had Eisenhower's name as "Sarah." I know you all saw it, but decided to be nice to a guy too lazy to google her name. You are all too kind.

But back to the topic at hand. This concept of replacing knowledge with "belief" and "feeling" is all too common these days. I was musing the other night (that is right, I muse) about all the disasters we have experienced under Bush. Not that all of them are his fault, mind you, but just thinking through these bad occurrences. I wonder how many of them, since Bush was in charge, are assumed to be "acts of God" by religious conservatives? How many assume that God called Bush so "who are we" to question that calling?

I have run into this, and even blogged about it before. While Hurricane Katrina was clearly an natural occurrence, the NOLA disaster was man made. Completely. And by no means does all the blame lie at Bush's feet. Only the last few issues, but there is blame to spread on reducing the marshlands, not funding the levies to keep up with their maintenance, and of course the level of local political corruption that undermined all of that. Bush responded horribly, and had turned FEMA into a joke and a political chit, but the damage to NOLA was deep and longstanding.

Yet, everyone I talked to from the conservative side saw this only as an "act of God" and no one was to blame. Same with many of the other disasters. The bridge collapse in St. Paul. Clearly a human creation, but people talked about it as random. Same with the mortgage crisis, and as far as I know, the problems in Iraq.

When details and facts are secondary to belief and feeling, that is how we approach these issues. You notice that we have done nothing to shore up those bridges, right? Andrew Rice (running for Senate here in Oklahoma--send him money!) repeated just recently that there are bridges in Oklahoma that he drives over campaigning (and of course, locals do all the time) where you can see through the bridge as you drive over it. And that is not by design. But if we run a "faith" based government, then God will decide when those bridges fail.

So why does Susan Eisenhower matter? I saw her last night on Colbert and was struck again by her intelligence and bearing. She is not only the granddaughter of the President who led the "Greatest Generation" and won World War II, but she is an expert on Russia and the Near East. She understands foreign policy and that understanding led her to leave the Republican party of her family. Not an easy task--something I can understand.

And you would think that a person of that stature and experience would carry some weight. But in the Sarah Palin constituency, her expertise is a bad thing. Instead of saying, "hey this person understands Russia and she is more comfortable with Obama than McCain" people are most likely to simply dismiss her. They prefer Palin because she is more "like them." They like how they "feel" with Palin.

The religious right has been trained and taught for generations to distrust experts and academics. Not just to approach them skeptically and critically, but to distrust and dismiss their expertise. Unless, of course, they agree with conservative Christianity on some point.

It puzzles me to no end that we would turn over policy decisions to people who base their decisions on what they believe, but we did it for the last 8 years. Say what you will about Bill Clinton (and I have much to say), he relied on a lot of experts to determine many policy decisions. He politicized some decisions, no doubt, but some were heavily informed by some non-partisan expert approach. Bush has completely removed those. He makes every decision, famously, by his "gut" and by what he believes. And that "belief" overpowers any rational discussion.

That isn't faith. Don't try to tell me it is. It is irrational and destructive policy. And the same people who would never turn over their financial well-being to a financial analyst with no background in finances, and who made decisions purely from his gut--have turned our national security over to someone who does exactly that. And with the pick of Sarah Palin, conservatives are primed to do that again. National security? God will take care of that. We need to stop abortion.



ubub said...

So how does this crowd answer the question of why God can't end abortion then and leave temporal things like bridge repair to our policy makers?

leighton said...

Even when I was a Christian, the notion of holding a gun to God's head and saying "I'm being virtuous, so you'd better take care of me" never made any sense. In fact, it seemed downright dangerous. An old, old complaint of first-century Jews who didn't see any point to proclaiming Jesus as messiah was that Christians were incorporating too much paganism into their monotheism. This attitude that God is like a Greek deity who can be coerced into doing what we want through sacrifices and a certain kind of behavior suggests that they were on to something.

But the question which I don't have an answer to is, what do I do about it? I'm thinking of old friends in particular. Pointing this out to them will not only not work, it will alienate them, cause them to stop listening, and cause them to sing harder and clap louder for the fairy of an interventionist god they just know will come back to life any moment to save them. It's to the point where I think I should let the issue die, for the same reason I go out of my way not to provoke Scientologists or Larouchians or schizophrenics. But what to do when they have so much collective power?

Streak said...

You both raise some pretty good questions. Questions, unfortunately, that I have no answer for today.

Perhaps tomorrow. :)