I think I am going to need a lot more coffee.
But before I do that, and before I prep for my week lectures, and before I plan how to pick up the new windows... a few news items that caught my eye.
We just finished Easter, but the news for some American Christians is not good. As Newsweek's Jon Meacham reported, "the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades." One can't help but wonder if conservative Christianity's love affair with Republican politics, and even the torture regime of George W. Bush aided that. Of course, it goes well beyond Bush, and from my perspective, it has been a complete upside down approach to traditional Christianity. How else to explain how the rich, powerful, and gated communities became hotbeds of Christians following an itinerant populist preacher who cautioned against accumulated wealth and challenged the, well, rich and powerful?
Or perhaps it is as simple as the tone taken by so many on the far right. As many of you probably heard, James Dobson is retiring from Focus on the Family (damn shame, mind you) and he recently gave a speech where he said that religious conservatives had lost the culture war. Look at how he describes the battle:
Dr. Mohler mentioned the pornography struggle; we made a lot of progress through the Eighties but then we turned into the Nineties and the internet came along and a new president came along and all of that went away and now we are absolutely awash in evil.The Internets and Bill Clinton are the cause of decline? Seriously? We can torture and bomb, evidently, and be consistent with right wing theology.
Some of this has to do with the paranoid style in American history. As the late-great Richard Hofstadter noted, this theme is not unique to either side of the political spectrum. And one can argue that it played part of the angry left during Bush and Reagan. (Though, we have to note, how paranoid were we about W when everything we thought about his legal staff and his approach to torture is being born out?)
There is no doubt that leftists can be paranoid, but it seems also patently clear that those on the right are paranoid, at least right now. The tone from the right reminds me very much of the Clinton years where grown men took to the woods to play dress up army against Janet Reno's "jack booted thugs." In just three short months, the right has discovered its fear of deficits, but then leaped all the way back to 1953 to try and stoke up the newest version of the Red Scare. And one of the best bogie-men for the right, evidently, is ACORN. Kos diarist, Hunter, has a very cogent take on all of this:
ACORN fills a vital role in this conservative sphere of constant, imminent destruction -- but not as real danger. Instead it is a catch-all bogeyman, an avatar representing an unseen and generic enemy. The reason it is "ACORN" that is going to surreptitiously disrupt conservative Tea Bag festivities is because "ACORN" is the only nefarious bogeyman most conservatives know.The entire essay is worth reading. As Fox News becomes a sponsor for the ironically named "tea bag" parties, and Glenn Beck expresses sympathy for mass murderers, you start to see how this "big lie" can be so easily spread and consumed.
It could be any name, because the name is unimportant, only the narrative of all-powerful, omnipresent enemy. Before ACORN, it was the ACLU. Before the ACLU, it was McCarthy's invisible Communists.
As we have noted in the wake of the recent shooting, it is a dangerous game. Preying on fears as prime political philosophy runs the obvious risk of convincing your audience that those fears indeed exist. --snip--
In the end, it is enforced, carefully stoked paranoia, and it is made powerful precisely by months of repetition. It is the Big Lie, the easy lie. At some point conservatives decided, based on demographics and perhaps the existing general bigotries of their most hardcore supporters, that their ideas could no longer stand even minor scrutiny unless they were couched in terms of urgent disaster.
Unfortunately, the right has lost its intellectual and skeptical moorings. Conservatives who used to have their policy grounded in principle and morality have endorsed and defended torture and the undermining of our constitution. The thinkers have been replaced with the shouters. We have those on the left too, I am quite aware. But the right seems to have only those. And meanwhile the surge of gun ownership continues....
I feel safer already.