November 30, 2010

White Evangelicals and politics

Reading around this morning, I found this Pew Forum poll on political views and religion. Some very interesting things in there, including, I think, some confirmation that a lot of conservative evangelicals hold political beliefs that are not filtered through their faith. As I read the report, evangelicals see homosexual issues and abortion through the lens of their faith, but not issues like immigration and the environment. (Oddly enough, btw, white evangelicals support more stricter environmental regulations. They just don't vote that way.)

I have been musing for sometime that conservative evangelicals (and probably not just them) compartmentalize their faith and their politics. Over here, we have faith and "quiet times" and BSF meetings and the "personal relationship with Jesus as most important thing in the world." In that world, concern for the poor and the prisoner are at least talked about.

But over here, we have politics where tax cuts dominate, and government programs for the poor are derided as helping "welfare queens" and encouraging "dependency" and "laziness." Here, prisoners are to be feared and it is ok if they are executed in an unfair system or tortured if in the wrong place at the wrong time in the "war on Terror."

I am not sure why the disconnect, frankly. But I think it is partly because the church themselves have decided that certain topics and moral issues are not church worthy. They can and do grapple with the concept of marriage and homosexuality and abortion, but do not, in the main, grapple with the environment, torture, capital punishment, or even the broader issues of poverty. As I have told a friend of mine, when the church refuses to address these moral issues, they abdicate their role as moral leader and essentially leave that to Fox News (for the conservative church goer) or other institutions.

I remember well that Pew poll that showed some 60% of white evangelicals supporting torture in some form. Many of those polled said that their support for Bush's torture regime was not based in their faith at all. In fact, when asked to address torture through the lens of their faith, support dropped.

November 26, 2010

George Bush--the Decider

Perhaps not what you want to read on the day after Thanksgiving, but it is still better than reading that the right is now convinced that socialists almost killed Thanksgiving, because for them, private property is magical--like tax cuts. Sigh.

But back to the Decider. George Packer has a great review of Bush's "memoir" that will make you remember probably more than you wanted. But as Packer points out, the book probably reveals more of the Bush flaws than he intended to reveal. Oh, his supporters will not see them, but they are as much present in the book as they are in Bush's sad life as President. His lack of ability to grasp ambiguity or nuance is ever present:
The structure of “Decision Points,” with each chapter centered on a key issue—stem-cell research, interrogation and wiretapping, the invasion of Iraq, the fight against AIDS in Africa, the surge, the “freedom agenda,” the financial crisis—reveals the essential qualities of the Decider. There are hardly any decision points at all. The path to each decision is so short and irresistible, more like an electric pulse than like a weighing of options, that the reader is hard-pressed to explain what happened. Suddenly, it’s over, and there’s no looking back.
But more disturbing, I think, than his lack of critical thought about those key decisions, is his complete lack of introspection even now. During his administration, I found it amazing that Bush could never admit error. The Buck didn't even come close to his desk. Any failures were the fault of so many other people, but never his. I was always amazed by that, and the fact that so many conservative Christians seemed to make excuses for that fact. What they saw as arrogance in me, for example, they saw as strength with Bush. Packer notes that Bush constantly caricatures opposing views--they are never legitimate or possibly equal choices that he simply doesn't choose, they are the lesser arguments of people who's motivation is not as good as his own.

Ultimately, I see Bush as a tragic figure--a man in way over his head who could never quite make sense of his own inadequacies. That is a difficult thing for all of us, of course. It is not easy to recognize your failures and limitations. I know others like him, but in them, the consequences are not as tragic for others.
Yet “Decision Points”—indeed, the whole trajectory of Bush’s Presidency—suggests that he had the information but not the character to face it. “I waited over three years for a successful strategy,” he says in a chapter called “Surge.” But what sort of wartime leader—a term he likes to use—would “wait” for three years, rather than demand a better strategy and the heads of his failed advisers? “Only after the sectarian violence erupted in 2006 did it become clear that more security was needed before political progress could continue,” he writes. It’s a statement to make anyone who spent time in Iraq from 2003 onward laugh or cry. During the war years, Bush fell in love with his own resolve, his refusal to waver, and this flaw cost Iraqis and Americans dearly. For him, the war remains “eternally right,” a success with unfortunate footnotes. His decisions, he still believes, made America safer, gave Iraqis hope, and changed the future of the Middle East for the better. Of these three claims, only one is true—the second—and it’s a truth steeped in tragedy.

November 24, 2010

Palin Slams Michelle Obama Again, This Time For Anti-Obesity Campaign

Perhaps there is more to Sarah Palin, I don't know. One would think there would have to be. But she demonstrates over and over that she is a proud idiot. Doesn't know anything and doesn't care to learn.

First, she appears on Glenn Beck's radio show and says that We've got to stand with our North Korean allies. Easy mistake to make, right? But she follows Beck's correction with, "Eh, yeah. And we're also bound by prudence to stand with our South Korean allies, yes." Also. Not "oh right." Because, the Palinator is never wrong.

And then she slams Michele Obama for her campaign against obesity, because as the former Governor thinks, Obama hates America and wants a big government to step in and raise your kids.

As I joked on Facebook, one can only imagine Palin's response to other big government first ladies. Eleanor Roosevelt actually caring about civil rights, or Nancy Reagan daring to tell kids not to use drugs. And what about Bush's push for literacy? Who is the government to tell Sarah Palin that her kids should not take drugs and might want to learn to read.

Dumb? I think yes. Dangerous? Absolutely. She has God on her side and if ever given power as John McCain wanted to do, she would probably bomb our allies because she didn't recognize the country.

November 23, 2010

Your Sarah Palin crazy moment for the day

Actually, not really crazy, but actually sad. And ironic. When she tells her buddy Sean Hannity that she is interested in working outside her Fox bubble (my words), but won't waste her time with Katie Couric, she adds this typically Palinesque critique of the media:
"'I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism,' she added. 'And I have a communications degree."
And she wants to be President. Of course, we have already had one idiot as President, so why not? And speaking of that guy, we might want to remember what he actually did as President--invading a country on false intelligence and then authorizing torture--regardless of the story he is telling now.

But it isn't just Bush and Palin. Just reading through the Huffingtonpost this morning, I see that Rand Paul compares Obama to Hitler, and Michelle Bachmann says that Obama is anti-American.

And this, as SOF pointed out to me, from the Simpsons, on the racism of the right.

People like to point to the crazies on the left, including some from the 60s who advocated violence. Those groups were not incorporated into the Democratic party. In fact, they hated the Democratic party. But on the Right, the Republicans have worked very hard to make the racists and crazies feel at home.

November 21, 2010

The Tea Party's white past

Is the Tea Party racist? I think so, though I suspect for most of them they don't even realize that they are racist. It is buried in their subconscious, and only the fact that their President is now a dark skinned man has brought it out. And even then, it isn't at the surface for so many.

But the racism is there. It is there in a high school acquaintance of mine who shocked me on Facebook by saying that we should absolutely not send money to Haiti, since they weren't grateful for it anyway. And in so many other ways.

But I am working my way through Jill Lepore's The Whites of their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the battle over American History and enjoying it immensely. Lepore moves nicely between the past and the present, and along the way, reminds me of a lot of things I had forgotten and teaches me some things I didn't know. For example, I am reminded in her book that Robert Bork was the guy who agreed to fired Archibald Cox, and that conservatives considered him a great mind worthy of the Supreme Court.

But Lepore makes some very good historical linkages that, as a specialist in the post Civil War, I had simply forgotten. Those early Tea Partiers and revolutionaries were battling within themselves over that great American sin: slavery. In fact, there were movements to abolish slavery at the time, and the first Tea Party had to decide whether to fight that battle then, or lose the South in the fight against the British. They chose, of course, to unite against the British. Samuel Johnson, the British writer, noted the incongruity when he sarcastically asked "how is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"

Lepore, however, notes that the modern Tea Party sees none of this nuance and conflict.
But it wasn't the whiteness of the Tea Party that I found most striking. It was the whiteness of their Revolution. The founding Fathers were the whites of their eyes, a fantasy of an America before race, without race. There were very few black people in the Tea Party, but there are no black people at all in the Tea Party's eighteenth century. Nor for that matter, were there any women, aside from Abigail Adams, and no slavery, poverty, ignorance, insanity, sickness or misery. Nor was there any art, literature, sex, pleasure or humor. There were only the Founding Fathers with their white wigs, wearing their three-cornered hats, in their Christian nation, revolting against taxes, and defending their right to bear arms.
To a certain degree, Lepore sees the historical profession at fault for this. Historians are often criticized for writing only for other historians, and avoiding the broad narrative in favor of the issues of race, class and gender, and to a degree, rightly so.

But as Lepore notes, that criticism comes from inside the profession as well, and that fact alone reveals the difference between the Tea Party's non-history and the rational world.
Scholars criticize and argue--and must, and can--because scholars share a common set of ideas about how to argue, and what counts as evidence. But the far right's American history--its antihistory--existed outside of argument and had no interest in evidence. It was as much a fiction as the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, reductive, unitary, and, finally, dangerously antipluralist. It erased slavery from American history and compressed a quarter century of political contest into "the founding," as if ideas worked out, over decades of debate and fierce disagreement, were held by everyone, from the start. "Who's your favorite Founder?" Glenn Beck asked Sarah Palin. "Um, you know, well," she said. "All of them."

There was though, something heartbreaking in all this. Behind the Tea Party's Revolution lay nostalgia for an imagined time--the 1950s, maybe, of the 1940s--less riven by strife, less troubled by conflict, less riddled with ambiguity, less divided by race. In that nostalgia was the remembrance of childhood, a yearning for a common past, bulwark against a divided present, comfort against an uncertain future." (96-97)
Lepore says it better than I ever could, but I always find this kind of Disney history sad. The past is so complex and so interesting and this rewriting blanches it into nothingness, and turns complicated people into cardboard figures. And when they then base public policy on that fake past, then we all lose.

November 19, 2010

On Conservatives and War--Part II

American Family Association's Bryan Fischer thinks that we have feminized the Medal of Honor by rewarding only defensive heros and says that "the God of the Bible clearly honors those who show valor and gallantry in waging aggressive war..."

November 18, 2010

Patriotism and loyalty. And then there is Dick Cheney and Karl Rove

Had a weird conversation with a conservative friend the other day. He is a former Marine and posted one of those Facebook pass-ons:
I am an UN-APOLOGETIC AMERICAN!! I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of AMERICA, and to the REPUBLIC for which it stands, one nation under GOD, indivisible, with LIBERTY and JUSTICE for all!! I grew up reciting this every morning in school. We no longer do that for ...fear of OFFENDING SOMEONE!! Let's many AMERICANS will re-post this & not care about offending someone!
I questioned him on the side. I didn't want to get into it with his people. Again. I got into trouble the last time when I questioned why their local school district had been teaching a bible study during school hours.

He is a good guy and his ministry spends a lot of time working with people in Mexico. But there is this kneejerk patriotism that just seems everywhere on the right. During our exchange, he noted that he had served and yet there were people everywhere who apologized for America and even wanted to desecrate the flag.

I was thinking about this, perhaps, because I just completed a lecture on the Red Scare (second one). I was reminded that our anti-communism led us to add "under God" in 1954, and that the Pledge was then, and now, considered a loyalty oath by the far right. Any who questioned it must be communist or anti-American. And I was reminded how fucking easy it has been for conservatives to question the loyalties of liberals.

Then I read David Corn's summary of the Plame debacle and was reminded how conservatives are quite willing to cheer disloyalty and even activities that undermine our national security--when it suits them. I don't think any of my far right conservative friends or relatives ever stood up and said that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove were unAmerican. Even after we knew that they exposed the identity of a covert agent for a political vendetta. We don't even know the extent of the damage. But as Plame herself noted, after that, surely our enemies were going through their address books and seeing who they knew who might have had contact with her. How many of those "assets" ended up in torture chambers or dead? It isn't a reach to think some.

All because Dick Cheney wanted a political critic silenced. All because he didn't like a vocal critic of their war policy. Yet the far right still sees Dick Cheney as a patriot and a loyal American. But someone who burns a flag or doesn't repeat the Pledge?

You tell me who has caused more damage to our national security.

November 14, 2010

Just too good not to post (with f-bomb warning)

Just received this in an email:

Subject: Word play

Did you know that… if you rearrange the letters in "so-called Tea Party Republicans," and add just a few more letters, it spells: "Shut the fuck up you free-loading, progress-blocking, benefit-grabbing, resource-sucking, violent, hypocritical douche bags, and deal with the fact that you nearly wrecked the country under Bush and get over it that our President is black."

November 12, 2010

Oh Sweet Jesus! Bush plagiarizes his own memoir?

George Bush Lifted Passages Of Memoir From Advisers' Books

A couple things that annoy me this morning

Actually, there are several, but I can't post about some. But last night, I was thinking about our gubernatorial race this last month where Republican Mary Fallin said that she was a superior candidate because she had born children. Left unsaid, of course, was the fact that her opponent, Jeri Askins, had not. Fallin's statement annoyed for several reasons; her assumption that motherhood was related, and that her motherhood stretched over two marriages yet she was able to invoke the family values Republican bullshit, or that it was code for spreading a rumor that Askins is gay.

Thinking about that last one, I realized how angry that made me at conservatives and conservative Christians for their bullshit about homosexuality. I don't know that Askins is gay or not gay--it matters not to me. But if she were, she actually fits the model of what conservative Christians say about homosexuality. After all, and again, we know nothing about her sexuality beyond the fact that she has never married, but if she were gay, she has not openly acted on it, and has, in fact, kept it under wraps.

The fact that the rumor plays is proof that when so many conservative Christians say that they "hate the sin, but love the sinner" is clearly bullshit. The rumor would not work if that were the case. When most conservatives say that they don't want homosexuals to act on it, they are lying. They don't want people who have homosexual feelings to exist. No matter if they act on it or not. They are repulsed by them, period. Perhaps because of their own sexual inadequacy, I don't know. But this is why conservative evangelicals and conservative Christians have very little credibility when they say they aren't opposed to gay people, but they just don't want them to marry, or they just don't want them to adopt. They don't want them to be, and they will never look at a person who has those feelings as normal, regardless of what they do. Bullshit.


Speaking of bullshit, our former president has supposedly "written" a book. I had always thought you needed to read at least one book before writing one, but who am I to say? But W is on his "book tour" and starting the process of trying to rehabilitate his presidency with claims like the good one that he was actually a dissenting voice on the Iraq war.


But one that caught my eye was his revelation that Cheney was very angry with him for not pardoning Scooter Libby:
"Bush recounts that a furious Cheney told him: 'I can't believe you're going to leave a soldier on the battlefield.'"
Just a point here. When Cheney talks about a battlefield and a soldier, he is talking about a war against liberals, not Al Qaeda. Cheney, himself, had no problem throwing Valerie Plame to the wolves even though she worked on fucking WMDs for US. His battlefield has nothing to do with terrorism, and everything to do with his arrogant sense that American belongs to warmongering asshats like Cheney and Wolfowitz, and that his real enemies are liberals.

Bush reports that he was concerned that the Libby issue would scar his friendship with Cheney, but says that they are good friends now.


November 10, 2010

Do Conservatives love war?

I don't know. And I am not sure that this guy made his argument, but I must say there is a question to be asked. The responses to Bush and war, added to the drumbeat for Iran make me really wonder.

November 7, 2010

Conservatives and compassion

I actually kind of liked Bush's whole "compassionate conservatism," because I liked the idea. I wasn't ever convinced that he really meant it, but I liked the idea.

But I am increasingly convinced that most conservative policies are driven by self-interest. If it doesn't touch me, personally, then I don't want to pay for it. If the Iraq war doesn't effect me, then why should I care? If the Patriot Act doesn't actually change my life (because I have nothing to hide), then who cares? If we are torturing people who aren't like me, why should I care? And if tax increases won't actually help me personally, then why should I pay more?

And you see that in Texas after Tuesday's election with talk of withdrawing from Medicaid altogether. Some of them, at least, are talking about maintaining care, but just funding it at the local level, but I don't trust that at all. The complaint comes from the fact that more people are added to the Medicaid rolls. And conservatives don't think that healthcare is a right. You have to deserve and earn access to life-saving treatment. Just being human isn't enough. All that shit about our "Creator" endowing us with the right to life? Yeah, it doesn't mean for the poor. It means for the wealthy and the well-heeled.

I would love to hear otherwise, I really would. I hear a lot of conservatives saying that of course the poor should be taken care of, but not by the government. And I hear a lot of people saying that the Bible doesn't command the government to take care of poor people. And if we are talking about soup kitchens, and are talking about a non-depression era where the amount of poor is relatively manageable, then maybe. But if we are talking about access to life-saving, and incredibly expensive healthcare, then I have to say bullshit. Conservatives don't have an alternative. Local churches are not going to be able to fund home-care for the disabled, nor are they equipped to pay for a chronic disease. So, if that is true, the alternative is either the government or conservatives telling them to just go without.

If that is Christian, then Christ was incredibly callous and uncaring. And I don't believe that for an instant. But that is how the people most loudly proclaiming their faith act. Those who shout "Jesus" the loudest seem to have very little compassion for anyone other than themselves. How unimpressive that is.

November 3, 2010

Serious question

I hear the mantra from the left (and some from the middle) that Obama and the Democrats have done a bad job of communicating their accomplishments. I wonder about that, simply because I am unsure how that is supposed to work. Do any of us listen to politicians when they make their pitch? Has anyone ever listened to a presidential radio address?

Seems to me that we have several problems. 1) We are fighting against people who use propaganda shamelessly. How do you counter Glenn Beck? 2) We have a shortage of simplistic slogans. How do you explain complexity in the fact of "socialized medicine" or "death panels?" 3) We have a paradox of success. Republicans can rail against unseen and phantom ills. "Look out, a Mooslim might be behind that bush," while Democrats are supposed to take credit for subtle successes like ridding the country of pre-existing conditions or lifetime caps. If you, or your family don't have a pre-existing condition and have never had a serious illness, why do you care? Besides being a human, that is.

And ultimately, Republicans can appeal to people's baser instincts. Fear those people, and we will cut your taxes and stop lazy people from getting your money. Democrats are tasked with asking people to invest in things--things that they personally may not profit from. I think we can do it, but I am not sure how when Republicans are the way they are.

November 2, 2010

Ugh, democracy hurts

I am reminded tonight of 2004, and the dark morning after Bush's reelection. That next day, I wrote this angry and sad post. I reread it tonight and remember that pain.

Tonight I am not in as much pain because I am not as surprised. I have expected this. I am saddened, however, as I don't understand the anger at expanding healthcare and rescuing the economy. I don't get that.

Hell, there is so much I don't get. Here in Oklahoma, we passed a law banning the use of Sharia law in our courts. Yeah, that is right. And no, it wasn't a problem before now. And it hasn't been a problem anywhere. No, this is just simply bigotry and racism written into our code. Thank your local Republican for that. Something clicked in the last few years and they have decided that open hatred of Muslims is a good and Christian thing to do. Plus, because it is simple to sell to ignorant and uninformed people, it makes for good politics. "Look, there might be a Muslim hiding behind that tree!"

Unfortunately, it isn't just Muslims, but also Mexicans. Also here in Oklahoma, our new Governor proudly proclaimed her support for the law in Arizona, and in one race, opponents of a Democrat placed Mexican flags next to his yard signs. "Vote for this guy and the Mexicans will bring in Muslims to kill you."

Meanwhile, of course, we refuse to fund anything meaningful and good. That same new Governor promises lower taxes. As God is my witness, I have no clue how taxes in Oklahoma could get lower. I know that support for education could get lower. I know that attention to the disabled and poor could get lower--though that seems hard to fathom.

In all seriousness, I really need a thoughtful Republican to explain to me how the modern GOP can't be described by the following slogan: "I have mine, you can fuck off!"

Even, might I add, if that "mine" came with the assistance of tax-payer money. Perhaps a rewrite could be "I have mine, but have no interest in helping any of you."

As always, I must say that my biggest disappointment remains with the religious right. I grew up among them and thought at least there was a shred of moral consistency. But they voted for David Vitter tonight (in huge numbers). Hiring prostitutes wasn't an impediment to reelection. Passing healthcare, however, was. I look at the conservative church and I see hatred for the poor, for the uninsured, and for the environment. I see fear and loathing for Muslims, and that might not even sum it up. I see people who are so convinced that God is on their side, that they see liberals as their enemies. Not people with whom they can disagree, but actual enemies. A member of our distant family stopped talking to me because I am a supporter of Obama.

As I said in 2004, I will survive this. I will focus more on music and my friends. I resent, however, how this political environment makes me feel as if concern for others is a liability, and that selfishness is a virtue. How does that happen among people who wave that Bible around like a prop? How do selfishness and mean-spiritedness and ignorance and racism and hatred become virtues in that world? How do concern and compassion become weakness?

There are two things I really battle this evening. One is to simply disconnect from politics completely and just say "fuck it," and let the environment and the poor and education go downhill. That is what the people want, they should have it. We shall see if that happens. I hope that this loss will shock the progressive community out of their passivity and get them to fight for what they value.

But the second one is harder. As with 2004, I find myself wanting to be less associated with Christianity. I find so much of it on the right to be so very unchristian and so unlike Christ. I really want nothing to do with it. I want nothing to do with the squabbles over parsed scripture, and the debates about the gays and the fear and the false righteousness and the fact that the religious conservative population has become more conservative than Christian. I still want to believe. But I struggle to believe in a God who's followers are so hateful.

But tomorrow, I will get up and go teach, and hug my wife and my dogs and see some friends. I will listen to music and hopefully find some time to pick up an instrument. And this weekend, my friends will gather to bemoan this election and hoist a drink or two.