October 16, 2012

On morality, tribalism, and this infernal election cycle

Hi everyone.  Assuming anyone is still out there.  I apologize for not writing lately.  We just returned from a music festival in Arkansas where we had a fabulous time with amazing friends.  To be fair, we also dealt with ridiculous porta potties, mud and an unbelievable amount of stoned hippies.  But we heard some amazing music (HoneyHoney, Rose's Pawn Shop, The Gourds, Sam Bush, Brown Bird) and further realized how many amazing people we have in our circle.  Our new friend Misti wrote about it here, and I am not sure I can come close to her great description of the magic that happened in the Arkansas mountains.


But back to the real world we came.  This election cycle has been an amazing assault on my belief in humanity.  I honestly didn't think that was possible after watching people of faith defend and support torture.  I seriously didn't.  I thought that was the bottom.

This time, I have spoken to more conservative evangelicals who still defend torture, or at the very best, had to be walked through it.  You know the drill.  "Sure, torture is bad, but you have to remember, it was a scary time and these are some bad people who behead people."  Blah blah blah.  One guy from my college BSU who now runs it told me just last month that he still wanted to see Obama's birth certificate.  I told him it had been released.  Twice.

I have yet to hear back from him. I am hoping some of that is shame, but I kind of doubt it.  The same guy told me that Romney (and this guy is, remember, a minister) was absolutely right about the bottom half not working hard enough and being dependent on government.  I sent him stats that showed that to be wrong, and heard nothing back.

I now believe that most of these people of faith are so tribally Republican that they have no idea.  They honestly can't tell where the Bible ends and the GOP platform starts.  They have no idea that the Bible says nothing about abortion or capitalism, and completely ignore any of it that challenges wealth, greed, or, goddamnit, justice.

Speaking of torture, I read this today (Death row inmate walks free due to DNA evidence | The Raw Story) and am just reminded that most of these same people know that our death penalty system is deeply flawed.  Or they would if they thought about it.  They distrust government when it comes to feeding the poor, but have no problem with that same government killing people for them.  Or torturing them.  Or, they simply don't give a shit.

I am reading a story in MoJo (not online yet) on the growing use of solitary confinement in our prisons for the most specious of reasons. We are placing people in solitary (the prisons don't call it that, btw) for years.  Fucking years.  The UN's people who study torture suggest that more than 15 days in solitary should be considered torture.  That kind of solitude messes with people's brains and internal systems.   The writer was in solitary in Iran as a political prisoner for 26 months, so he had an idea of how this worked.

But in our prison system, he notes, it is actually worse than fucking Iran.  One prisoner was in solitary for 42 YEARS and many have been in for more than 20. 20 years in solitary?  The guards in Iran told the author the very same justification for solitary that he heard in Pelican Bay.

I am really glad to see this story get some investigation, and hope that more than progressives read about this but one of the things I have learned over the last decade is that Americans--especially those who talk about morality the most--simply don't care if we are torturing people. Not people accused vaguely of terrorism, or in the wrong place at the wrong time. And certainly not people in our massive prison system.

For a former Baptist to realize that so many conservative, bible-reading, Church going, Christian-talking people don't care about anyone who is not in their own circle or tribe--that is something I still can't quite grasp.


Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Glad to see you back. My simpleton response to part of your post is that people of faith have not joined the tribe, its just that two tribes merged. There is no shock that the same people blindly follow both their evangelical kooks and the R's too.

I always thought the interaction of religion and politics would eventually bite the R's, but it seems that organized religion is the group taking the hit. Young people are fleeing church (even if they are still faithful) due to the interaction of religion and politics.

steves said...

I can't comment on all churches, but I have noticed that all of the churchgoers that I know are showing more burnout when it comes to politics. Maybe it is a regional thing, but they seem to be interested in other things besides political parties.

Personally, as a somewhat left leaning, moderate, second amendment nut, I have never been this disgusted/frustrated/apathetic about an election.

leighton said...

I'm serving as an election judge in my county this time around, so I'm pretty energized for the election. Apparently the past couple of elections, the biggest non-technical issues have been getting the party's poll watchers to behave themselves. (The local Republican and Democratic parties are both hypervigilant.) I've done mail-in ballots since I was old enough to vote, so this will be my first experience in a voting location. Should be interesting.

The campaigns are pretty annoying, though I did find Samuel L. Jackson's ad pretty funny.

leighton said...

Actually, no, I did drop off my ballot in person in 2008 on the way to Fedex to overnight a visa application or something like that. I guess this will just be my first time paying attention to a voting center.

steves said...

I do enjoy the actual of voting. This year I volunteered to help out at my local polling location. Most of my ire is focused on the national stuff. Locally, we have some good races, with the exception being some tiresome ballot proposals.

Anonymous said...

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