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« The road goes on and on | Main | White horse, grey day »

September 07, 2008

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funder

I think you're absolutely right about the "simple retro image" the Republicans like to play upon. And one of the (many) things I dislike about Bush is his *absolutely unshakeable* faith that whatever he does as President has been ordained by God as the correct move. Faith has a place, but it's not supposed to make you feel like you can do no wrong. :(

Callie

LMAO! OMG! I missed some good posts while working! The Palin bullshit bothers me too. To the core. I don't like her. I think she's a hypocrite and personally her voice grades on my every last nerve! I also believe it was a desperate measure on McCain's part to get the Hilary vote. That pisses me off even more. To think that women would simply vote because of gender and not qualities really pisses me off! Palin is NO Hilary. She's a stupid small minded cow with hands in the pockets of big oil! I am offended as a woman!

I Gallop On

Hi Julian,

Interesting and thoughtful post. ;-)

I will take Sarah Palin's brand of religion over Jeremiah Wright's black liberation theology and a pastor who rants God D*** America from the pulpit. I don't think it's terribly enlightened for Obama to have spent twenty years in a racist church like that. In fact, I question the man's patriotism and his judgment, however the PC will accuse anyone who questions of being "racist". And that works out rather conveniently for them.

I'd rather leave religion out of it all, frankly. I'm a believer in the separation of religion and state.

I think Palin's pastor was really, to be fair, asking that the actions of our troops be within the parameters of God's will. Although that kind of talking gives me pause. I do better about the fact that he wasn't screeching things like the USA of the KKK from the pulpit, however. Did you ever check out Obama's church's website before they scrubbed it clean? They have some funny ideas about what's God's will and what's not, and it plays out pretty much along racial lines.

I wonder how many Christians buy the rapture hook, line, and sinker? I didn't realize the idea came from a Scottish woman's hallucinations (wasn't she in a mental hospital when she had those visions?) in the 1800s until the last couple of years. Tim LeHaye has made it practically mainstream with his Left Behind books.

It's getting to the point, though, that none of our presidential candidates can have a religious ideology. I think we're going to find some "wierdness" factor in any religion. I mean, I'm a gnostic, and I'm pretty convinced that a lesser god is in charge of things here in this reality, and that's why things are a mess.

I think some religious ideologies are more dangerous than others. I don't see the Republicans actively saying (like Ahmadinejad and those dirty robed mullahs) that they want to usher in the Rapture (actually, according to the stories, they can't, right? No man knows the day or time??? I too went to an end-times believing church for a while), although some Christians who are Republicans no doubt believe in it. And I do think there are some fundamentalist Christians who on some level take some secret thrill in knowing they are "chosen" and will be "raptured" while the rest of us schmucks are left down here to duke it out with the antichrist. ;-)

What about the 12th Imam the muslim extremists are hoping to wake up through war to usher in a global Islamic Caliphate?

I'm pretty convinced that those people want to kill us, all of us non Muslims and the poor Muslims who aren't as extreme as they are too, and if they succeed, they will attribute it to God's will.

I just visited The National Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, which underlined for me further my conviction that evil is real. I saw the piles of shoes. The broken glasses. A cattle car. A wall portraying the hair that was shorn from those poor people before they were put into the gas chambers.

I'm not sure that humanity is ever going to not keep killing each other in God's name. And that's a damn shame. Putin's done some killing recently, although not for God. I'm concerned that a lot of my fellow Americans are surprised that a man could have such aspirations.

I like Sarah Palin. Don't agree with her 100%. I think some find her daunting because she is a woman whose not the liberal feminist idea of a woman, but one who embraces, at least in my estimation and apparently from the polls that of many other American women, a fuller picture of what it means to be a woman -- sexual, fecund, mother, wife, powerful, warrior, leader, etc. Frankly, I'm not thrilled about her Pentacostal background. But I don't think it's going to have her making any crazy decisions. And there isn't any one button that any single U.S. leader can push to start what I think we're all ultimately concerned about.

I don't have a lot of respect for Obama, frankly. He seems to me henpecked, with his angry, embittered wife Michelle (with her Ivy League education and $300K+ year job), who according to this, may have helped him lose -- How Obama lost the election
By Spengler Asia Times Online. http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/JI03Aa02.html

I'm increasingly convinced that there are two Americas.

Enjoyed reading your thoughts on this.

Pax. Kimberly

I Gallop On

Oh, and one more thing. I was thinking about your title, "The Flight of Reason". I agree.

That's why I'm a gnostic. I'm not expecting a lot of reason here in this world system. I think that ultimately God is good. I have no doubt that the eternal God of the universe is good.

But this little Demiurge, this architect, this dude who's currently pulling the strings behind the curtain, call him Allah or Yaweh or Jehovah or whatever you want, is seriously deluded and possibly even insane although not incapable of being redeemed. (And I'm not even sure that's an old guy with a beard sitting on a throne up in the clouds. I think it's something inside of each and every one of us human beings. We are both light and darkness.)

So your title "the flight of reason" is, in my humble opinion, absolutely correct.

Pax. Kimberly

Transylvanianhorseman

Funder: the "retro image" is a cozy construct. It's like an image of Britain where people play cricket and drink warm beer whilst the policeman cycles past: it doesn't happen now, and never was common. Fortunately our leaders don't often try to hoodwink people with this kind of stuff. (Nor would most people buy it.) I see God calling people to be humble, to love others, to weigh their thoughts and deeds. Anyone waving the banner of a "vengeful God" who just happens to support their line is likely to be wrong, whatever name their religion may have.

Callie: either a desperate measure, or confidence that many Americans indeed will buy that small town rhetoric. (I saw a lot of small towns whilst driving through the U.S. and met a lot of people who knew nothing about the rest of the world and did not care.) I remember Thatcher's grating voice, how we used to dislike it. The men thought that they could play her like a puppet, and how wrong they were.

Kimberly: I had a hunch that you would respond. Curious how you bring up Obama (I hadn't got around to mentioning him) and Muslim fundamentalists.

It seems to me that Obama made a wise choice to distance himself from his former church, though I question whether his former pastor was in the habit of making outrageous statements: election campaigns appear to be one long process of smearing the opponent by any means possible. I do think that a person who has worked as a lawyer specialising in civil rights and helping the poor is not likely to be a dangerous fanatic: his past course speaks of concern and compassion. In a country where the divide between rich and poor is growing, perhaps a reconcilliatory leader is needed? One who heals the country.

As for fundamentalists: yes, of course there are some dangerous figures in the Muslim world. Over here, our police have just caught some more in the act of planning terrorist attacks. Yes, disaffected young men taught hatred by warped preachers pose a danger. Fortunately, for the most part they are amateurs, lacking the skills to operate covertly, equipped with whatever pathetic weapons they can make from drugstore chemicals. But what about Western leaders who believe that they have a divine right to act as they wish, who see the world as a manichaean struggle to the death between good and evil? These leaders command awesome military power. They have dealt death to millions (for the most part civilians). Two wrongs don't make a right. And it is careful work by the security services that defeats terrorism, not launching major international wars. Oh, and a careful long term foreign policy can bring international respect for one's nation.

I do believe that, if a charismatic figure has the ear of a leader, they will exert an influence. What about a pastor who tells people to "be prepared to die for their faith in Iraq"? Can a politician filter out such words and not be influenced? (It disturbs me that now both sides are telling their young men to "be prepared to die for their faith". Are the activists of both sides becoming "Talibanised"? Were Christians being persecuted in Saddam's Iraq? No more so than any other group, so why do we need the Crusading rhetoric?)

Since you ask, Rapture theology is a Pentecostal speciality. The main Christian groups - Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox - reject the concept of the Rapture, and have done so for two millennia. However, amongst Pentecostals, it is a central tenet of faith. It does sound like a nice benefit to believers, being carried up to Heaven to miss out on an earthly tribulation. It has an element of "being what people want to hear", an invitation for a belief system to go off at a tangent. Therefore, a temptation for believers to go off at a tangent.

Yes, I think that there are two Americas. There have been since Nixon started exploiting diverging attitudes, appealing to an unsophisticated small town nation (who are more likely to be Republicans) whilst attacking the more cultured, educated East and West Coast population (who are more likely to be Democrats) as "elitist" and (since they are more exposed to foreign ideas) as "unpatriotic". The result has been a recurring appeal by Republican leaders to the sensibilities of the naive small town masses, who hearken to a simplistic and superficially wholesome vision that allows complex issues to become black and white, substitutes jingoism for patrotism, and renders the rest of the world an irrelevance that corporations and the military can deal with. Meanwhile the Republican elite has grown fat on tax cuts, deregulation and a growing divide between the rich and the rest. It has become a monstrous deception that has impoverished ordinary Americans.

Palin is a part of this deception: a perfect "straw woman" designed to attract small town voters, a puppet whose strings Big Oil will play with eloquent skill, a "pioneer figure" who (as you correctly identify) in turn pulls certain emotional strings inside many Americans. For now, she is a figure who can do no wrong: despite a lacklustre record as mayor of Wassila, despite her attempt to censor library books, despite fraudulent expenses claim issues, despite her abstinence-based sex education programme giving Alaska the highest STD rate in the U.S., despite her hounding competent state officials out of their jobs. If that is what Alaska wants, that's their choice, and they can pay the price. Making her VP risks promoting her way beyond the limit of her competence in a process cynically manipulated by a Republican Party desperate for a cute yet gutsy frontier woman figurehead who will draw the voters. Actually I think that she's out of her depth in Alaska, given the evident vindictiveness that may well mask limited political skills, as as such I feel sorry for her.

That isn't meant as an attack on her as an individual. Doubtless she is having the time of her life, is highly motivated, and will give the job a good shot. The villain is the party that is manipulating her (and which will spit her out when she is no longer useful).

I was thinking of Goya when I wrote the title.

I Gallop On

Hi Julian,

I'm kind of surprised that as someone who lived in the simple villages of Romania for so many years, you seem to have lumped all of the small town Americans into their own category of folks who just, quite frankly, aren't as smart or sophisticated as people on the East and West coasts of the U.S. Have you visited many small towns in the U.S.? ;-) Do you know any American farmers or ranchers? Do you know any small town American teachers? How about factory workers? Military people? Union members? Sportsmen and women? Grocery store owners? Forestry workers. Bakers? Candlstick makers? Are you sure they are all of an inferior intellect?!

"Progressives" enjoy holding these folks in contempt. Kind of like Obama's slur that we're all clinging to our guns and religion. He's a fool. America is much more complex than that.

And America is much better than what most progressives give her credit for.

Yes, I did note that you hadn't mentioned Obama! But since your topic was about crazy American politics, I had to bring him into the discussion. Nah, I don't think Obama's a Muslim. But Muslim extremism does exist, and I don't see the Pentacostals beheading people and calling for jihad. (They may, however, be keeping a keen eye on the clouds, waiting to get rescued.) Nor the Catholics, or the evangelicals or the mormons, or the gnostics. In response to your statements about Muslim extremism coming out of some discontented youth who aren't getting a fair shake (if I understood you correctly), those guys who flew into the towers and the Pentagon on 911 were not exactly socially downtrodden. They were well-educated, well-financed men with an agenda that's spelled out in the Koran for those who want to base their actions on it.

My point is that there are ideas that can be pointed to and called crazy in every religious ideology. A lot of people were worried about Romney being a Mormon, which I thought was rubbish. I would have voted for him in a heartbeat. There was a time when a Catholic wouldn't have been considered in the American political arena. Liberals flocking to a fellow who spent 20 years in a black liberation theology church are very interesting to me. I guess they didn't read the church's mission statement and the statements on Black Power, etc., or else they embrace some or all of it. Maybe they thought that as a small town American, my neighbors and I are not smart enough to know how to find that info! Possibly they believe we are burning books out here in the heartland and that we don't have satellite dishes "to get us on the internets" (drawl that last part out for emphasis)! ;-)

It's all quite silly, really.

Here's an example of two Americas. I think it's more about attitude than intellect or sophistication. Knowing how to pick a good wine, for example, doesn't actually make one superior, is what I'm getting at. Nor does being a proponent of a welfare state. There's an interesting ad out for a home alarm system on TV. The setting could be in a suburb in one of those big American cities. Maybe on the East or West coast. It's late at night. There are intruders in the house. They look dangerous. The alarm advertisement shows the man of the house running upstairs to call the police for help. He's not protecting his family. He and his wife and kids are hunkered down in the bedroom, behind a locked door, waiting to be rescued. Out here in the boondocks, and across the little rural communities of America, we are all pretty much chuckling at that, as our response would be markedly different.

There's a difference between 1) waiting for the nanny state to rescue you from getting a mortgage you couldn't afford or overspending on your credit cards or just being too dumb or too lazy to get a decent job and expecting your fellow working citizens to take care of you and 2) taking care of business. I grew up with simple conservative core values. My dad grew up in a dirt poor shack in a dirt poor town, served his country in the U.S. Airforce and then went to night school for 7 years while working one fulltime job and one part time job and taking care of a family. He retired as an executive for a fortune 500 company. That's taking care of business.

I think the two Americas idea plays into the whole idea of duality that the gnostics talk about. As long as there's "us" and "them", and "you" and "me", and "black" and "white", and "male" and "female", this tension will exist. It's the same tension of "light" and "shadow" that exists in every human heart. In that context, I wonder what the splitting of an atom means?

Now do I have the answer for all of this? Absolutely not. I'm just doing the best I can in what looks to me to be an incomprehensible and flawed system.

And hoping to escape the Matrix eventually.

Pax. Kimberly

Transylvanianhorseman

Kimberly,

I'm going to post something new on this subject, as it follows on from an interesting discussion which I have been having with a travel writer. However, a few comments:

I didn't think that you were linking Obama and Muslim extremists.

I do, however, see a duality between those extremists and Republican foreign policy. They may be opposite poles, however each one feeds the other. One is technological, the other is practically a cottage industry. Neither can destroy the other. Each calls on young men "to be ready to die for their cause".

Of course there is no comparison between living in a hardline Islamic state and the U.S. But on the other hand, having freedom of expression, the U.S. has far more opportunity to break the cycle. "Those who have received more will be judged more harshly." The cycle cannot be broken quickly by military action, whilst extended military action only helps the extremists to recruit. That is where diplomacy ought to come in. One cannot win hearts and minds down the barrel of a gun.

Regarding my comment about "disaffected" young extremists in Britain: our experience is largely one of youthful terrorists coming from relatively poor inner city areas of the country where they have been poisoned by reactionary hate-based preaching. These are very different economically to the affluent Saudis who crashed the planes on 9/11. Though I wonder whether those Saudis did not also come from a nihilistic intellectual ghetto? (It rather makes one think of Dostoyevski's nihilistic terrorist figures in "The Damned".)

Finally, the sub-prime mortgage issue: on one hand many people took out unsupportable loans, and on the other hand banks were over-keen to lend and lent irresponsibly. So both were wrong. However many people are not sophisticated, and will fall prey to clever advertising. (We see the same thing over here with credit cards.) The banks are the powerful party, able to advertise one way or another, to give or refuse. If they lent irresponsibly, their directors are responsible both ways: to the shareholders (or financiers) and to their customers. A certain amount of carefully thought out regulation would have saved a great deal of pain. Call that "big government" if you will, however it would have benefitted the greater good.

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