16 August, 2008

Politics and Religion Redux - Its going to be a long road to November

I am ambivalent about this commercial, but stripped of its religious underpinning, I agree with (and who wouldn't) the underlying argument.

In the 1990s, especially after the 1994 mid-terms and Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America", the hegemony of the right wing and the religious right became iron-firm (although it has its roots with Reagan, a draft-dodging Hollywood actor and sportscaster who beat last centuries most authentically religious president, Jimmy Carter, partially by appealing to "family values" conservatives).

The net effect of the past 31 years of religious rule in America has arguably been a disaster for many people. The effect of the cynicism of "new" Republican rule and their systematic and intentional bungling of services can been seen on a daily basis in San Francisco, a city that is understandably liberal. Reagan's dismantling of services for the poor, the addicted and the mentally ill has now become my problem, as a San Francisco resident and tax payer, and not society's at large. At the same time, instead of investing in harm reduction, his pill-addicted wife eschewed drugs with the catch-phrase "Just Say No" on national TV, a campaign roundly and rightly mocked by its intended target audience (again, me) in the 1980s. Many billions of dollars were spent ineffectively battling an un-winnable drug war as drug use, drug-related incarceration, crime and the AIDS epidemic skyrocketed.

The United States now imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other industrialized nation, over 6 times as much as the European average. The complexion of inmates is overwhelmingly darker compared to the general population. These things are all related: incarceration, the AIDS crisis, the war on the poor, the war on drugs, the dismantling and privatization of government services. We the people are charged with the duty of due process, yet the job of handling our swelling prison population, rightly a function of government, is handed off to private corporate contractors. For profit.

Who started the political war of attrition between Republicans and Democrats in the 1990s is up for debate. There is no question that Bill Clinton, and the Democratic Leadership Council, practiced a form of hard-ball politics that was a formalized, methodical answer to Richard M. Nixon with his "enemies lists", win-at-all-costs tactics. Except the intervening years separating Watergate and 1992 were rife with lessons to be learned, the biggest: don't get caught.

Sexual dalliances have always been a part and parcel of politics, but it came to its apex, or nadir in recent decades, peaking with President Clinton's impeachment proceedings. Sex and betrayal resonates with every talking primate on this marble: every cheated-on wife, and every wandering eye possessing husband, wary of his wife's wrath. The same decade that brought us the literal dismemberment of Joey Buttafuoco, and the sex-rage killings of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman also brought us Monica Lewinsky and Ginnifer Flowers, and an alpha-male president whose predilections tended toward the sensual unlike the Current Occupant and his sociopath's glee for mass homicide and fascism.

In the name of Family Values, our just and righteous leaders like adulterer Newt Gingrich and homosexual Larry Craig, Bill Clinton must be made to answer for "hav[ing] sex with that woman."

Remember, these are the people so busy locking up blacks for smoking plants and plant derivatives White Society has told them they are not allowed to have that they have to sell off the burden of running prisons to private industry. Small-government, family values conservatism using your tax money to enrich for-profit enterprise whose job it is to incarcerate people suffering from a disease.

Returning to religion, the Gospel of Matthew is one of four canonical doctrines related to Jesus Christ in the Christian faith, and it is the one that most vociferously promotes the idea that followers in Christ have as their core and solemn duty in life to emulate Jesus in humility, charity, faith and good works. Matthew records Jesus' sermon on the mount, considered by most to be the core tenants of Christian faith just like Moses and the revelation of the Ten Commandments is central to Jewish dogma. In practice, however, the devil is in the details.

The religious right openly and loudly identifies themselves as Christian (with some strange bedfellows recently from the Zionist Jewish far-right), and largely Baptist. Fire and brimstone baptists. Shortly, "bible-thumpers." But all this self-identification with Christianity begins to unravel upon inspection. Instead of healing the sick and helping the poor, the Religious Right in America is more concerned with GGA - Guns, God and Ammo, and preventing reproductive rights or any advancement in rights for homosexuals (even though at least one of Jesus' disciples was himself gay, psst, it was Paul). Jail, not forgiveness for sinners, and bombs for the Commies and later the Terrorists. You could turn the other cheek, but only while reloading your assault weapon, while riding shotgun in a Hummer blasting through Falluja, spreading Motherfucking Freedumb Uhmerikan Style to the Hajis.

John Edwards cheated on his wife, who has cancer and probably not long to live. I do not know the details but assuming it was done in secret, without Elizabeth's knowledge or consent, that was a dastardly, selfish, cruel and, frankly, asshole thing to do. Perhaps it was John Edwards' way of moving on in the face of a terminally ill spouse, who knows. Rush Limbaugh blamed the victim, Elizabeth Edwards, by insinuating that she was a know it all ball buster, based on no evidence at all. Rush Limbaugh is the darling of the Religious Right. Knowing nothing at all about John and Elizabeth Edwards' private lives, he accused her of driving her husband away for the crime of being smarter than him.

As deplorable as it is, it bears repeating: Rush Limbaugh thinks it is the fault of Elizabeth Edwards for her husband's admitted infidelity.

Turn the other cheek. Charity. Faith. Uplift the poor and care for the sick.

It is remarkable that Rush Limbaugh is in possession of absolutely none of these qualities. He promotes family values and has himself been divorced multiple times over. He dares to uphold the sanctity of marriage and himself has broken the vow "till death do us part" multiple times, supposedly made in earnest and before an all seeing, all knowing and perfect God. The only sick that he seems to want to heal is his own dope-sickness by chasing the Oxycontin dragon.

John McCain's infidelity is a matter of public record and he, like Edwards, has admitted to it. Yet somehow when Democrats cheat on their spouses it is bigger news than when Republicans do, as if Democrats were some how more vulnerable to moral interpitude. But the party that values divorce court as much as it values homosexual trysts in public toilets, mass murder and the privatization of re-enslaving the Black poor in America as prisoners of a false and unending war on drugs has not a leg to stand on.

So, I call fair game. Let us all put are cards on the table, or, as someone famously said, lets let our chickens come back to roost. Is this a truly zero-sum game?

Well, I for one would prefer to be lead by someone who takes to heart the Gospel of Matthew, who loves the sinner and hates the sin. Maybe such a person will treat the ill instead of lock them up. Maybe such a person will sit at the table, across from our adversaries, to open up a dialog; thus to him offering the un-struck cheek.

Maybe America deserves a president who is not a murdering sociopath, or fully of envy, lust, greed, avarice. Nobody is perfect, certainly not Barack Obama, but I want to believe that he is not a criminal psychopath. I'm just afraid that America is incapable of electing someone who isn't.

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