Sunday, July 24, 2005

Follow the God

Scared yet? Gibbering in mind-blowing fear? Shaking like hairless Chihuahua in an icy draught?
You’re not? Shame on you – you’re part of the problem.
The most important issue today, and as usual the liberals (small and large ‘L’) the libertarians, the left-leaning and the laissez-faire are out to lunch.
Not that I’ve got anything against lunch – why, I love lunch! Love to take a couple of hours to lounge at an outdoor café, sipping mineral water, indulging in moules and frites, gossiping with a girlfriend, watching all the boys strut by, closing my eyes and tipping my face into the sunshine, a self-satisfied smile playing across my dreaming features, the hustle and flow of the workaday world simply white noise punctuated by the clink and chatter of ice cubes in my gently perspiring glass… wait – what, hold on; the bill?
As ever there’s a price to be paid – a tab to be tallied – and this reckoning bears all the hallmarks of an earth shattering score to be settled.
Aesop didn’t miss much in his fables, and the one with which our current and future situation bears the closest resemblance is ‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’.
You know the story: the grasshopper sings and plays all day (and no doubt orders the salad instead of the frites at the insect outdoor café) whilst the industrious little ant labours all summer long, collecting food and necessities for the inevitable long cold winter ahead. Fast forward to the inevitable long, cold winter, and the grasshopper is starving and shivering, the ant, cozy and well fed. The moral: prepare like a Republican, or shiver on the outside like a defeated (and demoralized) Democrat.
The pundits were all over that analogy during the last election, reminding listeners and viewers and readers alike that while the Democrats may make a fine showing in the moment, the end result is inevitably undermined by foundations long laid by Republicans who labour and till and toil even in the off season, never resting on their laurels, never relaxing for a lazy lunch, keeping their eye firmly on the ball that has long been bouncing in their home court.
The result: the President can seemingly do no wrong. He can threaten social security, stack the Supreme Court deck with right wing cards – he can have his war and eat it too. And with the exception of a few lackluster polls, he can go on doing so merrily, merrily – his only recent misstep the nomination of a world-class jerk as U.N. Ambassador, a misstep he corrected nicely by making his Supreme Court nom a scandal-free, upright, uptight, bandbox clean and shiny keeper of the Republican faith, John Roberts.
It’s that crafty legerdemain again – distract them with the whitest white guy ever born and back him up with a bookend perfect wife and two precocious and porcelain blonde tots and your audience will never notice the petition to overturn Roe V. Wade secreted up your sleeve, or the motion being brought to limit marriage to a man and a woman concealed behind your squirting flower boutonnière.
But once again even the distraction isn’t the distraction we should be watching; as Frank Rich wrote in his New York Times column last week, even the Judith Miller/Karl Rove contretemps wasn’t really about the principals in the story. The real story, the story behind the story, is the story of the Iraq war and how dishonestly it was set about and achieved. “Follow the uranium,” he wrote, in a tip of the hat to Watergate’s Deep Throat, who advised The Washington Post’s Woodward and Bernstein to ignore the machinations and monkey business of Nixon and his minions, and instead “follow the money” to get at the truth.
Back to the future (or at least to the present) and we make a mistake by focusing on the Supreme Court to the detriment of the underlying disease of which John Roberts (and Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas and their ilk) are simply the unpleasant and noxious symptoms. Symptoms of the rot that has set in at the top; and by the top, I refer not to the President, but to the fundamentalist leaders of the Religious Right whose presence is only beginning to be felt even as they feel their own powerful oats, flexing their increasingly powerful political muscles.
The President they bought and elected and whose core constituency they control with a will of unforgiving, unbending iron is already subservient to their central cause: to firmly entrench God at the top of the nominal democracy that is swiftly shifting to a near-theocracy – a theocracy that proclaims Jesus the main man and the bible as the Bill of Rights, making the Ten Commandments the basis of a Constitution for a nation that seems to have been lounging like a grasshopper at a sidewalk café, paying only scant attention as the first signs of snow herald the coming blizzard.
It’s a cold world they’re planning alright – a world that only begins with a Supreme Court that will reflect their agenda for years, even decades to come.
With a smoothness and an oiliness that has enabled them to slither through some tight spaces previously thought impenetrable, church and state, far from remaining separate are on a collision course – a rock and a hard place that when they smash together will simultaneously smash the principles and the people who have long been labouring to hold at arm’s length the delicate balance of morality and law that hold fairness and equality at their core.
But the onion has at least one more layer I believe, the layer that conceals what is behind the Religious Right, and this is the bitterest concealment of all; for even as we may disagree with the spiritual beliefs of one another, even as we attempt to balance the wide array of faiths that form the foundation for the private values and consciences of many, we trust and believe that we all mean well; we have to - it’s called respect. And it's necessary to a peaceful coexistence.
Not necessary though for those who choose to co-exist with none – the 'my way or the highway' folks who identify themselves as Christians and openly advocate the murder of abortion doctors, the punishment of stem cell scientists (cannibals they call them) and the segregation of gay and lesbian citizens, as well as a list of places, institutions and positions they should be compelled by law to relinquish: teaching, parenting, ministering and administering. This is who these people are and these are the issues they hold dear, and the basis of their belief appears to be hatred, bigotry and punishment.
What I’m saying is (and I don’t refer to any Deity I’ve ever imagined, the one Whose hands-off mission of free will – I pray – is at the centre a message of love) keep an eye and an ear on folks at the top; listen in particular for words and clues and phrases that imply a union with the Almighty, statements that suggest an insider knowledge and an ability to interpret the intentions and wishes of Himself.
Watch for pronouncements that cede the rights of the individual to the power of the state, and further, to the state-sponsored interpretation of the cruelest and bloodiest parts of the Bible.
“Follow the God” is what I’m saying.
And when you hear His name evoked by a politician, be afraid.
And listen even harder.

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