The Death of a Nation (a retrospective on the W. Bush era, Part 7: RELIGIOUS)

The attempt to inject religion and religious belief/practice into high level politics in the United States stepped forward in earnest in January, 2001, on the day of George W. Bush’s first inauguration as president. He brought with him his own brand of what was, in effect, the sort of ‘Christian’ fundamentalist-evangelicalism which has found a home in certain parts of the country, particularly amongst the uneducated and easily frightened manipulable masses (“conservatives” in modern political parlance). The election of Barack Obama to the Presidency in 2008 served to substantially reduce the contribution(s) of the Oval Office to what many seem to hope is a burgeoning American theocracy, but certainly did not quash the program or the agenda which underlies. As we speak, the Romney-Ryan ticket stands in support of numerous theocratic preferences, and if elected would certainly and immediately set out to formally institute the highest among them, i.e. the complete and total imposition of fundamentalist “Christian” policies in re human reproduction, specifically in the areas of contraception and abortion, with intent to outlaw both on the fragmented thesis that life begins at conception, that the fertilized egg is a ‘person’ with all attendant rights implied. No exceptions. Not even rape. As US Senate candidate from Indiana, Republican Richard Mourdock stated in a political debate on October 23, 2012), “I believe that life begins at conception. . . . Life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins with that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.” Former Senator and presidential primary candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) also noted, on January 20, 2012, that “The right approach is to accept this horribly created, in the sense of rape, but nevertheless . . . gift of human life, and accept what God is giving to you.”

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)

God. Religion. Politics. Since January of 2010 in the US House of Representatives alone, there have been thirty votes on measures to restrict a woman’s right to choose. And that amazing statistic represents, without any doubt, no more than the tip of the emergent theocratic iceberg desired by so many to be established as a defining national thesis.

Supporters willingly ignore the fact that the first amendment to the US Constitution begins with these words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .” There are those in seats of immense power today who, as we speak, refuse to accept the premise that this is NOT a nation founded or based upon any belief or even any recognition of any deity of any kind, that the concept called freedom OF religion also includes the guaranteed right to freedom FROM religion. Nevertheless, their eternal goal remains singular: to see that obedience to the precepts of fundamentalist and evangelical ‘Christianity’ is forced upon everyone in the country, no exceptions.They seem to not realize or care that the words ‘God’ and ‘Christ’ do NOT appear anywhere in the Constitution, and that the words ‘religion’ and ‘religious’ each appear only once: ‘religion’ as noted above, and ‘religious’ in Article VI, Clause 3, the clause which includes the line “. . . no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

George W. Bush was among the first who brought the insertion of fundamentalist Christianity into seats of national power to the forefront, and to this day the theocratic movement persists and is, in many ways, even increasing in strength. Their hope, of course, is to impose their brand of ‘Christian’ theocracy upon the nation as a whole, and in so doing to achieve full power of the state in all matters. The predictable consequence of national collapse does not seem to enter into their vision, or their calculations.

Following is a brief analysis (April, 2005) of the matter as evidenced by some events which occurred during the first half of W. Bush’s presidency. The devil is, as they say, in the details.

**********

Religious:

“We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” ~George Orwell

In George Bush’s “Americuh,” not all is as others would have you believe.  In fact, the reality of George Bush’s Americuh is roughly the opposite: virtually NOTHING is as others would have you believe.  And unfortunately for those who would prefer to immerse themselves into the honorable and loving side of Christian mythology, today’s best advice would be to repeat that old admonition: don’t believe anything you hear and most of what you see – something like that.  Emily Dickinson wrote:

    Finding is the first Act
    The second, loss,
    Third, Expedition for
    The “Golden Fleece”

    Fourth, no Discovery –
    Fifth, no Crew –
    Finally, no Golden Fleece –
    Jason – sham – too.

Sham: “Something false or empty that is purported to be genuine; a spurious imitation; The quality of deceitfulness; empty pretense.”

It’s hard to figure who is really using who, here.  Are the Republicans using the Christian right for electoral purposes?  Yes.  Is the Christian right using the Republican party to advance its own theocratic agenda?  Yes.  Next question: are the Republican politicians who love to speak of God and of Jesus really all that devout? And, too, are the leaders of the Christian right (e.g. Falwell, Robertson, Graham, etc.) really all that “Christian” – in the biblical sense?  In a word, NO!  In four words, You’ve gotta be kidding!

Religion: A belief in and reverence for a supernatural power.  
Religion: The same old Spider with a different name.

It’s fair to acknowledge the first definition and in the process praise those souls who do truly believe, who live their lives accordingly, who lead by example and not by rhetoric, and who understand and accept that not everyone agrees with their particular philosophy.  At the same time, the Spiders involved in ‘religio-business’ tend to stand out like sore thumbs; they’re the ones with the 800 number, the ones who will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to extract even pennies from the pockets of starving widows:  pennies do make dollars, after all.  They’re also the ones who are more likely to preach hatred than love, to spin lies rather than speak the truth.  Some call them “evangelicals” or “fundamentalists” – too generous; Gore Vidal once nicknamed them “Christers” which rolls more easily off the tongue.  And worst of all, a great many of them are, today, politicians who, in search of power and authority (i.e. money) prostitute themselves before the active evangelistic hookers already on the prowl.  In a mutual back-scratch,  ‘they’ all do, indeed, reflect the image of their main political enabler, the head Spider, George W. Bush.

I suppose it’s the oh-so-obvious dichotomy which seems to both define and predict their every public move.  They invariably bring to mind that great line spoken by Marlon Brando to Karl Mauldin in the movie One-eyed Jacks:  “You’re a one-eyed Jack around here, Dad, but I’ve seen the other side o’ yer face.”  And it’s precisely there wherein lies the rub with these people:  their feigned but worshipful sincerity is a one-eyed Jack, one more strand in the Spider’s web – an effective strand, an expedient strand.  No doubt some in the Christer movement are sincere and truly believe in what they say and do.  But their leaders, the aforementioned triumverate in particular, believe less in “God” than in the power over the masses which their pretense brings to them.  There is, as Solomon once wrote, nothing new under the sun.

George W. Bush is a “Christian,” or so he likes to proclaim.  He tells anyone who cares to listen how, back in the days when he was a carousing (and Air Guard AWOL) drunk, an alcoholic (and some say a drug-user, a charge upon which he invariably avoids comment), he once took a walk on the beach with Rev. Billy Graham and emerged as a whole man, now possessed by the power of Christ.  He quit drinking, got into politics, and the rest is history, as they say – although much of it still waits to be written.  From that I am supposed to conclude that it’s ok to lie when you want to start a preemptive war of vengeance, that it’s ok to send young men and women to be killed and maimed in an unjust (and unjustified) war; it’s ok if there’s “collateral damage” in the form of death and maiming of tens or even hundreds of thousands of innocent bystanders; it’s ok to spout a constant stream of lies on virtually any issue, to use Orwellian ‘speak’ to mask true intent and meaning;  it’s fine to deny Americans such as Jose Padilla their constitutional rights – in fact, abrogation of constitutional authority need never be a problem because “the Constitution is an outdated document,” according to recently appointed Justice Department head, Attorney General of the United States and Bush loyalist, Alberto Gonzales;  use of torture and rendition are fine, so long as no one can officially track either of them back to the Oval Office;  atrocity of any sort – including the rape of the nation’s and planet’s environment is no problem so long as business’s profits are enhanced; it’s fine to shroud the words and deeds of the entire Executive branch in a level of impregnable secrecy last seen in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, but never before parcel to a legitimate  ‘democracy’;  legislation favoring the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor and middle class is not only a good thing, it’s mandatory if one hopes to (a) feed the Spider, and (b) keep the political treasure chest filled to the brim with cash and privilege; and last but not least, it’s solid practice to insist that lack of character, dishonesty, and moral cowardice be a prerequisite for appointment to high office – anything “less” might expose that which must remain hidden, after all.

The above paragraph describes the visible ooze from only a surface scratch on the facade of George W. Bush: the man, the self-proclaimed rebirthed Christian, “He” who once said, with all appropriate humility, “I believe that God wants me to be president.”  Bush is not, of course, the first national leader to be selected by God Himself, nor is it likely he’ll be the last.  God recognizes talent and devotion to purpose, after all, and sometimes ‘the chosen’ understand the magnificence of that reality.

“If we pursue this way, if we are decent, industrious, and honest, if we so loyally and truly fulfill our duty, then it is my conviction that in the future as in the past the Lord God will always help us.”

So spoke the great and godly Adolf Hitler himself, at the Harvest Thanksgiving Festival on the Buckeburg,  3 Oct. 1937, a concept reiterated by George W. Bush when he said:

“God is not on the side of any nation, yet we know He is on the side of justice. Our finest moments [as a nation] have come when we faithfully served the cause of justice for our own citizens, and for the people of other lands.”

I’m sure I shall sleep more soundly now.

In the America of 2005, George W. Bush of course does not stand alone as God’s man in the seat of power, not by a long shot.  There are others, many others – some say too many others – who each and all proclaim themselves to be devoted Christians even as they work constantly to secure food for their own Spiders, each via an auxiliary web.  While it would be a virtual impossibility to describe, much less discuss, each and every “Christian” Spider that has spun its own web in the American Capital, the recent case of Terri Schiavo did at least serve to expose a pair of them: Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), Senate Majority Leader, and representative Tom DeLay (R-TX), House Majority Leader.

The case of Terri Schiavo centered around an unfortunate young woman who, following a heart stoppage in 1990, was brain-damaged to the point where her EEG became flattened, and where CAT scans revealed that her cerebral cortex was gone, dissolved, replaced by cerebro-spinal fluid.  She was, in medical parlance, in a permanent vegetative state; her body remained metabolically sound and therefore ‘alive’, but her brain – her mind, her person – was gone, dead.  Her husband waited for seven years in the hope that a medical miracle might occur, that somehow the damage might reverse and she could become whole again.  But it was not to be, so he, as her legal guardian, asked medical personnel to remove the feeding tube which was keeping her body alive.  Her parents, devout Catholics, asked the courts to intercede.  They did, and after some seven more years a judge ordered Ms Schiavo’s feeding tube removed in order that her last vestige – her body – might finally die in peace.

The event brought forth the worst that intolerance has to offer in the form of far right wing “Christian” ideologue/theocratic politics.  Within days of the removal of Ms Schiavo’s feeding tube, the politicians themselves took over:  Florida Governor Jeb Bush (George’s brother), the aforementioned messrs. DeLay and Frist, along with the ‘president’ himself – all charter members of Washington’s current One-eyed Jacks Club – quickly joined the fray.  Senator Frist, himself an MD of supposedly once-respected credential, reviewed some old video tapes of Ms. Schiavo and quickly announced that she was definitely NOT in a persistent vegetative state.  Governor Jeb Bush arranged for an MD neurologist to review the tapes and even to visit Ms Schiavo’s bedside (although no direct examination was permitted).  After a 90 minute visit, Dr. William Cheshire, an evangelical Christian neurologist and bioethicist noted that, “Although Terri did not demonstrate during our 90-minute visit compelling evidence of verbalization, conscious awareness or volitional behavior, yet the visitor has the distinct sense of the presence of a living human being who seems at some level to be aware of some things around her.”

Tom DeLay quickly joined forces with Bill Frist, and within hours the Republican-dominated Congress of the United States of America had passed emergency legislation which in effect reassigned jurisdiction from state to federal court and ordered the federal courts to review the state court decisions (seven years worth, including 3 hearing denials by the US Supreme Court); the implication was that a federal judge order the reinsertion of the feeding tube.

George W. Bush, on vacation at his Texas ranch, hurriedly climbed aboard Air Force One and returned to Washington to sign the bill into law (no one has ever accused George of not recognizing a photo-op when one showed up).  A few hours later, the matter was brought to the federal courts by Ms Schiavo’s parents’ lawyers.  They were, in effect, turned away by a judge who understood that the new law was both insufficient and probably unconstitutional; a day later, the 11th Circuit denied the action, and for the next few days appeal followed appeal, including two more to the Supreme Court (denied) and one last ditch plea to the Florida courts (denied).  Terri Schiavo’s body passed away on March 31, 2005.

DeLay was outraged.  He said, “This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.”  Earlier, on the front end of his insistence upon federal court involvement in what is traditionally held to be a state matter, he had voiced his twin premises: “We should investigate every avenue before we take the life of a living human being, and that’s the very least we can do…” and “One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America. This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others.”  His motives were, in other words, obvious from the beginning: they were political and had nothing at all to do with the “Christian” facade he and so many others, including Bush himself, so relentlessly support.  In fact, note in DeLay’s second statement, his words: “. . . attacks against the conservative movement, against me . . .”  The “against me” is obviously referent to DeLay’s current legal problems, the well-supported accusations of unethical and illegal conduct, and of his probably upcoming trial in Texas on those charges.

Bush, meanwhile – the one who rushed to the ‘stage’ to sign the bill, the one who now likes to speak profoundly the buzzwords “culture of life” as if they’re more than simply another convenient slogan, travels with his own baggage.  During his tenure as governor of Texas, for example, not only were more prisoners executed (152) than in the rest of the states combined, he also signed into law a bill that allowed hospitals to remove life support in order to, in effect, avoid the expense of keeping otherwise terminal patients alive.  It’s worth noting that as Bush was bloviating on the Schiavo case, a six month old baby in Texas was taken off life support in spite of his mother’s objections and pleas.  The little boy died minutes later.  It’s also worth noting that she did not have the financial means to pay her son’s medical expenses; Shiavo’s case, meanwhile, was well-funded.

And lest DeLay’s hypocrisy remain even partially concealed, let it be known that in 1988 he and his siblings agreed to disconnect their ailing and dying father from life support, to let him die.

“If we really cared about saving lives, why would the Congress sit idly by while 40 million Americans have no health insurance, or while the president tries to cut billions of dollars from Medicaid – a virtual lifeline for millions of our citizens?” (Rep. John Conyers, D-MI)

So much for the “culture of life.”  It’s obvious: these “Christians” are nothing more than Spiders masquerading as One-eyed Jacks.  Or v.v. – if there truly is a difference.

Meanwhile, the media circus which surrounded Terri Schiavo during her body’s last two weeks on this earth was itself, in a word, disgusting.  The event – always urged subliminally forth by politicians in Washington and in the Florida Capital – became a stage for far right Christians of all persuasion.  Many were doubtlessly sincere, but they were also, in their sincerity, pawns in the much larger game of political/theocratic mutual back-scratching.  Loudest amongst the phonies on the scene was long ago discredited anti-abortionist Barnett Terry, himself a nutcase of epic proportion.  The bottom line is that when politics and religion play together on the same stage, it’s hard to tell whether the end product is a tragedy or a comedy – but one thing IS certain: it has no basis in sincerity of cause.  More webs, more Spiders – ever in search of a lunch.

To be continued . . .

Read Part 8 here.

About these ads