Thursday, October 21, 2004

Curb Your God

Last night, while driving around aimlessly, I saw a nice bumpersticker: "Curb Your God: Fundamentalism is Ugly in Any Color."

Too true, begob.

I have no problem with faith. How could I? It's a universal and irreducible human trait, and is the bedrock of all human endeavor in this essentially hallucinatory world of ours. Lord knows I've got lots of faith; I could scarely get out of bed in the morning otherwise. If nothing else, I can always echo Aunt Patty's opinion on Duff Gardens' "Beer Hall of Presidents": "Anything this bad has to be educational."

I have no problem with Christianity, or atheism, or Buddhism, or Islam, or anything. The only thing that bothers me is the absolutist pseudocertainty that lets people escape from their own frailty and foolishness by interfering with other people's lawful pursuit of happiness, whether by stupefying them with doctrinal arcana, or denying them basic rights, or calling them names, or blowing them to smithereens.

I'm all too aware that this is just about the oldest lefty blogger rant in the book; everyone's heard it before, and I'll end it right here. What's more important is that Al Gore, the other day, did a brave and important thing by accusing Bush publicly of being a pious fraud who does evil things under the cloak of a "false moral authority."

People like to attack BushCo for its fundamentalist religiosity, when the real problem is its Social Darwinist nihilism. It's damning enough to say that Bush's brand of fundamentalism is unconstitutional and hypocritical; it's far more damning - and far more accurate - to say that it's an utterly cynical and calculating lie.

Gore says that what we see and hear when Bush talks is the contempt he and his people have for people of good faith, who sincerely want to do the right thing but have been cynically misled as to what is right. He's perfectly correct, and it's far better to attack Bush's religious "advantage" over Kerry this way, than to attack religion per se.

It's exactly the same as Bush's "Texas cowboy" routine: there's no point in debating whether it's a good thing or a bad thing for a given person to be a cowboy; what's important is whether the person in question actually is a cowboy. And Bush is a Christian the way he's a straight-shootin' cowboy from Way Out West. It's all fraudulent, and to treat it any other way plays into the Right's hands. To believe that Bush has a sincere religious core is to grant him a strength he doesn't actually have, which his supporters can rally around and admire. When the Left attacks from that angle, all we're doing is polishing up Bush's brass halo for the fundies. I think Gore has shown us a much more fruitful avenue of attack, and I hope we'll hear much more of this rhetoric in years to come.


Thers said...

I never believed that Kid Rock--or Jon Bon Jovi, for that matter--was a "cowboy" either...

You're right; the reason "faith" is so important to the Bushies is that they use it to corner the market on the entire field of legitimate discourse. (Odd reference alert.) It's like in Slap Shot, when the ref skates up to a bloody-faced Jeff Hanson and starts warning him against fighting--during the National Anthem. Jeff just yells at him "I'm listenuing to the fuckin' song!" and the ref has to shut up.

Never mind who is right or wrong, whose policies are sane or crazy. What matters is that the Bushies use the language of religion--and patriotism, too, right--to bid for a monopoly on the entire range of legitimate discourse. This has a kind of a censorship effect. The Bushies have been very successful at defining the terms of legitimate vs. illegitimate political speech, especially as its conducted through the mass media. Not solely as its so conducted, though, as anyone who's ever been at a family party and felt like they had to shut up about saying something bad about our Good Man the Preznit for fear of giving "offense" can tell you. Or as the infuriating "irrational Bush hatred" meme indicates.

Look, when the Bushies bring up "faith" what they are really saying is "we are the only legitimate speakers of political truth." That's the long and the short of it.

Phila said...

There's an interesting post on this comment over at Metacomments. Check it out!