…or, “Don’t Whack Off in Wilmington”, and Other Tales….
By: W.D. Noble
“Who are these people?”
I asked this question the other day of a friend of mine, after discussing the outlandish bullshit coming from the ultra Religious Right. We were sitting in this place, one of my favorite breakfast-places in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Sitting there among the aging hippie boomers and the pierced/tattooed ‘Portlandia’ crowd who were busy getting their grub-on via French omelettes and organic side-salads with plenty of Stumptown Coffee’s finest, it was a little hard to view the world as spinning off its sociopolitical axis.
“I don’t know, Will. I honestly don’t know.”
She was telling the truth – neither she (or most others here in the People’s Republic of Oregon) have any idea what these people are about. The Religious Right has a guilty-pleasure allure to those of us who are fascinated with their efforts to destroy what’s left of American culture, though – it’s akin to watching a train-wreck, or seeing someone blow their lunch after riding the Tilt-A-Whirl at the county fair – we’re horrified; yet compelled to watch.
“Well, 1/3 of America – if the figures I’ve read are right, and I believe they are – are ultraRight Evangelicals. Another 1/3 tend to vote that way. Put ’em together, and it’s a miracle Obama’s in office. The country’s been making an inexorable move to the Right ever since 9/11.”
She nodded, then sipped more coffee. The look on her face told the story – like so many, she felt helpless to really do anything about the onslaught of Fundies like Rick Santorum, the homophobic rantings of people like David Fischer and Rick Barber, plus the full on race-to-the-bottom in American education, courtesy of the early efforts of R.J. Rushdoony and carried on by legions of homeschoolers as evidenced by the Creation Museum of Ken Ham and the wholesale rewrite of textbooks by the state of Texas.
“I read the other day that the city of Wilmington, Delaware passed a resolution calling on Congress to declare sperm the same as eggs, and give them ‘personhood’ rights. I’m hoping it’s a joke. Otherwise, anyone who whacks-off in Wilmington could go to prison for murder.”
Understand something. My friend is an educator. We went to college together. She teaches English composition at one of the local high-schools, and is underpaid by any standard, especially considering that she completed her master’s at Reed College, one of America’s best private schools.
Reed is an accredited college. If Rick Santorum, the Fundies’ darling in the Presidential race has his way, that won’t be the case much longer – he’s in favor of pulling accreditation from any college or university which doesn’t have an equal number of ‘conservative professors’ to counter the ‘liberal influence’ of America’s higher-educational institutions (now, just how he’d do that is beyond any thinking person – the notions of ‘liberal’ vs. ‘conservative’ have nothing to do with teaching a set of facts – but that’s rather Santorum’s point, after all. He’s not interested in facts – he’s interested in seeing that his brand of religion gains primacy in America). This, of course, does not sit well with my friend.
“They’ve rewritten history,” she said. “They’ve rewritten science. And, they have people who believe them.” Her voice had a resignation; it was like hearing, “Everyone now believes the earth is flat.”
It’s not just outfits like the Creation Museum and Liberty University which is in the vanguard of rewriting history and science. For every Fundie ‘college’ spouting a young-earth paleontology or a ‘Christian nation’ history of America, there are several like the benignly-named Discovery Institute, which publishes books like “The Devil’s Delusion – Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions” (authored by a self styled ‘thinker and raconteur’ without a smidge of credentials).
This sort of thing goes a long way toward legitimizing the Right’s otherwise-indefensible positions on science and history – they can say “See! We have think-tanks, just like you do! Thing is, they support our position!”
(I’ve written several times about the long history of the far Right and the Christian Fundamentalist movement in America, and their anti-intellectual stance; it dates back to before the Revolution, and traces its origins to the border-ridings between Scotland and England, where mistrust of an educated populace is endemic.)
America’s first colleges were religious. These gave rise to a tradition of accrediting schools of pure religion right alongside real educational institutions. As a consequence, arguments which should have been put to bed over a century ago are still alive and well; Fundies now look through a warped lens at the past – a past they do not understand – where life was simpler because ‘God’s laws’ ruled the nation.
“They also vote”, my friend continued. “They vote.”
And why not? They believe, like some isolated cargo-cult which believed that if they just made the right marks on paper that aircraft would appear by magic and drop parachutes full of Spam, condoms and bubblegum on their island. If we only ‘turn back to God’, then crime will stop; the economy will correct itself by magic and there will be perfect harmony. The best way to ‘take America back’, they believe, is to elect someone like Santorum, who believes the same thing.
Yes; they vote.
And, they vote not just for people like Santorum. By default, they vote against knowledge – and that’s why Fundamentalism in America is not a harmless practice.
When one asks, “What harm does it do, that these people believe the earth is 6,000 years old; that the Founders intended America to be a ‘Christian nation’ with other religions suppressed, and that homosexuality is a ‘treatable disease’? What harm does it do that they have their own museums; their own schools; their own culture? Does it really hurt me that there’s a dinosaur model wearing a saddle in Ken Ham’s Creation Museum? Does it hurt me that David Barton wants a theocracy in America?”
Yes, it does.
“Do you think Santorum really has a chance?” My friend had finished her coffee. The bill was paid. We were walking toward our respective vehicles in a light rain.
“Yeah, he does. If he can force a floor-fight at the convention, he can wind up with the nomination. If he can put the fear of ‘God’ – and Obama – in enough marginally-literate people in America, yes – he can get elected.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she said.
The odds don’t look good. For every theologian like Francis Collins, there are dozens of Fundies and powerful ‘think tanks’ like the aforementioned Discovery Institute, and the momentum appears to be against the enlightened and genuinely educated.
Meantime, people who are influenced by these people and who view voting for Fundie candidates as somehow returning America to a ‘better time’ are clueless enablers, engaging in the cognitive dissonance of belief.
Ad interim, Santorum’s star is on the rise. It remains to be seen, as they say, whether he’s got the staying-power to win a nomination and get himself elected – but from here, the view is depressing.
Don’t whack off in Wilmington.
You can read more from W.D. Noble @ http://astranavigo.blogspot.com/