Sunday, May 20, 2007


Over on Salon Alan Wolfe has an article about the demise of Jerry Falwell (“The stone is cast”, Enough to say that if We haven’t figured out that his treacherous antics were not Christianity and that he set the cause and quality of American Christianity back centuries, then We really have come onto the world scene bringing the proverbial knife to a gunfight.

But Wolfe asks an excellent question: How did this man ever become a public figure in the first place? Just as the South was considered so profoundly warped that the rest of the country politely avoided it, or averted their gaze when such virulent whackjobs as Theodore Bilbo held forth, so the Fundamentalists were held at arm’s length by mainstream Christianity – if we can use the phrase.

We know that politically the virulence of the Revolutions of the Identities opened the hell-gate. They were not just figurative ‘revolutions’ in the mid-60s’ Boomer, pot-whacked, adolescent, self-flattering and self-hyping sense, their content being so ‘cool’ and ‘right’ that embracing them was a sign of vast enlightenment. Rather, they were revolutions in the sense of actual praxis ala Russe: truly Soviet-style revolutionary methods, whereby in the name of abstract ‘downtrodden masses’ and in the service of abstract Perfections, anything and everything must be done away with that would oppose or hinder the quickest possible establishment of the regime and prevent any further questioning of it. And this method is hell-and-gone from American democratic process.

We know that the Democratic Party itself was terrified that the loss of Southern voters consequent upon the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1965, and that the impending decline of the mostly male Northeast industrial-worker demographic, would utterly undo the New Deal coalition forged by FDR 30 years before. The Party was desperate to raise up new reliable voting blocs.

We know that the media – high as a kite on the heady wine of forsaking boring and stodgy ‘objectivity’ and deploying their powerful strength ‘in a good cause’ – did not want to go back to the corral after the civil-rights struggle reached its democratic zenith in 1965.

We know that French “Theory” was looking for a home, bringing in the luggage its insistence that there was no Truth, no Objectivity, no Tradition, no Common Sense, no Virtue(s), no ‘higher’ dimension to existence, and surely no real and actual “God”: there was only Oppression and there were only Oppressor-classes or -nations, who deployed such capital-letter abstractions for the purpose of keeping the oppressed, their ‘victims’, down. And that the high-road of life was to wage a perpetual struggle against Oppression and Oppressors, including the struggle against the malicious illusion that there was any other dimension except this one or that there was any other path (or content) to human fulfillment except the achieving of sufficient political power to avoid being oppressed. (Theory never really got around to the massive irony that a nation or a group that had achieved ‘un-oppressability’ was – human nature being what it is – ripe for going over to the dark side and becoming an oppressor itself. But then, for Theory there was no such thing as ‘human nature’).

In the previous Post, “Bad Therapy” I adverted to another crucial element back there in the cauldron of the later-1960s that led to the witches’s brew that precipitated out in the 1990s: “… a ‘valorization’ of ‘victimization’ that had just recently been professionally amplified in a public relations spin blitzed over here by the newly assertive Israeli state: we’ve been most awfully and uniquely victimized and therefore we can never be doubted and to doubt us is to join the victimizers and by being thus victimized we are owed whatever we feel we need to get over it and by being victimized we can do whatever we feel we have to in order to ease our fears of it ever happening again.”

This was the lethal approach: the Outraged Victim Whose Unique Pain Permitted ‘All’ For Assuagement, for Vengeance, and for Future Protection; and the corollary that to doubt or even discuss the validity or applicability of the Victim’s demands (or in the Israeli praxis, the acts already committed to create ‘facts on the ground’) was to endorse and even collaborate with new Oppression and Victimization.

It would not take more than a moment’s reflection to realize that such a position was utterly incompatible with deliberative and democratic political process. And not only in the field of international relations but also in the realm of American domestic politics.

But in the event the nascent but richly-supported Advocacies, springing up to professionally advance the assorted Identities that were to comprise the new voting blocs the Democrats desperately sought, embraced both Theory and the Victimiste conceptual web now vigorously spun on behalf of the Israeli state.

‘Oppression’ and ‘outrages’ were duly discovered here, there, and everywhere in American society and culture, each demanding and permitting only the response of ‘outrage’ and utter and total sympathy for, and acquiescence to, the demands of Victims; a built-in bias toward emotionality and away from skeptical or even critical evaluative thought. The toxicity of this brew for the health of the American body politic cannot be fully comprehended, but conceptually it should have been clear from the earliest manifestations. And it was, but a newly deployed ‘political correctness’ prevented rational or even reasonable critical evaluation, or even deliberation and discussion.

The effort began to succeed: Trying to induce a link in the minds of the citizenry between ‘Slavery’ and the Holocaust with each new ‘outrage’ specific to each new Advocacy. And that constituted not only an embrace of substantive inaccuracy but also a symptom of increasing corrosion of the citizenry’s capacity – or even willingness – to assess, deliberate, and evaluate. The People were diminishing; ‘failing’ even.

It is a persistent – we might even say perennial – question whether any other historical phenomena can be ‘equated with’ the Holocaust, even metaphorically. That the government of a reputedly civilized nation, enjoying the plenum of power and capability accruing to a modern industrialized state, would decide to exterminate an entire group of human beings as a matter of official policy and to also cast this programme as a positive and absolute Good … has not happened more than once in history, to my knowledge. Pogroms and razzias extend back as far as can be seen, and the enslavement of militarily defeated tribes and peoples as well. But they are not the same thing.

And the ‘politics’ deduced by the Israeli state from that unique and monstrous event – as described above – are equally unique. They cannot be introduced into a democracy on the basis of a shrewdly-obfuscated and metaphorical ‘link’ that justifies such an introduction.

Indeed, one might say that the Holocaust has created an ‘anti-politics’ as one of its most lasting (and lethal) consequences.

And this lethal anti-politics, variously dressed-up as ‘revolutionary progress’, as just another New Deal coalition, vastly and deeply corroded Our polity. And when extended to foreign policy, it has led to Iraq (and perhaps to Iran).

It took less than five years for the vigorous efforts of the Advocacies to bear poisoned fruit. Having watched the Emotional and the anti-Rational and the anti-Reasonable do so much for the Democrats’ new cadres – and thus morphing into what is now called the ‘Left’, the Republicans began to embrace this apparently winning formula. But where the Democrats historic ‘far left’ had been pretty well squashed by the anti-Socialism and anti-Communism of the previous 40 years, the Republican ‘far right’ – paranoid, irrational, unreasonable, undereducated, intensely religious, and overlorded by a still-breathing Southron elitism and militarism that had survived the hard century since 1865 – was more or less ready, willing, and able.

It was Falwell and his ilk who saw the way not simply to harness modern technology such as television to raise larger wads of cash from larger ‘congregations’ but to harness the power and passion aroused in the already predisposed ‘far right’ masses in the service of politics. Falwell and his ilk shrewdly aroused the outrage of those masses at the true-enough anti-religious assertions and consequences (intended or not) now flooding into American society at the hands of the assorted ‘revolutions’ and demands of the Identities over which the Democrats had now – haplessly – lost any semblance of modulating control and in whose behalf the Democrats now – perforce – had to take their stand.

Harnessing irrationality and emotionalism on the right as the revolutionary praxis of the left had already exalted them, Falwell did not seek to improve the consciousness or souls of his followers or further the Gospel of the Christianity he overtly flaunted. Instead he raised them up as an army of pawns to counter the equally anti-rational equally anti-political ‘bra-burners’ and aborters and the ‘godless’ (fill-in-the-blank).

Having already abandoned objectivity, the media increasingly lost its way, and the egregious Rupert Murdoch simply erected that drift into a business plan, putting media in the service of the Right (as it exists now) just as the mainstream media had, starting in the late-1960s, put themselves in peonage to the Left.

It seems to me that Congress realized early on that they had created a monster. In 1976 or so they allowed Political Action Committees to make campaign contributions, as if they realized that they had so fractured the American polity that they weren’t ever going to be able to reliably raise cash any other way, including the ‘old-fashioned’ way of individual voter’s contributions. The lobbyists arrived in town shortly after, and in Reagan’s Administration the 1980s became a vampires’ feast. In 1996 Congress, by then debauched, allowed corporate mass-holding of media, although by this time there was precious little objectivity to be had in journalism, and – the citizenry having lost a lot of its civic capacity to assess, deliberate, and debate – the pols and their corporate johns saw little need for an objective media anyway. Outrage and Fear and Emotion and Non-reason already ran the show.

And if Falwell and his spawn were to believed, it was all in the name of Jeezuzzz (whose angels, it was to be inferred, wore American flag-patches on the shoulders of their robes).

If those angels wear any flag-patches at all, I’m foursquare in the conclusion that it is a patch of the Cross. This opens up a vast unexplored – or at least presently unexplicated - abyss between American and Divine praxis. If the Fundies are right about anything, they are right that such an abyss is never a good thing. But they are profoundly incapable of mustering the moral imagination to envision that God and American praxis might not e on the same sheet of music. Now them Kathliks had a lot of ideas about this sorta thing happening. But the country is not disposed to think about such ‘depressing’ stuff and the bishops have other things on their collective mind.

If We are all Americans (no exceptions: bra-burners, sex-offenders, fill-in-the-blank) then We all need to look to Our polity. The Ship of State is hugely holed and taking on water, while now engaged in a hot-lead slugging match that cannot be won. Prayer and some very wise and good works are in order. And sackcloth, and ashes – and let the dust that was Falwell return to its Creator for appropriate disposition.

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Blogger David said...

See: "In Search of the Common Good: The Catholic Roots of Liberalism" by Lew Daly.

Religion has a place in public fora but only when it can defend its proposals through the use of reason - the coin of the realm in secular society.

Katliks have an edge because of the premium they place on discourse that makes sense to the community of disinterested inquirers. 'All men of good will' respond to reasoning about the nature of human existence and the demands it implies.

2:15 PM  

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