On Being A Small Blue Dot In A Dark Red, Theocratic State

Just for fun, since I am doing some long-overdue digital housekeeping, here’s an article from 2007. This is, you’ll note, before Barack Obama was elected President. You may want to keep that part in mind when you read (that, and this is dated; I don’t get newspapers dumped on my lawn anymore–if you stop paying them, they do eventually cut it out–and those unwanted Pennysaver rags can’t be stopped by anything short of a very, VERY high wall).

HERE’S THE OLD STUFF:

I’ve also been catching up on the massive pile of newspapers–the newspapers I didn’t want and which rarely arrive (or which get swiped before I go fetch them from the puddles in the driveway, where they always end up)–and which are 90% adverts. Somehow a WTOC “news” paper ended up in the reading spot instead of being pitched, unread, into a bin. Each time I have attempted to read it, it makes me develop frown wrinkles.

WTOC 11 is one of a handful of local “news” channels, and, I’m 99% sure, they are responsible for the advert I groused about previously, which involved a rich white guy standing behind a White Baby Jesus nativity scene and reading ponderously from The Bible, which started airing in October, thus earning two frownie marks at once. October is for Hallowe’en (and my birthday), but not for pushing Christmas down my throat before I’m out of overpriced, undersized Tootsie Pops. Also, not everyone down here is Christian, though it sometimes sure seems like it. Maybe I’m grumpy, but it seems foolish for a supposedly unbiased news channel to air religious propaganda. Since they are FOX NEWS-lite, though, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.

To my surprise and delight, though I couldn’t find the original article online (their website is terrible), I did find a comment from someone at Fort Stewart (military, of course) who grumped about another article Bill Cathcart (the article writer, and The Highest Muckity Muck at the station) penned wherein Cathcart misinterpreted Dennis Kucinich’s recent nay vote (unrelated to the article I’m grumping about, but intended to spark discussion about the “real” reasons behind the Iraq war and 9/11 and so on, from what I gathered) and wound up talking about Christianity for the last 2/3 or the article, which had fuck all to do with anything. The military guy patiently posted the more accurate details about the Kucinich vote and then complained that the pro-GOP and pro-Jesus stuff was really unnecessary. Word. And all the more “word” because, lo and behold, it proves that at least one of the many military d00dz in Jesusland is capable of having a lick of sense, and thinking for himself. (Imagine how popular he must be among his peers. Poor guy.)

Enjoy the article, which I have transcribed for your pleasure, and which would otherwise be lost to the mists of time (even the Wayback Machine failed me):

“Like the continual drip of a rusted faucet, ridiculous actions never cease. Two more servings of compost scooped from the heap. Several high school students in ever-progressive Boulder, Colorado, walked out of their classrooms to protest the daily recitation of the Pledge Of Allegiance, which includes, of course, our much-cherished tribute to God’s guidance. These left-ward youngsters chose to recite, instead, their own secular version, claiming that ours violates the Constitution’s “separation” clause, which, as you well know, does not exist.”

ZOMG! Two teenagers not wanting to pray at school! The horror! How “ridiculous”! What “compost”!

Shall we take bets on where Cathcart stands on the Creationism v. Evolution battlelines? No?

And when did “progressive” become a BAD thing? Honestly?

“Look, you want to write your own wedding vows, have at it. But you do not edit the American citizen’s pledge of loyalty to suit your own Mother Earth needs. Chalk up another one to social studies replacing history classes, and our trendy micro-focus on self. Forget our country; it’s me that counts. And, oh, by the way, God, thanks for the earth and stuff, but we’ve got it handled, so we’re cutting you loose.” 

First, let us applaud Cathcart’s generous offer to allow people to write their own vows without his disapproval. What a great guy!

Whereas I do agree that “micro-focus on self” is a problem a lot of kids seem to be afflicted with these days, and it is something I might fuss about in the future, I disagree that it runs hand in hand with Gaea worship (or that this might be wrong, as religion is a personal thing, thanks). I also resent the constant reminder, by fundies, that they take the whole Genesis thing really, really literally.

“Colorado requires its schools to read the Pledge daily over the PA. Students may either recite or stand quietly. So, with their Constitutional objection bogus, kids opting out, or even refusing to simply listen to our Pledge, must either be confused about where they are, or prefer to commit their allegiance to some other nation or galaxy. Ah, the sweet arrogance of youth.”

You can bet that if the school recited a “Gaea pledge” every morning that Cathcart would be railing against this just as strenuously as he is railing against the students who are trying to find a middle ground where they can still pledge allegiance to America without bringing someone else’s religious beliefs into it. Because they don’t want to pledge allegiance to someone else’s God, they are automatically bad kids. I don’t agree.

Some “other nation or galaxy”? What the eff?

“And speaking of professing allegiance to a nation other than America, according to a just-released Opinion Dynamics voter poll, 5% of Republicans, 7% of Independents and 19% of Democrats feel that the world would be better off if the United States lost the war in Iraq! Incredible and despicable. Talk about being self-possessed, or more likely, just plain possessed. While they have a right to that opinion, they should be absolutely ashamed to have it, given that this foolishness is just all about punishing President Bush. Our country and its future be damned.”

Note the TINY percentage of people who disagree with Cathcart’s point of view, here, and it is STILL pissing him off, though he graciously allows that they have the right to disagree. Even so, he just knows that they feel this way because they are out to punish Bush. There could be no other reason for their opinion. Furthermore, since they are so wrong-headed, they should be ashamed! SHAME on them for holding a different opinion, because clearly that also means they don’t give a crap about Amurika and where it is going.

Or, conversely, maybe they care A LOT, and didn’t like seeing tens of thousands of people dying for a trumped-up war that has produced no WMDs and where the trigger point was ostensibly 9-11, something NO Iraqis have been tied to, ever. (But the Saudis are our political buddies, you know.)

He can NOT stand it that even a small handful of people, of all political persuasions, disagree with him (and Bush). How can they not see the WISDOM and RIGHTNESS of the war? How can they say it would be okay to LOSE? How HORRIBLE and un-American!

GAH! People like this drive me crazy.

“By the way, those ex-patriots might want to remember that wish when the center of their city is in ruins, since a loss in Iraq clearly beckons further attacks here.”

Oh, CLEARLY. Because Iraqis flew planes into buildings, you know. And killing as many of them you can get your hands on will stop the random handful of nutburgers who embarrass their less-crazed neighbors by kamikazi-ing into stuff for the promise of seventy virgins and a mess of figs and honey in the afterlife.

Maybe losing the war would be unpleasant, but since we foolishly got into that mess on false pretenses in the first place, I don’t know that sticking it out is going to magically make things all better.

“Beyond un-American and pro-terrorist, defeat-at-any-price is imbecilic. Our loss there would be catastrophic, for Iraq, for the Middle East, for Europe, for the United States. To actually embrace defeat, people have to be out of their minds. Oh, wait, that’s it. They are! And they don’t belong in this country.”

ARGH ARGH ARGH!

Translation: “You disagree with me? You are crazy, and you need to leave the country.” Sir, if you will pay for my relocation, I will gladly take you up on your kind non-offer.

Now, let’s discuss.

Separation of church and state is a political and legal idea usually identified with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

The phrase building a wall of separation between church and state was written by Thomas Jeffersonin a January 1, 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. (Wikipedia)

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” (Thomas Jefferson)

… no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities. (James Madison)

What Cathcart is saying (which is actually true) is that the exact phrase “separation of church and state” itself does not appear in the Constitution, but, on the other hand, he’s a bit wrong-headed as well, as it has been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court.

The phrase “separation of church and state” became a definitive part of Establishment Clause jurisprudence in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947), a case which dealt with a state law that allowed the use of government funds for transportation to religious schools.

While the ruling upheld that the state law (allowing federal funding of religious schools) as constitutional, Everson was also the first case to hold the Establishment Clause applicable to the state legislatures as well as Congress, based upon the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In 1962, the Supreme Court extended this analysis to the issue of prayer and religious readings in public schools. In Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 (1962), the Court determined it unconstitutional by a vote of 6-1 for state officials to compose an official school prayer and require its recitation in public schools, even when it is non-denominational and students may excuse themselves from participation.

As such, any teacher, faculty, or student can pray in school, in accordance with their own religion. However, they may not lead such prayers in class, or in other “official” school settings such as assemblies or programs, including even “non-sectarian” teacher-led prayers. […]

The court noted that it “is a matter of history that this very practice of establishing governmentally composed prayers for religious services was one of the reasons which caused many of our early colonists to leave England and seek religious freedom in America.”

In short, Cathcart is both right, in that the exact phrase does not appear in the particular document he cites, and wrong, in that he seems to be wilfully ignoring what our Founding Fathers intended and what more enlightened laws have underscored since.

What always boggles me is how Righty Whitey Christian Americans, generally speaking, are not in favour of other theocracies world-wide, but are all in favour of having one here. When Kennedy was running for office, a vicious tide of anti-Papist / anti-Catholic rhetoric spewed forth like sewage from a leaky pipe. Guess what? Since the majority of rich white people in charge of things at the time were not Catholic, suddenly they became more amenable to the idea of separation of Church and State, because they genuinely feared that Kennedy’s religious beliefs would interfere with his Presidential duties. They were more amenable, because their idea of religion was not shared by, arguably, the then most powerful man in the country.

Now that the arguably currently most powerful man in this country is a Born Again ex-cokehead Righty Whitey idjit who feels the need to inflict his religion on the country as a whole, the rich white dudes in power think separation of Church and State is now a BAD idea. Wonder why.

My prediction: we are going to be hearing how separation of Church and State “doesn’t really exist” or it is a bad idea UNTIL, by a miracle, some non-Protestant person is elected as President. And with the level of political corruption in this country, do you really think that will happen any time soon? Honestly? Right now, generally speaking, it supposedly “looks pretty good” for Democrats. This, I am telling you, will bring out some of the most vicious, underhanded, pro-Jesus flagwaving xenophobic mutts you ever saw during the next Presidential campaign.

What I’d love is a President who gets into office (without help from governor brothers, denying African Americans their vote, or friendship with the guy who OWNS Diebold) as a WASP-acceptable candidate and then converts to Judaism, which is a religion most of my sane friends practice, or something else that would make the rich white Jesus freaks go bananas. We might even get some “no backsies” laws that might actually stick that make it crystal clear that the State has no damn business dabbling about with religion of any stripe or type.

Last time the issue went before the Supreme Court, they punted, all the better to avoid truly clarifying the damn policy once and for all.

Sadly, I can not predict with certainty that we’ll have a Dem in office next go ’round, because the frontrunners, last I checked, are either female or black, and there are enough folks out there who are uncomfortable with both or either to potentially jigger the election for whoever the Repubz decide to nominate.

Do I personally think Jesus is “bad”? No, actually. I also know plenty of people who are devout and not hypocritical about it, and they don’t see the need to convert everyone else to their point of view, because they have the sense to understand that religious belief is deeply personal and private.

Some websites you may find interesting:


Americans, generally speaking, do not like or want to try to understand other theocracies, often nattering on about how wrong-headed and foolish those beliefs are, and comparing their own flavour of (usually) Christianity favorably to those other beliefs. As has been done for centuries, a particular type of Christian is really not into “live and let live” when it comes to competing religious beliefs. Not satisfied with their own personal salvation and religious beliefs, they feel the need to force everyone else to think and feel the same exact way, and to accept the same view of God as they have. I never understood that.

I especially don’t understand it when it involves two earnest, buzzcut-sporting, zitty teens in neckties (riding bikes) who insist on waking me up on the weekend.

I don’t understand the kind of mind that condemns the entire Muslim religion based on the actions of a handful of fanatical Muslim assrods, while conveniently neglecting to recall offenses a handful of fanatical Christian assrods have perpetrated throughout the ages.

I don’t understand the kind of mind that is so xenophobic and jingoistic as to say things like “America! Love it or leave it!” while forgetting that America is about preserving personal freedoms and rights, as long as those do not infringe upon other people’s freedoms and rights. Technically. Officially. Well, that’s what they keep telling us.

And meanwhile they are also forgetting that a lot of other countries sincerely hate our American guts, and don’t want any of the average American personality types to soil their country. Given that I don’t like the average American and average American interests (including political ignorance, dislike of reading, spelling and grammar, choices in mostly crap entertainment, their mostly crap musical preferences, their mostly crap etiquette, especially their crap dating behavior, overly indulgent or completely hands-off parenting, pro-tanorexic fashion, anti-intellectualism, false piety combind with judgmental behavior when faced with anyone who falls into the “other” category, materialism, use of animals / babies as accessories, and so on and so on) much myself, I can’t really blame them.


I guess I am incredibly angry that, say, Paris Hilton merits even one line of press, whereas actual NEWS news is considered too “unsexy” to bother with at all. (Example: I’m irritated that I even know “New York” is a person as well as a place, though what she does or contributes to the world, well, THAT I do not know.) And we’re infecting the rest of the world with the same crap values (though, to be fair, the UK has us beat where it comes to the “build ’em up then tear ’em down” trivial non-news “reporting” and publishing).

I guess if you say “we’re the best country on Earth” often enough, some folks really start to believe it. I’d say the truth somewhere in the middle: that we do a lot of things right and our intentions are generally good, but we mess up in a lot of areas, too, and you can’t acknowledge one side, the side where we do something really right, without also admitting to the other side, the one where…hoo boy!…have we ever got some work to do.

I think I need some caffeine and a lie down.

END OF OLD STUFF.

Okay.

Did you catch that bit about how it would be hilarious if we got a President in office who announced he wasn’t Christian? Well, instead we got a Christian that the conservative nutbags among us keep swearing is really a Secret Muslim.

It is probably best that we didn’t enrage the crazy people by having him announce he was giving up bacon permanently and converting to Judaism, after all.

 

 

 

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