Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Out of the Bowels of History
It has long been customary in American politics to impersonate not Jefferson, or Lincoln, or Roosevelt, but rather the itinerant peddlers of the 19th and early 20th centuries. These people roamed the country in wagons selling “patented medicines” that were collectively known as Snake Oil. A growing and organizing medical community along with a burgeoning public health system eventually put them out of business, since their concoctions were generally useless and often dangerous.
Their modern day counterparts in the body politic are not so easy to contain since the Snake Oil they are peddling – patriotism, God, guns and gluttony – are not tangible. Wrapped in the red, white and blue, thumping the Bible and screaming about the evil government while sucking off its tit, these swindlers are dismantling or poisoning Democracy in the same way the scammers of the previous two centuries deceived or poisoned an unsuspecting and naïve populace.
By far the most dangerous of these con artists is the politician who ruthlessly flogs religion. As in the case of the old remedies, many alcohol based, the hooks in the religion scam are solace and immortality. People terrified of being alone in the universe, of their extinction after death, of simply living a pointless life without miracles, magic and meaning, stumble up to the wagon of any two-for-a-nickel Elmer Gantry and lay down their money, political allegiance, free will and common sense for an empty bottle labeled hope.
The most insidious, the most pernicious aspect of this idiocy is that in order for the God of the medicine wagon to be real everyone must follow Him or at least the tenets of the religion He represents. Even though faith cannot be regulated or spirituality mandated. Thus, there will be no abortion; no gay marriage; no labor unions since God is a free market aficionado. Climate change is a lie because man is powerless to affect the earth. Evolution is a perjury, and only Creationism can be taught in the schools. God is an American, and we can kill anyone we like. All of this would become the moral imperative of any ship of state unfortunate enough to find a Perry, Bachmann or Palin at the helm through the grace of the God they have promulgated and the infinite dependency of their followers.
Just as the peddlers who made their elixir in the back of a wagon seldom drank it, the God of the extremists is a tool and not an article of faith. I have to believe this, otherwise why would self professed Christians follow an agenda anathema to the teachings of Christ? As did the power lusting popes who used scripture to attempt to control the known world via devout monarchs; so too with the land grabbing abbots and bishops bent upon amassing wealth on the foundation of holy writ. Murderous, crusading kings slaughtering in the cause of the Almighty and at will setting the standard for all military madmen. The inquisitors and Witch hunters were simply predatory thieves in the name of God. All of their shadows are falling across the land today, rising out of the darkness of history like a foul stench. To see many modern politicians without their historical antecedents is becoming more and more difficult because as Sherlock Holmes once said, “The parallel is exact.”
Even though religion scamming politicians have always been with us, today their resources are vast and their ability to reach many millions of people devastating. Now more than ever, their masks must be stripped away. They must be put back in their box and relegated to the fringe where they belong. This is the civilian work of people like Reverend Weldon Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance who have grown disgusted with the perversion of the best of their faith to serve the worst of motives.
We will never accomplish the unmasking of these holier-than-thou, right wing apparatchiks with the soft phrases and sweet words of an Obama speech. The maddening insistence by this president that bipartisanship can be achieved with religion pandering fanatics on the right is analogous to Elliot Ness attempting to attain a bipartisan ceasefire with Al Capone on the streets of Chicago. They had nothing on which to base an agreement. Capone’s God was crime; his savoir was money. Yet, this most brutal mobster in the history of American lawlessness took time out from bootlegging, prostitution and staging massacres to feed people during the Depression which is more than I can say for many of our “Godly” leaders in Congress then or now.
If Obama hasn’t the chutzpa to face down these new age scoundrels then he must step aside and allow Biden, Brown, Sanders, Frank or Grayson to help us all do it. This is a matter of National Security, for the cabal on the right, hiding behind the Bible and spewing greed like a faucet churning out filthy water, will surely destroy our way of life.