Monday, May 21, 2007

Perception Makes Perfect

Since Jerry Fartwell's death last week, a number of op-ed pieces and genuine articles have been sounding the death knell for evangelicism in American politics. Or, at the very least, its relevance. I don't think it's hyerbolic to say that America has been held in a death-grip of terror by these fanatics (and I'm including Muslims in that loony bunch, too, because they're no worse than the Christians; the only reasons the Christians aren't flying planes into buildings is just because they don't have to), and Fartwell's death is more than a little symbolic at this point in history.

Yesterday Frank Rich had an editorial in the NYT about this very symbolism, saying Falwell's death "...happened at the precise moment that the Falwell-Robertson brand of religious politics is being given its walking papers by a large chunk of the political party the Christian right once helped to grow. Hours after Mr. Falwell died, Rudy Giuliani, a candidate he explicity rejected, won the Republican debate by acclamation."

Sullivan piles on the commentary by laying claim that James Dobson, America's preemminent Evangelical leader, refuses to endorse either Giuliani or McCain, who, at this point, are pretty much the only Republicans capable of taking the nomination. At least in my opinion. So what will that leave their flock to do? Think for themselves? Not vote? The prospect inherently makes one giddy with glee at what the next election can hold. Which is also to say, I won't underestimate the Evangelicals' power. It's a sign of absolutely sickening cynicism in America when things have even gotten to the point where Evangelicals cannot simply be dismissed out of hand by political candidates anymore. I mean, if Jerry Falwell had ever said that crack-cocaine was a punishment by a just God against black people (like he said AIDS was about gay people), would any politician anywhere in the country have aligned with him? No fucking way! But because he was beating up on the gays, it was okay. The fact that any of these wackos are invited onto talk shows, and given newspaper columns, and taken seriously at all, even by supposedly "liberal" politicians is nauseating. And as Christopher Hitchens so helpfully pointed out in his brilliant Slate column last week, anyone that made half the claims that Fartwell did would have been locked up in a loony bin, were they not rich and with the word "Reverend" in front of their name.

But people are getting fed up, I think, and starting to realize that not only are these people greedy and mean, they're also liars and full of shit. The Mark Foleys and Ted Haggards, and Jack Abramoffs, and Paul Wolfowitzes of the world have seen to that. Not to mention their divinely-inspired leader, George Bush, who has probably done more to discredit Evangelicals than even they could do on their own. Which, actually, is saying a lot. And as much as I think Mary Cheney is a heartless, self-hating Ice Bitch, I have to give her a shout-out for her own hand in bringing about this change. So thanks, Bitch.

This morning, too, the NYT ran an interesting article about the now shifting priorities of the new, "modernist" evangelicals, to things that really matter, like ending AIDS in Africa, and global warming. Naturally abortion will always be a hot issue (that ain't going anywhere), but it was refreshing to read about how so many of these new evangelicals really want to distance themselves from the likes of Falwell, Dobson, and even Bush. They want a return to real Christian values and a focus on issues that Jesus would be concerned about, like poverty and the environment. It ends by even adding that the younger generation, while still conservative, also have gay friends, and view them more as real people, with real lives and values, than their parents ever did. In another generation, gay marriage will really be a moot issue, much how inter-racial marriage became a non-issue in the span of one generation.

It also makes one wonder if maybe this movement is overstated, or if the original, more hateful and hypocritical movement was the one overstated. There are so many other variables when you consider the presidency of Bush, like 9/11 and the war in Iraq. I think a lot of otherwise sensible people voted for Bush the second time based on these two issues and an environment of so much uncertainty and "danger." If 9/11 had never occurred, who knows what would have happened. The war in Iraq most certainly never would have happened (well, maybe not). I definitely think it's too soon to let down our guard and vigilance against the religious fuckers, but the tides do seem to be genuinely turning. I am so curious as to what will happen next year.

UPDATE: In the interest of full disclosure, as some of you may know, back when I had a soul-sucking corporate job and spent all day ensconsed in a cubicle, I listened to a lot of conservative radio. Don't ask me why. It fired me up, it gave me pause, I genuinely wanted to learn how they thought and understand them. Granted, I was listening primarily to Bill 'O Reilly and Dr. Laura, but still. I often found them very interesting, especially Dr. Laura, seeing as how her show wasn't overtly political, but was primarily about psychology. I liked her no-nonsense approach to life and matter of factness, although I think she too greatly discounts the value of emotions in dealing with life. However, I turned her off one day and never listened to her again when she said date rape was a myth, that if a woman is on a date with a man and drinks alcohol, then that woman should expect, and deserves, whatever she gets.

All of which is to say that I wanted to point your way toward a really strange story regarding Dr. Laura's son, who is a US marine. It involves his MySpace page (since removed), and its lurid content, described by an Army official as "repulsive."

The MySpace page, publicly available until Friday when it disappeared from the Internet, included cartoon depictions of rape, murder, torture and child molestation; photographs of soldiers with guns in their mouths; a photograph of a bound and blindfolded detainee captioned "My Sweet Little Habib"; accounts of illicit drug use; and a blog entry headlined by a series of obscenities and racial epithets.
The site is credited to and includes many photographs of Deryk Schlessinger, the 21-year-old son of the talk radio personality known simply as Dr. Laura.

It goes on to give a driect quote from Deryk himself: "Yes . . . F---ING Yes!!!" said one blog entry on the Schlessinger site. "I LOVE MY JOB, it takes everything reckless and deviant and heathenistic and just overall bad about me and hyper focuses these traits into my job of running around this horrid place doing nasty things to people that deserve it . . . and some that don't."

Classy. The article does acknowledge, however, that it could have been a fake site set up to smear Dr. Laura and her son. Who knows. I just thought it was an interesting addendum to this post.

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