Clinging to Their Guns and Religion

Last April, President Obama (then candidate Obama) was raked over the coals by Republicans and Democrats alike for daring to say at a fund-raiser in California:

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

He was speaking of people for whom government seemed to be not working and those who felt disenfranchised for one reason or another.  In spite of the political fallout from his statement, most rational Americans realized that what he said was absolutely true, and now his words seem to be coming to life across the country.  Whipped to a virtual frenzy by right-wing media, people are beginning to speak in terms that would have been unheard of just a short time ago.  They talk about taking the country back, and, for some, the means don’t really seem to matter.

Speaking to a raucous crowd of supporters the other day, a Republican nominee for the Virginia General Assembly, Catherine Crabill said:

“We have the chance to fight this battle at the ballot box before we have to resort to the bullet box, that’s the beauty of our Second Amendment rights … Our Second Amendment rights were to guard against tyranny.”

An outrageous statement, to be sure, but one that has apparently been lost in the noise of many other similar statements, as it didn’t even make the national news.  On her website, Ms. Crabill states that: “America was founded by right-wing extremists.”  She is also on record as believing that the United States Government was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing.  Dismiss her as a crank and a right-wing nut ball if you like, but she is not only the candidate of a major political party for statewide office, she has a large following of supporters who obviously feel she represents their views.

Even the Virginia Republican Party admits that Ms. Crabill will probably not prevail in the upcoming general election, mainly because of her extremist views, but the question is, how do people like her manage to be nominated in the first place, and what is going on in this country that we accept calls to armed rebellion as normal political discourse?

In the recent murder of a prominent abortion specialist, we witnessed the results of a constant stream of invective directed at practitioners performing a legal procedure in an attempt to halt the procedure, no matter what the cost.  The same imprecations repeated over and over:  “Abortion is murder!  Abortion is murder!  Abortion is murder!  Tiller is a murderer!  Tiller is a murderer!  Tiller is a murderer!”

Soon it becomes accepted dogma, and dogma becomes “known fact,” and someday some poor deluded fool takes it upon himself to do “god’s work” and murder the “murderer” to stop the “murders.”  Beyond a certain point, it becomes inevitable.  Then, after it happens, the organizations spewing the invective step back in horror and say “This isn’t our fault, we abhor the actions of so-an-so, we had no idea anyone would do this,” and my own personal favorite:  “So and so isn’t a Christian, ‘cause a REAL Christian would never do anything like that!”

For a year-and-a-half the right-wing media has kept up a constant drumbeat of anti-Obama rhetoric, accusing the President of conspiring with terrorists; being a radical leftist, perhaps even a communist; being mentored by an extremist preacher; creating a socialist state; bankrupting the country, and various and sundry other horrible things.

None of this was sufficient to turn the election or even change the opinions of most of the country, but it was highly effective in reaching those who already had an instinctive dislike for any ideas not approved of by the chief guardians of the conservative mind – the voices they hear, no, not in their heads, the ones on the radio every day.

From Rush and Hannity, Beck and Levin, Boortz and O’Reilly, on down to the local talk-radio guy in the morning, it’s a constant stream of bile pouring out over the airways, washing over the core constituency of the most dangerous political faction in our nations history – and the most ill-informed.  They are dangerous because they are conditioned by years of religious training to unquestioned acceptance of whatever is said by those they consider to be in authority – and they have the means to correct what they feel are the wrongs being done by the young Obama administration.

They call themselves patriots, and they are absolutely convinced, with the certitude only possible to the religious, that the current US Government is evolving into what they describe as a fascist state, and to stop the slide into what they see as approaching tyranny, they are prepared to do whatever is necessary.  The question is, will they wait until the 2010 elections, or do they seem too far away to do much good. What might happen if they or their “mentors” perceive that the 2010 elections might result in even larger Democratic majorities, which early indications certainly support?

Crabill in Virginia is not an atypical case.  If you doubt that, listen to a few hours of talk radio, if indeed you can stand it.  You will hear callers saying things like: “It’s time to take our country back, before it’s too late,” and “Boy I hope it doesn’t come to that, but if it does, we’re ready!”

Each week brings yet another outrageous statement by either the media or someone in power, dialing up the rhetoric, and making it ever more difficult for Americans to engage in civil discourse.

When someone says “Abortion is murder,” it is a conversation-stopper, leaving no room for discussion.  It’s the same when someone says: “Obama is a terrorist,” or “Obama is a fascist.”  There’s nowhere to go, end of discussion.

In this country, with one exception, we have always worked out our problems with civil discourse or the ballot, not the bullet box.  Protests are fine, but when the level of discord makes it impossible, if not dangerous for Americans to talk to one another, something is horribly wrong.  It’s time, perhaps past time, for those of us who are not swayed by FOX or talk radio to push back and refute some of the lies and half-truths with our friends and family.  It’s’ time for all of us to dial-back the noise level and start communicating again instead of going to our respective corners and throwing darts.

It’s time for all of us to start working together to bring the country out of the mess we are in, or we are all going to sink together.

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6 responses to “Clinging to Their Guns and Religion

  1. I’m not much of a fan of any of the talk-show pundits, even those claiming to be libertarian. Nor am I a huge fan of most of my colleagues on the right. Nevertheless, I feel you are guilty of stereotyping the opposition, setting up a straw man, begging the question. Very many of us who radically oppose the current administration also radically opposed the last administration, and for wholly nonreligious reasons. You may not be aware but many of us on the right, particularly those on the libertarian side, are die-hard atheists – and most of us even abandoned objectivism long ago (if we happened to flirt with that “religion” for a time). If the “left” is defined as collectivist and the “right” as individualist, then yes, the country WAS founded by right-wing extremists – though the American radicals individualism was usually tempered by a practical conservatism.
    The claim of fascism may seem a bit hyperbolic but this is clearly the direction we are sliding toward. We imprison more individuals than authoritarian China for peaceful, if frowned upon, behavior. We illegally wire-tap untold numbers of citizens communications, violate the rules of war (torture) – and the current administration resists prosecutions (habeas corpus? what habeas corpus?). We have nationalized huge sectors of the economy and the executive has impeded upon contracts in clear violation of the law. We have a largely rubber-stamped economic dictatorship in the Federal Reserve, which demands more power every day, a federal government that not long from now will be consuming a third of GDP (if it doesn’t already). Clear Constitutional limits on power are generally viewed as negotiable.
    We’ve been going down this path for over a century. The general trend, clearly, is greater centralization of power at the federal level and in the executive. The logical extreme of this trend is the total state – fascism. This is not conspiracy theory – it is historically and empirically verifiable fact.
    As the American Revolution showed, at some point usurpation becomes so great that rational persuasion is ineffective and arms must be taken up. That time is not now. We are still relatively free to speak our minds and cast our votes. But talk of revolution is an understandable, if exaggerated response, to a state with tremendously exaggerated claims on the lives of its citizens.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, and I’m sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I agree with many of the points you made, although I think we have a major difference in orientation. I don’t think it is creating straw people to point out that the right-wing seems to have lost complete faith, all of a sudden, in the normal workings of the system and has started making suggestions that perhaps we should go outside the system for our solutions.

    I started as a right-wing, Goldwater Republican, an orientation I held for many years, in fact I voted for George Bush not once, but twice, to my eternal shame! I was asleep, that’s about all I can offer as any kind of a defense. I abrogated my responsibility as a citizen, as I think many Americans do, to our detriment as a country. I had completely missed the direction in which the right was moving, and became a bit worried about waking up some day in a fascist theocracy.

    If the last ten years or so has taught us anything, it is that conservatism, or unfettered libertarianism just plain does not work, as Wall Street has demonstrated by taking the world to the brink of depression. If you think the answer for this country somehow lies in the adaptation of conservative or libertarian principals, you are in for quite a rude awakening, for in my view, you are riding on the back of a tiger, and will end up inside with the rest of us. I don’t think you, or most of the country fully understands the implications of groups like “The Family,” or how deep-seated and powerful they really are.

    There is where your fascism will come from, “wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross” as the man said. I fully agree with you that we have been tending that way for at least the last century, but he way out is NOT to support the very authoritarians who will use fear and ignorance to create what they see as the necessary conditions for the return of their lord and master. After all, as they teach at C-Street: “Jesus didn’t come to take sides, he came to take OVER!” What part of that don’t you understand?

    • Don’t have much time right now but I would point out that so much of the crash seems to have to do with a monetary policy that encourages debt and over-speculation. Yep, the old Federal Reserve/fractional reserve banking system. Perhaps, if there was no lender of last resort, the fat cats would be a bit more careful. Similarly, perhaps without artificial props like the FDIC, ordinary folks wouldn’t trust the banks.
      And while the Neocons and their evangelical zionist stooges are certainly dangerous, I tend to think religious faith/social conservatism is on the way out. If so, I think fascism will more likely come wearing a white lab coat preaching the neoliberal gospel of public health and social democracy.

      • pwsoderman

        Yep, I’ve seen “Zeitgeist” too, and buy into most of it, although I think it’s a bit oversimplified, and I disagree with your assumption that faith/social conservatism is on the way out. Reason I do is that, ever since Sargon, many seeking power have successfully used religion as a primary tool to control the masses, and there is none better. “Make them believe absurdities,” and just stand back and watch what they do on their own, tweaking just a little here-and-there ’till it’s exactly what you want. Best part is that if there isn’t a convenient religion, you can just make one up (See: Hitler, Marx, etc..), doesn’t matter, as long as you can get them to swallow the dogma, tie belief to a healthy dose of nationalism, and there is absolutely nothing you can’t get them to do.

        The “white lab coats” just don’t have the power, furthermore, I don’t think they even understand power, not in the sense that the right does, especially not at this point in time. The right has half the country believing in the virtues of anti-intellectualism, and if the economy continues as it is, and especially if the health care initiative fails, I think the right will (regretfully) have a big off-year election bonanza, and we will witness a resurgence of the right-wing social order.

        Hopefully, I will be living in Mexico by then.

  3. By “white lab coats”, I don’t refer specifically to doctors or such, I just mean that the coming hoodwink will consist of collectivist social democratic bromides ( it’s not sinful, it’s a public health concern). Of course, the right also peddles their own brand of collectivism – religion is, after all, the antithesis of independent (individual) thought. And, really, there is only one party – the party of centralization, enslavement, empire. Would that the likes of Kuccinich and Paul were the majority in Washington.
    I say social conservatism is on the way out from merely anecdotal, probably self-selected, experience. It seems, in my experience, that while atheism may not be sweeping the nation, the religious are absorbing social liberalism willy-nilly. My parents, for example, are much more accepting than their parents – despite the fact that they spew homophobic doctrine and believe all that mythical baptist jazz. They don’t actually feel the hate as acutely, if much at all. It was no conscious decision of theirs – they seem to have absorbed it by cultural osmosis/desensitization.
    But I see among many in my generation of Christians and American Muslims a somewhat more individualistic and altruistic mindset – an emphasis on both personal fulfillment and a Brotherhood of Man – gay man, black man, wo-man. This is one way religion will finally be phased out – from the inside – by a realignment of focus, on the worldly. Where an ethical realignment can be achieved perhaps an epistemological realignment shall follow.

    When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with mars………………

    PS – there IS an organized front within the Right that is more “classical liberal” than “conservative”. Wish us luck.

    • Of course I wish you luck, you are probably our best hope! I’m just about to start a review of “Unscientific America,” which was a major disappointment to me and many others. The authors mostly blame scientists and, of all things, atheists, for scientific illiteracy in America. Absolutely clueless! And Chris Mooney did (what I thought) was such a fine job on “The Republican War on Science.”

      Take care!

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