Saturday, February 25, 2012

The right wing's ancient evil

Guest post by Infidel753 

Infidel753 was born in New York state, grew up in California, and now lives in Oregon. His area of academic specialization was the Middle East. He is a life-long atheist and long-time liberal with a special interest in social issues and technology.

(Ed. note: This is Infidel's fourth guest post for us. You can find his first, on the ignorant fundamentalism of the Republican Party, here; his second, on the incoherence of the Occupy Wall Street movement, here; and his third, on the parasitism of Romney and Bain, here. -- MJWS)


I suppose this proposed Virginia law, which I first heard about via Progressive Eruptions, was the final straw -- but I've known for a long time that there's far more at stake this year than in an ordinary election. We're facing a bizarre, atavistic evil here. It does not control the whole Republican Party -- yet -- but wherever they attain power, so does it.

It's not enough that our country has become a land where a few people who have learned to game the system accumulate obscene wealth by destroying jobs and producing nothing of value, while the incomes of the workers who produce everything of value stagnate. It's not enough that taxes on the wealthiest have been cut relentlessly for half a century until, we are told, the government can no longer afford to provide even the threadbare safety net we've come to know. It's not enough that the opposition elite's hand-picked candidate for the presidency is a man whose career exemplifies these nation-wrecking trends. No, there's something even more dark and horrible looming behind all that.

This is a war against modernity and modernity's central premise, the value system based on the individual's right to self-determination so long as his or her actions do not interfere with the self-determination of others, in favor of the older value system based on arbitrary taboos and edicts recorded in ancient religious texts, where our lives should be shaped not by our own desires but by the plans supposedly drawn for us by an imaginary deity. I could fill paragraphs with examples of the sophistry and obfuscation I've seen Republicans use to re-frame opposition to abortion and birth control so as to avoid mentioning the issue of women's self-determination -- to make the question about anything other than individual choice. That's the basic clash of world-views here: is your life your own, to be run based on your own wishes, or are you created as a utensil for some divine plan?

Theirs is clearly a religious world-view, even if the divine plan was replaced by the will of the state in earlier, semi-secularized variants of it (Fascism and Communism). Hence, too, the sin-and-punishment model exemplified by the Virginia law. Any supposed medical purpose is window dressing; the point is to humiliate a person who (must have) violated a sexual taboo and is now trying to evade the divinely-ordained punishment. If the Old Testament's dietary laws were still taken seriously by fundamentalists, they might be proposing laws to require similar degrading treatment for people who seek medical help for food poisoning after eating shellfish.

The sin/punishment model suffuses all their thinking. Republican rhetoric about the poor and unemployed is laced with a penalizing stance. Drug-test them, take away their benefits, impose this or that rule -- punish, degrade, humiliate. In the religious model, suffering is redemptive, so the more of it the better. It's sadism and deliberate cruelty, puffed up with a stance of moral superiority.

One sees the same in the conservative austerity policies being forced on southern Europe by the EU bureaucracy, privileging deficit reduction over jobs at a time of brutal unemployment. Never mind that the economic contraction caused by austerity is destroying the basis of future growth which would actually reduce the deficits. Solving the problem is not the point. The bureaucrats ignore the terrible suffering austerity creates -- if anything, they seem to relish it. Sin must be punished. The moral superiority of the north over the south must be asserted. And of course Republican deficit hawks in the U.S. are eager to impose the same sick model here.

It's no wonder that gays are such a target of choice. Their very existence is not allowed by the taboo system. In the fundamentalist world-view, there are no gay people, just a special case of sinful temptation and the necessity of resisting it. Even if gay sex can't be criminalized any more (and don't doubt for a moment that these people would still do that if they could), gays must be excluded from marriage, excluded from the military, excluded from teaching, excluded, excluded, excluded. The casting-out of the taboo-breaker, the branding with the scarlet letter, the public verdict "there is something wrong with you, you are not fit to be among us" -- that is the point.

Everywhere where they took power in 2010, they've been showing their true colors. Attack gays, attack women's self-determination, attack the poor.

It's always mostly about sex, of course. Repressed people are always fixated on it. There was never any real-world possibility that shellfish would be an issue. 95% of the Christian Right's obsessions are about other people's sexual self-determination and how to stop them from transgressing taboos. And like other psycho-sexual criminals, they escalate over time. So they have now reached the point of decreeing that women in Virginia who seek abortions be subjected by law to a procedure that meets the legal definition of rape. And make no mistake, if they get away with that, the next thing they come up with will be worse. It won't stop until somebody stops it.

The opposition today no longer embodies the spirit of Eisenhower and Goldwater, but that of the robber baron and the Grand Inquisitor of centuries past. Its face is no longer Reagan's sunny optimism, but the rapist's triumphant snigger.

There is one other matter which is seldom raised, but which is desperately important for the future of our country.

The world is entering an era in which proficiency in science and technology will outweigh everything else. The pace of technological change has accelerated beyond what seemed possible even a decade or two ago. In the world of the near future, it is the nations with the best brains that will lead. A nation that bets on cheap labor will not lead. A nation whose science classes teach that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that solid scientific fact must be rejected if it contradicts primitive dogma, will not lead. A nation where every proposal for major government investment in public education is met with whining about the burden on the taxpayers, will not lead. The right wing is setting up our children to be the hewers of wood and drawers of water for the Germans and Japanese.

We've got to win this thing. Re-electing Obama is necessary (think Supreme Court picks) but not sufficient. We must take back the House from Boehner and the teabagging lunatics who are so extreme even he can barely cope with them. We must restore a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, plus a margin of error to allow for a few Blue Dogs. We must make sure Elizabeth Warren gets in this year, so she'll be in position to run for President in 2016 and finish the work Obama started. We must get Walker and the other union-busting Kochroaches out. But beyond that, we must smash the troglodytes and bullies on the other side so hard and bury them so deep that they can never, ever dig themselves out to torment and destroy the decent people of this country again.

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