Sunday, November 29, 2009

The True Believers

(Photo-Extreme Sheepherding) I posted Dancing with a Snake last January about the scenarios made possible by Sarah Palin's stoking of embers embedded in the darker recesses of American culture. Toxic Distraction provided additional material on the thinking having roots in the Confederacy and like minded folk. In the 50s McCarthy used the fear of communism to stoke the coals, but Eisenhower, having read Hoffer's The True Believer, thwarted efforts to put the nation on a xenophobic witch hunt for the "impure." In addition to his warning about the military industrial complex, Ike advised America to beware the danger posed to democracy by those who seek freedom from the necessity of informing themselves.

Lynch's Twin Peaks has a great scene where the giant tells Agent Cooper, "It is happening again."

Distinguished journalist Max Blumenthal's unsettling Republican Gomorrah discusses in detail the rise of the anti-intellectual, religiously self-righteous within the Republican Party, and it provides detailed research, ample examples, and grounded psychological material consistent with The Brighter the Mask, The Darker the Soul remarks about about Rep. Mark Foley after he was caught sending sexually explicit emails to teenage boys. The book distinguishes a particular pathology well exemplified by Ted Haggard (affair with male prostitute), Larry Craig (soliciting gay sex), Mark Sanford (please), Tom Delay (fraud), Ralph Reed (fraud), John Ensign (please), Jimmy Swaggart (behavior the prostitute called “perverted”), Jim Bakker (affairs, fraud), and other flagships of this psychosis.

The works of Hoffer and Blumenthal point to the same malignant denial of reality in order to preserve a desperate need to cling to beliefs that preserve a fractured identity. Aside from the staggering hypocrisy, the pathology is marked by arrogance, lack of curiosity, certainty of convictions regardless of facts, distrust of research or science, and an obsession with finding and creating agreement to form a "family and friends of the family." Everyone else is the enemy.

In a development predicted in Blumenthal's book, as we speak conservatives within the GOP are now working to pass a socialist resolution. The resolution is not targeting Democrats. Its purpose is to purge the GOP of members deemed "impure."

The Republicans have a real problem as they collide with the distinction between 1) individuals rooted in knowledge, awareness, and facts regarding political and economic reality and 2) true believers focused on strict adherence to a narrow set of beliefs, consumed with hatred and intolerance for anything and anyone that does not conform. How alienating all but a fifth of the nation is anything but political suicide is difficult to fathom, as are efforts to draft Cheney for 2012, "It's not a smirk. You're just not worth the attention of my whole face."

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Truth and Illusion

An optimist might have hoped that the explosion of information technology would lead to a period of truth and enlightenment as the ability to confront lies and distortions increased. Sadly, the ability to proliferate total fiction has outpaced that of the truth. Naturally, we see this displayed most starkly in politics. The depth and breadth of fictions virtually cemented as fact for large numbers of people is breathtaking.

Fiction: Ronald Reagan reduced taxes and the scope of government.

Fact: Reagan reduced taxes ONCE and then raised them, again and again, every year afterward. During his administration the federal deficit mushroomed fourfold and the government expanded dramatically. Bush I continued the expansion and debt, leading 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot to declare, "I don't have any experience running up a $4 trillion debt."

Who actually did reduce government, actually achieving a surplus? Bill Clinton. Then Bush II tossed the country off a cliff with the greatest expansion of government in history, VP Dick Cheney smiling, "Reagan showed us that deficits don't matter."

Telling this to a conservative is like telling a fish about water.

Fiction: Sarah Palin's Going Rogue is shattering all best seller book debuts.
Fact: Nonfiction sales cannot touch the figures for wildly popular fictional titles (Harry Potter). In the nonfiction category (despite its content) Sarah Palin's book had initial sales to the tune of 300,000, far short of the 400,000 initial sales of Bill Clinton's My Life (2004). Hillary Clinton's Living History (2004) and Obama's Audacity of Hope (2006) had initial sales of about 200,000.

Clinton's earlier It Takes A Village (1996) and Obama's Dreams from My Father (2004) spent many weeks on the NYC best seller list. The Clinton and Obama books went on to sell millions and still sell well.

The phenomenal attention Palin receives in the media and her massive book tour insured high initial sales, and the increased use of pre-ordering online favors more recently published titles. Time will tell.

Prediction: Palin's book will quickly sell a million copies, but come January it will be available used for less than five bucks. The 2.5 million units produced will prove sufficient, and within months the book will be a farce compared to the other titles above.

Let's skip the fact vs. fiction regarding the health care bill, especially the ruckus about abortion. Word from on high is that God gave a retching Christ some dopamine and a strong joint.

Fiction: Guantanamo inmates are too dangerous for federal prison.
Fact: Federal prisons successfully hold or have held extremely dangerous, skilled serial killers (BTK, Bundy, Son of Sam, Dahmer, Gacy, Ridgeway, Gein) as well as deeply networked and well financed organized crime bosses with resources to attempt escape. They don't. The small number of Gitmo detainees have more to fear than the US population if they are moved to federal prisons.

Fiction: Trying the 911 terrorists in a real trial gives them dangerous advantages and makes conviction less likely.
Fact: Federal courts have successfully tried over 100 terrorists since 911. We convicted Moussaui. We convicted Padilla. We convicted shoe bomber Reid, "Blind Sheik" Abdel-Rahman, and the 1993 WTC bombers Abouhalima, Ajaj, Ayyad, Yousef, Ismoil. All are in federal prison. Not one has not escaped, kidnapped the Mayor's daughter, or used the court to forward their agenda.
Prediction: KSM and Co. will be tried, convicted, and executed.

By the way, I'd heard but then forgotten that Carrie Prejean has a book. Is "Joe the Plumber" next? I wonder if Christ has any dopamine left.

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Enabling the Holocaust - Constantine's Sword

(Pope Benedict XVI at Auschwitz) Once a Catholic priest, author James Carroll's faith in authority was broken by the Vietnam War. He left the church and began a rigorous study of the history of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, distinguishing an extraordinary story that deepens the understanding of the forces that made the seemingly incomprehensible Holocaust comprehensible.

(Constantine) Prior to 342, Christianity used many of the life affirming symbols including the fish, peacock, Chi-Rho, and other pagan like symbols. They didn't use the crucifix. That changed when Roman leader Constantine I had a vision of the cross on the eve of battle. The vision inspired him to victory, converted him to Christianity, and with his consolidation of power, cemented the establishment of the Catholic Church at the root of power. The Cross, the Roman instrument of execution, became the central image of the religion, and it had a byproduct, antisemitism and an increase in the emphasis of the false assertion that Jews were responsible for the execution of Christ. Many still believe this. Mel Gibson (who has been caught making anti-semitic statements) presents this view in his film The Passion of the Christ.

Skipping how this assertion was born (see the history of New Testament), it persisted, and the crusades made sure Jewish towns and villages were included on the list of those to be slaughtered and burned. Seeking to legitimize their new religion with conversions, Christians were outraged with the Jews, God's chosen insiders most ripe for inclusion into the new religion, that remained content with their given Judaism. Bad turned dramatically to worse when reformer Martin Luther poured fuel onto the "Jews killed Jesus" fire. A respectable high school education covers Luther's famous posting of the 95 Theses at a Wittenburg church in 1517, the development that gave birth to Protestantism. However, high school kids are not taught about Luther's rabid hatred of the Jews. Evidence exists that Luther initially had no hostile sentiments, but like his Christian predecessors of 50-200 AD, he grew outraged when Jews did not embrace his Protestantism. Furious, in 1543 Luther published On the Jews and their Lies. Consider the sentiments behind what happened in Rome 12 years later.

1. Jews are to own no real estate.
2. Jews are to attend no Christian university.
3. Jews are to hire no Christian servants.
4. Jews' mercantile roles are to be strictly regulated.
5. Jews taxes are to be increased.
6. Jews are no longer to ignore the ancient requirement to wear distinction clothing and badges.
7. Jews are to refuse to be addressed as "sir" by Christians.
8. Jews are to live on a single street, or in a distinctive quarter cut off from other sections of the town or city. This quarter is to have only one entrance.

Cum Nimis Absurdum Pope Paul IV, July 1555.

Rome created a ghetto for Jews in 1555, 400 years before the Nazis created the infamous ghetto in Warsaw. Why? What remains insufficiently distinguished is the profound role Christianity played in establishing the precedents necessary to enable the Holocaust. In 1933, Edith Stein, the brilliant German Jewish philosopher who converted to Christianity and became a nun, wrote Pope Pius XII a letter warning of the brutal anti-Semitism of the Nazis and the impending violence. All of her predictions came true (and then some). The Pope never responded to her letter. Stein fled Germany, but was arrested in the Netherlands and killed at Auschwitz in 1942.

In March 2000, Pope John Paul II made a truly momentous visit to Jerusalem, visiting the Wailing Wall and submitting a published letter into one of its crevices.

In May 2009, Pope Benedict XVI visited Israel and gave an address acknowledging the Holocaust where "Jews were exterminated under a godless regime." He said nothing about Christianity's culpability, Edith Stein, the silence of Pope Pius XII at the time, or the church's 1939 invitation to Hitler himself to see the seamless robe of Christ (falsely believed at the time to have been worn by Christ) at the Cathedral of Trier.

Hitler declined the invitation.

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