Friday, 10 September 2010

Religious Warfare in a Declining Dysfunctional Society

Andrew Sullivan on religious warfare (emphasis mine):
I think the demagoguing of Park51 is a direct result of the GOP's turn toward Christianism. It's a tipping point where mainstream American Muslims become indistinguishable from the mass murderers of 9/11 in the psyches of those too poorly educated to know the difference. Religious warfare, once begun, is hard to stop; and when it is tacitly endorsed by a political party many of whose members believe that the president is a Muslim and no one in the GOP directly attacks, rebuts and discredits this nonsense, we are in very dangerous territory. The disturbing fusion of nationalist Christianity and loathing of Obama in the Beck-Palin movement - crystallized by the Park51/Cordoba contretemps and the August Mall rally - wittingly or unwittingly gives these violent fringes a coherence and legitimacy. Because it's not just hatred of Obama at stake any more; it's a conflation of Obama with Islam and then a conflation of Islam with Jihadist terror. If that's in your mind, it takes very little to set off a chain of inflammatory acts that build on one another.

Richard Gwyn on the end of Amerika®:
This is the point. Obama’s problem, which indeed is sizeable, doesn’t reside in himself, although he needs to learn the art of faking sincerity that Clinton, with his “I feel your pain” pitch was so good at. Obama’s problem resides in America. It’s become a near-dysfunctional society.

The Tea Party, which is a genuine grassroots movement, confirms it. It stands for “freedom.” No more big government. No more meddling in people’s lives. But instead, Sarah Palin.

That a sizeable number of people should want Palin for president is irrefutable evidence their society has gone dysfunctional. She’s a third-rater, except in demagoguery (and in faking sincerity). Paris Hilton would do the job as well, probably better.

Why should this be so? My guess is that Tea Party members and a lot of others, including that Florida evangelical minister who wanted to burn the Qur’an, even though it would have put a lot of American soldiers at risk, have actually got onto something important.

That something is that the U.S. today is clearly in decline. This shouldn’t be exaggerated. Americans have an astounding capacity for resilience. Once there was humiliation in Vietnam. Once all the experts were saying Japan was about to become No. 1. Both are now history.

The U.S. will always be powerful and wealthy. But it will never again bestride the world like a colossus towering above all others. It will be, rather, a big guy in a crowd.

America’s conceit of “exceptionalism,” or of being better than anyone else and fundamentally different from all other societies and countries, can no longer be sustained. It’s exhausted its quota, a very large one indeed, of bright, confident mornings.

Obama’s problem thus is stark and simple: He’s the right guy at the wrong time.

As some readers may remember/know, I was Born in the USA, lived there seven years until we arrived as shivering refugees and were kindly taken in by a kinder, gentler Canada than we have now. (Actually, Dada told Canadian-born Mama to get her ass outta town and to take those damn kids with her, but the concept is similar.)

I am scared. Seriously scared.

5 comments:

Beijing York said...

I'm scared too, fern. The absurd has become a reality. I feel like we are the fringe these days.

900ft Jesus said...

I'm scared as well. Sometimes, I stand outside in front of where I work on a busy Ottawa street and watch people go about their day, and I'm amazed they don't see how the country is going insane. That type of denial and oblivion allows the insane radicals to gain ground.

900ft

Pseudz said...

Maybe that's the what makes that oft re-played FDR thang "...nothing to fear but fear itself ..." so potent - - many conditions then are similar to what's up now. One must have one's eyes open to be brave. This is getting to another time for bravery.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes there is plenty of cause to fear for the United States. I would recommend Chris Hedges, "American Fascists;" Kevin Phillips, "American Theocracy;" Andrew Bacevich, "The New American Militarism;" and Chalmers' Johnson, "Nemesis."

Bacevich, in particular, explores how American militarism became wedded to radical fundamentalist evangelism, the Christian far right.

Many Americans, like many Muslims, have descended into the pit of fundamentalism.

My theory is that this is, at least in part, the result of the decimation of America's once vibrant middle class. A healthy middle class is the beating heart of democracy and keeps it functional in so many ways. It is the vehicle for social mobility and measured progressivism. It is also a bulwark against extremism and oligarchy.

fern hill said...

MoS, I followed your précis/commentary on the Bacevich and found it terrifying and excellent. I don't know that I could handle more right at the moment.

All these chickens are coming home to roost, aren't they?

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