Friday, April 27, 2007

Eternal Vigilance

I read Christopher Hedges’ American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America a couple months ago. It was sensational, and not in the, “Wow, that’s amazing!” sense, but more in the yellow journalism sense. In spite of his tendency to assume the sky was falling, he brought up some good points. Hedges had some of his claims right. Namely, people who speak of reshaping this nation according to Christian values, specifically their own Christian values, should receive the attention of those who love freedom. There is a reason that Thomas Jefferson championed the idea of the addition of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, the first of which included the anti-establishment clause, which states that the United States government has no right to establish any religion as the official national religion. Jefferson once said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” His words have, unfortunately, been corrupted by organizations that claim the letter of those words but violate the spirit of his beliefs. They’ve been turned more in to an excuse to succumb to mindless flag waving, thoughtless militarism and Yee-Ha! patriotism most suitable for a Toby Keith concert. Jefferson, you see, was in France at the time of the Constitutional Convention. It’s possible that being in Europe at the time he was slightly more sensitive to such issues, as religious control over nations was a bad habit in many countries. Jefferson was also a voracious reader and a student of history, so he would have probably known exactly the dangers of the establishment of any religion. These days we spend more time worrying about “bringing democracy” to nations oppressed by “radical Islam.” The inherent idea, of course, is that “we” are better than “they” are. But is that really true? As a student of history myself I can say that I would no more want to live under the Taliban than I would have wanted to live in Calvin’s Geneva, Oliver Cromwell’s England or any place the Inquisition’s hand could reach. The bad old days of outright inter-denominational Christian persecution and open warfare might be over, but that doesn’t mean that the underlying problems are gone. That’s why Hedges is correct to point out the dangerous ideologies of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy and Ron Luce, among others. Simply spouting off dangerous ideals does not make them dangerous, though. They need power. More than that, they need coordination. The Christian demagogues have some of the former and very little of the latter. Still, eternal vigilance and all… Meanwhile, in attacking the Christian right, Hedges missed something. The United States currently shows the early indicators of working itself in to a fascist state. I’ve been keeping track of these trends for a while and found that reading his book helped me better focus on what is important and what isn’t when doing the necessary research. This article, however, does a much better job of explaining it than I can. I don’t necessarily see that point 3 is completely defensible, but everything else on the list in some way states things that I’ve seen or heard and been worried about. I don’t know how deliberate any of these things are. I also don’t see how most of the problems can live past the Bush Administration, as a lot of the article’s ten points point very specifically to Bush’s actions. Still, I believe Thomas Jefferson had something to say about the responsibilities of those who live in and value a free society. For those keeping track, that means you and me. Oh, and for fun Friday watching pleasure...

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