Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sick, Yes, But Infected by Whom?

Kurt Andersen, writing in today's New York Times, argues that our politics is sick, making the metaphor almost literal, seeing an autoimmune disorder:
It’s now considered reasonable to regard organs and limbs of the federal government — the E.P.A., the education department, the Federal Reserve — as tumors that must be removed. Taxation itself is now considered a parasitic pathogen rather than a crucial part of our social organism.
True, but Andersen doesn't manage to identify the cause of the illness, laying the blame on stress instead of pointing out the self-aware Typhoid Mary still spreading the disease. The situation we find ourselves in is not accidental, not no way, not no how.

The disease is something that has been growing for more than thirty years, the infection deliberately spread. Only now are people beginning to even recognize that it exists, though Cassandras like Frederick Clarkson have been warning about its deliberate spread for well more than a decade. In 1994, he wrote:
The significance of the [Christian] Reconstructionist movement is not its numbers, but the power of its ideas and their surprisingly rapid acceptance. Many on the Christian Right are unaware that they hold Reconstructionist ideas. Because as a theology it is controversial, even among evangelicals, many who are consciously influenced by it avoid the label. This furtiveness is not, however, as significant as the potency of the ideology itself. Generally, Reconstructionism seeks to replace democracy with a theocratic elite that would govern by imposing their interpretation of "Biblical Law." Reconstructionism would eliminate not only democracy but many of its manifestations, such as labor unions, civil rights laws, and public schools. Women would be generally relegated to hearth and home. Insufficiently Christian men would be denied citizenship, perhaps executed. So severe is this theocracy that it would extend capital punishment beyond such crimes as kidnapping, rape, and murder to include, among other things, blasphemy, heresy, adultery, and homosexuality.
 It's no wonder, then, that he was more than a little frustrated by this:



That two so-called savvy news analysts should be completely unaware of Christian Reconstructionism or Dominionism is itself quite startling, and not just because Clarkson and others have been warning about the movement for so long.  The recalcitrant, anti-compromise Tea Party faction in Congress acts as it does because of belief, even if unacknowledged, in this movement.  Two current presidential candidates, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, are extremely influenced by this movement, as is Sarah Palin.

The movement has been hidden right in the open, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and others first setting its agenda years ago.  They cloak their agenda in a pseudo-patriotism, "pseudo" because what they are about is a complete destruction of the commitment to compromise (witness that Tea Party faction in Congress) that has provided the staying power of the American republic since its founding.  These are absolutists, operating in a system whose basic document, the United States Constitution, rejects absolutism completely.  Yet they claim to defend that Constitution, redefining it as a "Christian" document based on their own convictions, not on its historical or present-day being.

So, yes, our politics is sick, but it is not a sickness we can fight simply by identifying the symptoms, as Andersen does.  We need to admit that we have among us, in America, a movement antithetical to the very core beliefs of the nation, a movement whose goal is its destruction.  This may sound paranoid, and it may be, to some degree, but I fear for our nation if the power of the Christian right is not soon checked.

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