Who Hijacked Our Country

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Religious Fanatics: Can’t Tell the Players Without a Program

By now you’ve probably seen the international headlines. Religious lunatics are foaming at the mouth — spewing hatred and venom — just because of some harmless entertainment. Modern-day Caliphs are calling for boycotts and mass protests. Some of the wackiest extremists are even making death threats against “infidels.”

Oh, and now it seems some Moslem leaders are all bent out of shape over a comic strip in Denmark.

Maybe the Theory of Evolution is wrong after all. Seems we haven’t evolved much since the Spanish Inquisition.


Blogger Snave said...

Lots of parallels here in the USA to what you mention in that post. We have religious lunatics here in our country, also foaming at the mouth, spewing hate and venom. Unlike what we're seeing with the furor over the Mohammed cartoons, our fanatics don't tend to do it just because of some harmless entertainment... but watch them come out of the woodwork if "Brokeback Mountain" wins the Oscar for Best Picture.

The religion-inspired death threats here in the US seem to be of the implied variety, like with Pat Robertson actually praying for Supreme Court justices to die or suggesting we should assassinate foreign leaders, but we have had doctors who performed abortions getting shot and killed.

Unless the GOP can tone down the religious rhetoric, I think their party will ultimately be doomed. I know a lot of Christian Democrats, but I also know a lot of Christian Republicans who take the approach of Christie Todd Whitman, that is, the GOP needs to get back to what its values were 20 to 30 years ago, when they actually WERE a party with a somewhat "big tent". It's like they're becoming an exclusive club for rich white men and born-again fundamentalist Christian people. The worst part of it is, even in this sorry state they are still able to sell themselves to so many American voters. Thanks a lot, Karl.

And I don't think that's because the lefties present ah abhorrent alternative. I think it's because the lefties still haven't figured out that they allow the Republicans to control the debate, to control our nation's political discourse, by feeding into the Republican argument. When we argue with them we use their terms, one's created in their think tanks, like "gay marriage", "death tax", "environmental movement", "tax and "spend" and "homosexual agenda". We feed right in by continuing to allow the GOP to frame the issues. So does the media... it uses GOP-think-tank-generated terms all the time, so the whole nation has the issues conveniently framed for them in Republican terms. If we can take back the debate by framing the issues differently, we can point out that Republican leadership has been perpetrating a divisive cultural civil war for the last couple of decades, and now it's time for some national healing. Americans have a lot of things in common when it comes to what they would like to see happen in our country, it's just that the ideas for achieving those goals have been polarized into opposite extremes through clever use of language and spin.

If the GOP can clean up its act and tone down the negativity and the relentless quest for power, and if the Democrats can find some leaders with spines who are able to communicate Democratic values effectively, we can make progress.

There, I've made peace between the two warring American political parties. Now I'll move on to solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem. Just kidding. But I do believe we all have more common values than we realize.

We can probe the minds of conservatives by changing the way we ask questions. Instead of asking "What do you think of gay marriage?" we could ask "Do Republicans believe someone should decide which adult human you can or can't marry?" (I add "adult human" to pre-empt their tired old horse about "so you think we should be able to marry children, or maybe goats?")

Instead of asking "What do you think about global warming?" we could ask "Do Republicans believe it is possible that human activity can have an impact on the earth?"

Instead of "What do you think about the environment?" we could ask "Do Republicans believe in clean air and clean water?" (If they respond with "Sure! Do Democrats believe in using our forests to provide timber for housing?" they would find most of us would say "yes" but that we would add that the extremists in what they call "the environmental movement" don't represent mainstream Democratic thought... just like a lot of religious fundamentalists in the GOP don't represent mainstream Republican thought.)

The possibilities for reframing the issues are endless, and most Republicans would answer "yes" to questions like those above. If they do answer "yes", we should ask them questions like "Do you support policies that make our air dirty and our water unsafe?" "Why do you support policies that suggest human activity doesn't have an impact on the earth?" "Why do you support policies that allow laws that say which adult humans we can or can't marry?"

"If you answered yes, why do you vote against your own best interests and the best interests of America?"

Such an approach might not work on all issues, but it may demonstrate that we all have more in common than we realize. I think the right-wing leaders don't want people thinking in terms of gray areas, but there are lots of gray areas out there when it comes to politics. Nothing is absolute except absolute power, I suppose... and we have all seen what road that is currently taking us down.

February 3, 2006 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: I really don't see much difference between the fanatic Mullahs in the Middle East and the Falwells and Pat Robertsons in this country. Since we're still a democracy (knock wood), the Christian fanatics can't order people to be imprisoned or executed. But if Falwell/Robertson/Dobson ever took over our government and established a Christian theocracy, we'd be interchangeable with Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan under the Taliban.

I hope you're right that the GOP will have to bring back their Big Tent or else they'll self-destruct. But that's what I thought before the 2004 election. I was sure they'd painted themselves into a corner, and that Kerry would win, as dull as he was.

You're right that the Republicans have become experts at framing the issues, and the Democrats just go meekly along, allowing themselves to be defined. And Republicans keep rubbing salt in the wound by saying "Democrats don't stand for anything. They don't have any alternatives." The problem is, Democrats need to stand up and play a bigger role in framing the issues and defining the terms.

February 3, 2006 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger A Christian Prophet said...

I'm thinking anyone with an "Impeach Bush" advertisement is the same as these religious fanatics. It's just a different religion, wouldn't you say?

February 3, 2006 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Christian Prophet: "Impeach Bush" is a religion? Uhh, maybe, if you really stretch the term. In a sense, any political viewpoint could be defined as a religion.

If I had to pick a religion, it would be Agnosticism. The Agnostic Creed is "I don't know and you don't either." If everyone followed that motto, there would've been a lot less war and bloodshed throughout history.

February 3, 2006 at 5:28 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...


Don't waste your time with the "prophet." He thinks the Chimperor is the manifestation of God on Earth, and a quick look at his profile will have you praying for him-he needs some serious help.


Until the dems decide to actually start arguing some points of their own (rather than answer Rovian bullshit that they never claimed to stand for,) they are doomed. I haven't seen them do it yet, and I frankly do not expect to see them do it later. They have proven themselves perhaps slightly less rotten than the Goppers, but not by a whole lot.

February 3, 2006 at 6:38 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Jolly Roger: I'm afraid you're right about the Dems. They keep playing the role of the victim. They're allowing themselves to be defined and painted into a corner, and they're spending most of their time and energy answering ridiculous charges. This "battle plan" has never worked for anyone and it never will.

February 3, 2006 at 8:08 PM  
Blogger spaceneedl said...

"If the GOP can clean up its act and tone down the negativity and the relentless quest for power..."

what's their motivation to do that? it's worked for them very well over the past several years/elections.

they've made it clear that they want to establish a 1000-year reign, and will do anything to achieve that end, no matter how despicable.

when democrats learn to fight fire with smarter fire, then maybe there can be peace and progress in this country.

February 4, 2006 at 1:22 PM  
Blogger Mike V. said...

Christian Prophet, wanting to see Bush impeached is the result of anyone who is firing on all cylinders.
The only thing holding this country together even after all he and the neo-cons have done to ruin it, are the great people that live here.

Religious fanaticism is the result of anyone who is NOT firing on all cylinders and cannot think for themselves.
The very basis of Christian Fundamentalism by definition is anti-intellectual.
Whenever you find yourself dealing with a person that thinks we live in a 6000 year old universe and the stars in the sky "just look far away", you just have to pack your bags and call it a day.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in our government right now who shouldn't be given a lick of time either, but through fear theft of votes, they have stayed in power..

February 4, 2006 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Spaceneedl: Unfortunately I think you're right about the Republicans. Their Rove/Goebbels tactics have worked so well, why should they change? It's up to the Democrats to learn how to counter these tactics more effectively. They've been entirely defensive. "I did not," "that's not true," "I never said that," etc. This constant defensiveness has never worked and never will.

Rove is very shrewd and ruthless; surely there's a Democratic strategist somewhere who can counter him and fight fire with fire.

February 4, 2006 at 10:20 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Mike V.: But, but the universe IS just 6,000 years old, isn't it? Slow down here, what are you trying to tell me :)

Yup, good old cronyism (plus theft of votes) is what's keeping so many unqualified people in charge of things.

February 4, 2006 at 10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It it quite possible that Crash may take the Oscar, which would be a hell of a message


February 5, 2006 at 1:11 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: I haven't seen Crash, but from what I know about it, it would be a great choice.

February 5, 2006 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger erinberry said...

I agree, fundamentalists of any religion are dangerous.

Let's all pray for "Christian prophet" to get a clue.

February 5, 2006 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erinberry: Yup, I'm afraid it's true -- Fundamentalists (or at least their "leaders") are dangerous no matter what their religion is. Our secular democracy is what's protecting us from the Pat Robertsons and James Dobsons. They'd have thousands of us executed in the blink of an eye if they could establish a Christian theocracy here.

February 5, 2006 at 2:38 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

I would guess that following such things as the censoring and burning of books, the censoring of dissenting viewpoints and the burning of people would be their next step.

February 6, 2006 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: Yup, that's usually the progression. If the Fundamentalists ever took over our government and established a Christian theocracy, we'd be just like Iran under Khomeini, or Afghanistan under the Taliban.

February 6, 2006 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger Tovah Means said...

I dont agree with the rioters, but I do think they possess a greater understanding of what it means to value religion and hold it with such seriousness. Again I am not advocating what they do or the extremity of it all, but i think it would be very hard for and American to understand really what they were so upset about.

February 6, 2006 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Tovah Means: I can understand a devout believer of any religion being angry over cartoons, mockings, etc. But they need to lighten up. Fortunately we have free speech here. If the Moslem countries want to persecute or execute "infidels" in their own countries, that's their business. But there's nothing they can do about it when other countries make cartoons about them. They need to get over themselves (same with Christian Fundamentalists).

I see things all the time that I find offensive. I just turn the page or change the channel.

February 6, 2006 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger FleshPresser said...

The issue of political free speech versus that of religious tolerance is a difficult one to reconcile, and so I went straight to the source for thoughts... to the cartoonists themselves:


(Please note: this does NOT link to the offensive cartoons in question. There are plenty of ways to Google and find those on numerous other sites.

Great blog, btw!

February 6, 2006 at 1:31 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Flesh Presser: Yup, there's a fine line everyone needs to walk. I don't think it's good to offend people's religious beliefs, but sometimes that's a byproduct of living in a democracy. That was an interesting post of yours; I just checked it out.

February 6, 2006 at 2:40 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Flesh Presser: I cut my response short. I also meant to add: the Moslem countries are not democracies, of course, but internationally they're still going to have to adapt to the fact that Western democracies will express disagreeable views and make obnoxious jokes from time to time. With the global village and all, they're gonna have to either adapt to that, or just remain the isolated backwaters that they've been for so long.

February 6, 2006 at 4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been mulling this in my head for a long time and this is what I have come up with. It seems the Muslims are upset that these cartoons not only depict the prophet but stereotype muslims as terrorist. The Muslins don't want to be stereotyped and they say Islam is a religion of peace.

Well my solution is to do something about it:

I would like to see a huge march of Muslims carrying signs like "there are no virgins" then I would be happy.

It reminds me of the forced busing days and I talk to people (white) who would say their reasons for opposing busing are not racially biased. Yet I tell them how they march hand in hand with people carrying signs that say "I don't want to go to school with Niggers". They would've been more convincing if they would have seperated or denounced the other group - so I had a hard time believing their sincerity.

Another example Republicans saying they are not a racist party but no one saying anything when Jesse Helms or Strom Thurmond would say something racist and stupid (Trent Lott was a big exception. No one objected to Willy Horton nor Harvey Gant.

Christians are not perfect (you know it's true) but I take comfort in seeing Other Ministers jumping on Pat Robertson, Donald Wildeman or Jerry Falwell everytime they put their feet in their mouths.


February 7, 2006 at 1:11 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: You're right, the Muslims who don't want to be stereotyped need to distance themselves from the Muslim extremists who inspire those stereotypes. It's very much like the anti-busing demonstrations, like you mentioned. I'm sure lots of those people weren't racists, but they should've made more effort to separate themselves from the racists who were using school-busing as a wedge issue.

February 7, 2006 at 3:33 PM  

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