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... and thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, have died because of his religious mania.

I always suspected this was what was really going on in his mind - after all, Bush had some pretty close ties with all sorts of millenialist evangelicals - but I simply am boggled by the fact that he came out and told world leaders that they should join in the invasion of Iraq because he was on a mission from God.[1]

Some exerpts from the article:
In 2003 while lobbying leaders to put together the Coalition of the Willing, President Bush spoke to France's President Jacques Chirac. Bush wove a story about how the Biblical creatures Gog and Magog were at work in the Middle East and how they must be defeated.


The story has now been confirmed by Chirac himself in a new book, published in France in March, by journalist Jean Claude Maurice. Chirac is said to have been stupefied and disturbed by Bush's invocation of Biblical prophesy to justify the war in Iraq and "wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs".

In the same year he spoke to Chirac, Bush had reportedly said to the Palestinian foreign minister that he was on "a mission from God" in launching the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and was receiving commands from the Lord.
You know, this is almost enough to make one think that prospective heads of governemnt should be required to affirm, with their hand on a copy of Darwin's Origin of Species, that they will not in any way allow public policy to be influenced by their personal religious beliefs before being allowed to take office.

[1]And yes, I am totally trying to keep myself from seeing GWB in my mind's eye wearing dark sunglasses and an ill-fitting black suit, singing the Blues while Ackroyd plays harmonica and Belushi does backflips, because that would not only be wrong, but also so disresepctful to the people who have suffered from this man's delusions of divine inspiration.

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... there's not a lot of good news among the various local ballot measures that I was able to easily find information on. I don't know if these are just the high-profile measures, or how many others there might have been.

In Arizona, a ban on same-sex marriage passed.

In Arkansas, a ban on adoption by same-sex couples passed.

In California, Proposition 8 passed, taking away the right of same-sex couples to marry, a right declared constitutional by the state supreme court.

In California, a law requiring a physician to inform the parents or guardian of a minor 48 hours before performing an abortion also passed.

In Colorado, a law defining human life as beginning at conception (thus effectively banning abortion) passed.

In Florida, a ban on same-sex marriage passed.

In Nebraska, affirmative action was declared unconstitutional.

In South Dakota, serious limits were enacted on the right to a medical abortion (it will now be legal only if the patient's life or health is at risk, or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, and then only in the first 20 weeks.

Edit: Looks like the news was better than it appeared when I wrote this last night: the anti-choice initiatives in California, Colorado and South Dakota failed when all the votes were in. Thanks to [personal profile] lawlesslawyer and [personal profile] lavendertook for clueing me in on the good news on the pro-choice fronts.

Alas, as [personal profile] lawlesslawyer points out below, it appears that a majority of voters in the U.S. still don't get it that queer people are people like other people who deserve rights because they are people.

The good news:

Michigan will legalise medical marijuana and allow stem cell research.

Washington will allow limited physician-assisted suicide.

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This time, I knew exactly what I wanted to draw, and why. To my American friends and neighbours, a bouquet of flowers to commemorate an historic night.

I had hoped that it would also be a wedding bouquet for those sisters and brothers whose marriages, and whose right to marry the person they love when that time comes, were on the line in California tonight, but it looks as though that is not to be - at least, not this time. Keep up the fight - the tides are turning, and this too shall be changed.


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I've seen variations on this meme mocking Sarah Palin's lack of knowledge about key U.S. Supreme Court decisions in a few places. This one I swiped from [personal profile] xochiquetzl:

Sarah Palin managed to get Roe v. Wade, but was stumped when asked to name any other Supreme Court decisions. In the spirit of remembering that there is more to law than that one case, I am participating in this meme.

The Rules: Post info about ONE Supreme Court decision, modern or historic to your lj. (Any decision, as long as it's not Roe v. Wade.) For those who see this on your f-list, take the meme to your OWN lj to spread the fun.

I'll pick Griswold v. Connecticut. This 1965 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturned a law that made the distribution of contraceptive devices to married couples illegal, and by arguing that privacy is protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, established the concept of right to privacy.

Griswold v. Connecticut was later used as a precedent in such cases as Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), which extended the right to possess contraception to unmarried couples, Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 decision that decriminalised sodomy between consenting adults in private.

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Now, it could be that I'm completely wrong about this for reason having to do with the technicalities of how financial things work, but hasn't anyone thought about how this proposed bail-out/buy-out could be turned into an incredible opportunity to not just save from disaster, but actually improve the lives of people living in the hardest hit American neighbourhoods?

My reasoning goes like this:

The government buys up all those "worthless" financial instruments containing defaulted mortgages, and this pours money into failing banks, keeping them alive and somehow maintaining "confidence" in the market - which is of course one side of the equation, whether you think it's a good thing in the long run or not.

But the other side is that those mortgages that the government now owns are attached, somewhere down the line, to actual developed real estate that is currently "worthless" because the owners can't pay the mortgages and the bottom has fallen out of the housing industry so no one else will buy the properties.

So - isn't this an amazing advantage for the government of the U.S. to provide vast amounts of low-income housing and provide space for crucial community services all across the country?

I mean, if the government buys the mortgages, it controls the real estate that was mortgaged, doesn't it? I know that if I default on my mortgage, the bank gets to take my house and sell it to recoupe their loan to me. And until that house is sold - which banks in the U.S. are having trouble doing right now which is why those mortgages are worthless - the bank, which owned the mortgage, controls what used to be my house.

So if you do the big bail-out, you've got Goddess knows how many homes across the country that the government now controls that can be placed under the administration of a low-income properties commission, which rents them out to the working poor whose lives have been destroyed by trying to pay off those sub-prime mortgages. Hell, create lease-to-own programs so that over time, people really can own their own homes.

And at the same time, rent some of those properties to community organisations that want to provide shelters for the homeless, shelters for battered women, free medical and legal clinics, after-school programs, agencies that help prepare upgrade employment skills, all sorts of community services that neighbourhoods in distress desperately need in order to get back on their feet in a time of reecession and massive job loss.

Isn't this one way to bail out Main street and Wall Street, as some people are demanding?

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There's this meme going around about that matches your opinions on policy issues with those of the Democratic and Republican candidates.

So I took the quiz, answering as if I were an American citizen. My scores:

95% Dennis Kucinich
93% Mike Gravel
80% Chris Dodd
80% Barack Obama
78% John Edwards
76% Joe Biden
76% Bill Richardson
75% Hillary Clinton
34% Rudy Giuliani
32% Ron Paul
25% John McCain
19% Mike Huckabee
19% Mitt Romney
11% Tom Tancredo
10% Fred Thompson

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

I couldn't quite place Gravel, so I Googled him. I was not really surprised when the first hit was a news story which stated that the top two candidates on my list, Kucinich and Gravel, had been eliminated from the ABC presidential debates because they haven't a hope in hell of winning.

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I'm not sure where he thinks he's going, but George W. Bush clearly has left the world that most of us live in far behind. I had thought he had a limited grasp on reality, but recent reports make it evident that I was being far too generous.

Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times reported last week that during a Monday August 14 "lunch at the Pentagon that included the president’s war cabinet and several outside experts," Bush expressed the following sentiments, which strike me as the maunderings of someone totally dissociated from what is happening in the Middle East.

President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government — and the Iraqi people — had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday.


More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. “I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States,” said another person who attended. Source

So let me get this straight - Bush doesn't understand why the Iraqi people don't support an occupying army, and he doesn't understand why many people living in the Middle East would rather support Hezbollah than support the U.S.

Now I don't give Hezbollah a pass for killing civilians any more than I give the U.S. or Israel a pass to do the same - a war crime is a war crime no matter who committed it - but doesn't it strike anyone in the White Bubble that just maybe, trying to understand why some people in Iraq, and Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories might prefer Hezbollah or Hamas over America might help them figure out how to try and, in the sad cliche, win some hearts and minds? Or are they just going to keep on killing until everyone who doesn't like them is dead, and they don't have to ask themselves these kinds of questions any more?

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Last night I saw the first part of the award-winning BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear on CBC Newsworld's The Passionate Eye.

The documentary explores the rise of fundamentalist Islamist thought in the Middle East and the neo-conservative movement in the west, with particular attention paid to the similarities and interconnections between the two. The starting premise of the documentary is that these two movements are, at the core, both reactions to the failure of liberalism. As it traces the growth of both movements, it also highlights some of the ways in which they have influenced each other, used each other and developed in response to each other.

Because I've done a moderate amount of reading in the last few years on the growth of fundamentalist Islamic thought, much of the historical background addressing this aspect of the film was familiar to me - what really hit me was the recounting of things I had either forgotten about or never known about neocon politics in the US in the 70s and 80s. Though I must admit, I remember sitting with friends - some of whom were ex-pat Americans - on the night Reagan was elected and feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was the beginning of a long nightmare... and finding that everyone agreed with me. I don't think we really could have realised just how much of a nightmare it would be, and just how long it would last.

Some of the material in the film that discusses neocon politics of the Ford and Reagan eras with respect to US policy concerning the Soviet Union seemed eerily and unpleasantly familiar. And why shouldn't it? It is, after all, many of the same men who railed about the threat from the Evil Empire in the 80s who brought us yellowcake, chemical factories on wheels and the Axis of Evil in 2003.

One sequence of a profound deja vu nature outlines the way that neocons Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Pearle et al (as part of the Ford and Reagan governments) set out in the late 70s and 80s to prove that the USSR was secretly building up its armaments to threatening levels and preparing to attack the US. Does this sound at all familiar:

DONALD RUMSFELD, US Secretary of Defense, Speaking in 1976: The Soviet Union has been busy. They’ve been busy in terms of their level of effort; they’ve been busy in terms of the actual weapons they’ve been producing; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding production rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their institutional capability to produce additional weapons at additional rates; they’ve been busy in terms of expanding their capability to increasingly improve the sophistication of those weapons. Year after year after year, they’ve been demonstrating that they have steadiness of purpose. They’re purposeful about what they’re doing. Now, your question is, what ought one to be doing about that? [quoted from transcript available online].

According to the documentary, when informed by the CIA that there was simply no credible intelligence to support this allegation, the neocons argued that the fact that there was no evidence merely proved that the Soviets had to be doing it, but keeping it secret.

While profoundly critical of the neocon movement, the documentary isn't pulling any punches about the Islamist movement either - the leaders of both are shown as, on the one hand, idealists who want to save their people and their worlds from what they believe to be a profound moral and spiritual disease, and on the other hand, cynical manipulators who, believing that their end is so important to the survival of what they cherish that any and all means are justified, start out by creating The Big Lie and end up at least half believing it themselves.

For Canadians and anyone else with access to CBC Newsworld, the documentary concludes tonight - check your local listings for the time.

For anyone else - this documentary is not currently available on DVD due to problems with clearing rights for archival footage, but a transcript - which I skimmed and which appears to be accurate - is available on the Net.

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Yes, you.

You're probably reading this.

Just in case you had any doubts, yes I am a socialist, a queer, a radical, a subversive, an activist, an environmentalist, a bleeding-heart tree-hugger, altogether the sort of person you don't want in your country.

I disapprove heartily of almost every piece of foreign policy your governemnt has ever adopted, beginning with the Monroe Doctrine (you maybe thought we hadn't noticed your attempts to annex Canada back in the good old days?) and working up to preemptive strikes and invasions.

I also think you have the worst record of civil rights abuses of any developed country, and I rather suspect you do much worse than a good many developing countries, too. (And that's saying a lot, because most developed countries, including my own, have some pretty serious problems in this regard.)

Your internal social and economic policies look pretty much like a disaster to me, but that's up to your citizens to deal with, I'll just boo and hiss from the sidelines on that one.

But don't worry, I have no intentions of risking my health, life and liberty by visiting your country, at least not while the current dictatorship is in power. Yes, I know that if all your master's plans work out properly, that's going to be a very long time.

So just go fuck yourself, OK?

Thanks, and have a nice day.


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OK, political towns live on rumours, and from everything I've heard, Washington has elevated the use of rumour to spin and influence to, if not a high art, certainly the first line of both attack and defense.

So the rumour that's now hitting the US press is that Cheney, being implicated in the affaire de la Plame, will resign, to be replaced by Condolezza Rice. Who, one assumes, then becomes the favourite to run for the Republicans as President in 2008, becasue the VP is traditionally the favourite (if that's what they want to do).

Now... if it should actually come to pass (which I suspect is unlikely, and not just because high-ranking Republicans are already saying things like, "no, Rice can't be our candidtate, I think she's pro-choice") that Rice becomes the VP, what do the Democrats do?

See, my mind is already running in circles. Would this, if it happened, be a move to force the Democrats to nominate Clinton in order to nullify any gender effect (based on the Republicans believing that Clinton is beatable becasue now only is she a woman, and a Clinton, but she's the woman they were able to demonise quite effectively in the past)? Or would it be, even more bizarrely, be an attempt to influence the Democrats to nominate Clinton under the assumption that the Republicans would nominate Rice, but then, after the Dems are committed, would Rice withdraw, thus bringing the gender effect back into play (and I think the Republicans believe the gender effect would work in their interest, whether that is really true or not.)

Or am I having too much fun spinning the wheels in my head?

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I think I start to understand how many Americans must feel watching their news media.

This week, the CBC newsmagazine program the fifth estate is airing a report on the state of the American media from a Canadain news perspective. The report is called Sticks and Stones, and is described thusly by the network: The United States is in the midst of a very un-civil war. It's a war of words that's pitting conservative against liberal, that's already divided the country into red and blue. The new gladiators are commentators like Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter and their forum is the television studios of networks like Fox. It's loud, it's raucous, but does it have anything to do with the truth?

Some of the material covered was familiar to me from my faithful viewing of the only U.S. "news programming" my ex-pat American partner will allow on the T.V. in his presence, Jon Stewart's The Daily Show.

What brought it all home to me was an interview with American right-wing pundit Ann Coulter. The reporter, CBC journalist Bob McKeown (who has also worked for U.S. networks CBS and NBC), initiated a discussion about her on-air comments concerning Canada spoken on an American T.V. newsmagazine program Hannity and Colmes: they need us...they are lucky we don't roll over one night and crush them....they are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent.

Part of Coulter's response was a lecture on how Canada had been such a stalwart ally of the U.S. until now, and that our disloyalty (in declining to join the U.S. illegal invasion of Iraq, not that she described it in those words) is fair justification for anti-Canadian sentiment. To bolster her argument, she listed all of the wars Canada had supposedly "supported" the U.S. in, beginning with WWII (how could we have supported U.S. involvement when we were there several years before the U.S., supporting Britain?), Korea (we were there as part of a U.N. action, not as support for the U.S.) and Vietnam.

McKeown politely informed Coulter that Canada had not sent military forces to Vietnam. She told him that it had. He replied that no, we really had not been involved in Vietnam. She insisted that he was wrong, and said that she would send him the proof after the interview was completed. He basically shrugged and moved on. Of course, McKeown noted following that segment of the report that neither Coulter nor her staff ever got back to the CBC with their supposed proof - and that Canada had not sent troops to Vietnam.

But it hit hard. If this woman could take part in an interview for a Canadian audience and shamelessly insist that she was right and the Canadian reporter (who is actually of an age to remember the war, having been a pro football player in the early 70s) correcting her about his own country is wrong... then she could lie to anyone about anything.

But I guess that's really not so remarkable after all. It's just a shock to see it, rather than hear or read about it.

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The Case of George Walker Bush

A cold wind bearing the faintest traces of the winds that sweep across the Wastes of Kadath, or the icy Plateau of Leng, whipped the city of Washington, as George W. Bush spoke the words that reverberated within my mind, and my soul. "We have a calling from beyond the stars," he said, "and America will always be faithful to that cause."

A calling from beyond the stars. The words chill the very essence of my being, even though I sit here in warmth and comfort in my study. My mind reels backwards in time. What is it that lies beyond the stars, what is it that calls to him?

Up from the depths of my memory creep some fragments of ancient knowledge, stumbled upon one summer in my careless youth. A curious – perhaps too curious - graduate student I was then, spending a semester prowling the stacks of the library at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts. What a feast it was for one seeking for the deepest truths of our existence. For myriad are the ancient tomes stored there, weathered volumes which speak of things beyond the understanding of mortal man, rituals no longer spoken by the living, rites which promised to bring … something my mind could not comprehend. How well I remember the feelings that convulsed me as, for a time, days, I thought – or was it weeks - I hovered on the edge of some great secret, certain that if only I persevered, I would find the key that would answer all my wildest questionings. But no. At last, driven by some deep prompting, be it conscience, foreboding, or fear, I withdrew from that shadowed quest, I returned to my home and lived until this day, untouched – or so I believed - by the brush of those dark wings I heard at the very edge of my awareness.

Yet now to my mind come the words of another, who penetrated deeper beyond the veil of silence that turned my soul back: "Men with minds sensitive to hereditary impulse will always tremble at the thought of the hidden and fathomless worlds of strange life which may pulsate in the gulfs beyond the stars, or press hideously upon our own globe in unholy dimensions which only the dead and the moonstruck can glimpse."

And so it is. For now I remember the names of those who dwell beyond the stars, even that of the Unspeakable One. I know of those who, come among us from that place beyond time and space, slumber now in the earth or in the ocean depths. I know who it is that walked once in the unfathomable chaos that coils beyond the stars, and will do so again when the stars are right, who it is that calls from his deathless sleep in R’lyeh. And I shudder at the fate now come upon this planet, as one among the most powerful of men speaks openly and boldly of that which calls to him from that awful abyss.

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It’s all over LJ, so you probably know about [ profile] anniesj and her visit from the Secret Service over comments she had made in her LJ that she describes as “some rather inflammatory things about George W. Bush in a public post in my LJ, done in a satirical style.

She has written a new entry in which she responds to some of the discourse that has occurred in response to her experience. Now, [ profile] anniesj has every right to her own thoughts and responses to this experience, but I also have every right to say that I think she is very wrong in some respects.

In her follow-up, she says:

1. I made a very big mistake in posting what I originally posted. I did not intend to threaten anyone with what I originally said. I was pissed off by what President Bush said, and I ranted about it without thinking that what I said could be construed as a threat against the president's safety. Obviously, I was wrong and I admit responsibility for making an inflammatory post. I apologize to anyone it may have offended, and I will be much more careful in the future when expressing my political beliefs.

2. My political beliefs did not trigger this, and what happened to me was not political. The reason why I was reported to the FBI was because I made the mistake of posting something that could be misconstrued as being a threat to the president's safety. I understand this, I apologize for it, and I will not make the same mistake again. I repeat, I do not seriously wish to harm anyone else on this planet, and in the future, I will make certain that I never give that impression again, no matter how pissed off I get.

[ profile] sistermarysith has already written a wonderful response to this, but I need to put in my two cents’ worth as well.

Free speech is one of the most important rights that a citizen can have. Any attempt to suppress it is a political act. It’s true that most democratic nations have placed some prudent limitations on some forms of speech, such as inciting crimes, hate speech against minorities, slander and libel. But citizens must remain able to challenge any and all of the cultural and political assumptions, issues, policies, processes, parties, and powerful individuals in their society. And to ensure this, limitations should not be placed on speech because it is offensive, or satirical, or speculative, or obscene, or even violent.

Satire, in particular, has a long history of using violent images to make its points. And satire is a mode of speech that is open to anyone, not just professional comics and satirists. The use of violent imagery in satire does not mean that a real threat is being made. Emotional utterances are another area in which people use a lot of violent imagery that has no literal intent. Again, just saying something violent doesn’t mean you are going to do it, or even that you really want to do it.

For instance, I could make a satirical comment about George W. Bush being too arrogantly sure that he is doing God’s will and under God’s protection to bother getting out of the way of a deadly plague of locusts. Does this mean that I, personally, am planning on making this happen, or even that I want to see harm come to him?

I could write a play about George W. Bush waking up one day and finding himself transformed into a pregnant women, and cover in great detail the agonising process of trying to find an abortion and failing, only to end up bleeding to death on a back-street abortionist’s table. Does that mean I really want to see that happen?

Or I could create an animation in which George W. Bush can be made to walk into a toxic waste dump and die choking on the chemical fumes while all the birds and animals harmed by his environmental policies express their hopes that a new President will do something to let them live. Does that mean I want him to die a slow and painful death?

I might blurt out in the heat of anger or frustration that often surrounds intense political debate, that the world would be much better off if George W. Bush were dead, or even that he deserves to die because of all the Afghani and Iraqi civilians murdered in his wars. Does that mean that I want the man dead, much less that I plan to kill him myself?

I have the right to be offensive. I have the right to think about violent acts, and to speak about them. It may well be impolite and inconsiderate and even counter-productive to utter offensive and violent speech, but unless it’s coupled with immediate threat of bodily harm, it’s still just speech and it’s my right to utter it. And it’s a lot less offensive than sending armies to kill innocents, or wilfully turning a blind eye to policies that ravage the environment.

What I - or anyone - do not have is a right to commit violence, or incite someone else to. And if a government cannot understand the distinction between the act of speech and the act of violence, if it tries to limit speech about a public figure, no matter how offensive or violent that speech may be, that would be an act of political repression, no matter how nice and polite the brown-shirted thugs in their government-issue camouflage suits are when they arrive at the door.

And that is what bothers me, not just about what happened to [ profile] anniesj, but also about the tone of her response to it. [ profile] anniesj was silenced, and unless we fight that silencing, it could happen to anyone else. The lesson I take from what happened to her is not to be cautious about what I say, lest someone think it is offensive or threatening and call down the dogs of thoughtcrime upon me, but rather to struggle for the right of everyone to speak in freedom.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
-Pastor Martin Niemöller

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As a Canadian, I have been watching the current American electoral process very closely, for reasons that should be obvious. As former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once said, in speaking about the Canada-U.S. relationship, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” The elephant is doing a lot more than twitching and grunting these days, and no longer seems all that friendly and even-tempered, so it is, I believe, even more important for the mouse to pay close attention, not just to what the elephant is doing, but to anything that can shed some light on why the elephant is doing it.

In this context, I have lately been hearing a great deal about George Lakoff, a UC Berkeley professor of cognitive linguistics who has made a considerable study of the language of politics. He has been getting a fair amount of media time of late with his discussions of framing in political language. (For anyone who has missed this, here is an interview with Lakoff that discusses framing.)

Lakoff has also theorised that much political thought in the United States is influenced by the “Nation as Family” metaphor, in which both liberals and conservatives see the nation as a family, with the government as the parent and the citizens as children. One of the results of thinking about politics within this metaphorical framework is that personal and family values, goals and morality are mapped onto the policies and actions of the state.

Lakoff observes that, while both liberals and conservatives use this metaphor, they rely on two different models of the family, which he calls the strict father model and the nurturant parent model; therefore, the two main political constituencies in the U.S. see the nation as two very different kinds of families – which in turn means that they have different expectations of the policies and actions of their governments.

Well, the progressive worldview is modeled on a nurturant parent family. Briefly, it assumes that the world is basically good and can be made better and that one must work toward that. Children are born good; parents can make them better. Nurturing involves empathy, and the responsibility to take care of oneself and others for whom we are responsible. On a larger scale, specific policies follow, such as governmental protection in form of a social safety net and government regulation, universal education (to ensure competence, fairness), civil liberties and equal treatment (fairness and freedom), accountability (derived from trust), public service (from responsibility), open government (from open communication), and the promotion of an economy that benefits all and functions to promote these values, which are traditional progressive values in American politics.

The conservative worldview, the strict father model, assumes that the world is dangerous and difficult and that children are born bad and must be made good. The strict father is the moral authority who supports and defends the family, tells his wife what to do, and teaches his kids right from wrong. The only way to do that is through painful discipline — physical punishment that by adulthood will become internal discipline. The good people are the disciplined people. Once grown, the self-reliant, disciplined children are on their own. Those children who remain dependent (who were spoiled, overly willful, or recalcitrant) should be forced to undergo further discipline or be cut free with no support to face the discipline of the outside world.

So, project this onto the nation and you see that to the right wing, the good citizens are the disciplined ones — those who have already become wealthy or at least self-reliant — and those who are on the way. Social programs, meanwhile, "spoil" people by giving them things they haven't earned and keeping them dependent. The government is there only to protect the nation, maintain order, administer justice (punishment), and to provide for the promotion and orderly conduct of business. In this way, disciplined people become self-reliant. Wealth is a measure of discipline. Taxes beyond the minimum needed for such government take away from the good, disciplined people rewards that they have earned and spend it on those who have not earned it.

Full article here.

This leads me to the recently published book Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values. by Michael Adams.

Personal bias disclaimer here )

Adams argues, based on more than a decade of research into social values in the United States, that there is a growing trend towards an acceptance of both traditional patriarchal authority and hierarchical social structures in the United States today.

One of the most striking items we have been tracking during the past decade addresses Americans’ orientation to traditional patriarchal authority. In 1992, 1996 and 2000, we asked Americans to strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the statement, “The father of the family must be master in his own house.”

In 1992, 42 percent of Americans agreed (either strongly or somewhat) with this statement. The number seemed high at the time (1992 wasn’t so very long ago), but we hadn’t, as they say, seen nothing yet. Support for the Father-knows-best credo was actually on the rise. In 1996, 44 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, and in 2000, a full 49 percent of our sample – almost half the population – agreed that Dad should be boss; this is in spite of the frontal assault on patriarchal authority waged by Homer Simpson and Bill Clinton during the 1990s.

This growing acceptance of traditional patriarchal authority is truly remarkable – and seriously divergent with the patterns in other advanced industrial nations. But it is not only patriarchal authority that is enjoying increased acceptance among many Americans. When we asked Americans in 1996 whether it was better for one leader to make decisions in a group or whether leadership should be more fluid, 31 percent agreed with the more hierarchical position that a single leader should call the shots. In 2000, the proportion agreeing with the hierarchical model had shot up seven points to 38 percent. These Americans were becoming more and more willing to fall in line and do what the boss tells them to do, and this was before their president and commander-in-chief began to rally them for a post-9/11 war on terrorism.

Here, then, is the link between Lakoff and Adams – Lakoff suggests that conservatives in America see the nation/family in terms of a strict father who disciplines his citizen/children into his model of self-reliant individualism, and punishes those who fail to achieve this goal, and Adams presents evidence supporting the view that an increasing number of Americans find the “strict father” family model to be comfortable – and perhaps even comforting. I do not argue a causal link here – it is impossible to say, given the available data, if the observed increase in the acceptance of patriarchy and hierarchy is supporting a move toward the political right in America, or is merely documenting shifts in social values resulting from an overall trend to the right that is also reflected in political ideology and policy.

However, if both the theory and the research do in fact reflect the reality of American politics and society, then the current rightist administration under Bush may not be an aberration, but a real reflection of where American society, and the United States as a sovereign entity, is headed. And if this is so, then it may also suggest that those in the U.S. seeking to counter this trend may need to focus on not only on political action, but also on social movements such as the feminist movement to influence the values that may well be feeding the march to the right.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Theodore Roszak has written an article titled “Where Did the Middle Go?” about the current political situation in the United States. In many ways, it covers pretty much the same ground as most liberal and progressive discussions of American politics today – it discusses the tenor of the political discourse, polarisation in American politics, the recent histories of both political parties, the influence of evangelical Christians on the Republican party, the state of the deficit, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and so on.

What sets it apart, for me, from many other analyses I’ve read of late, in both the American and the international presses, is Roszak’s courage in saying in a straight-forward manner what it seems many others do not want to say: That what the United States government has been doing, both in its domestic and foreign policies, is not the result of a hi-jacking of government by a few neo-con and/or born-again ideologues, funded by corporations seeking political influence. Rather, it is in fact the expression of the beliefs, philosophies, priorities and fears of somewhere around half of the American people.

I’ve read interviews with non-Americans in which they say, in essence, ‘we still like Americans, it’s the American government that worries/scares/enrages us.’ I’ve read many articles by American journalists and commentators in which there is clearly a presumption, explicit or implicit, that the Bush government’s philosophy and policy have strayed – or marched – beyond the bounds of what mainstream America believes and wants.

But the polling numbers really don’t bear that out in my eyes. Even if some of the polls are using questionable methodologies, even if there’s bias, still, close to half of Americans are saying yes to Bush, despite the ballooning public debt, despite the loss of jobs, despite Abu Ghraib, despite the missing weapons of mass destruction, despite the attack on civil liberties contained in the Patriot Act, despite the bigotry of his call for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, despite the MiniTruthspeak of the Clear Skies Act and No Child Left Behind and all of the other lies, despite all the other assaults on truth, common sense and good government.

Roszak writes:
Behind all the Bush-bashing we have seen this year stands the same idealistic assumption that once inspired the muckrakers of old: If only we can get the truth out, the public will rise up in wrath and drive the "lying liars" from power. For that matter, Bush's handlers make the same assumption. That's why they labor so strenuously to exploit all the latest techniques for manufacturing consent.

But what if both sides are wrong about how much can be achieved by shocking revelations on film or in print? What if Bush's political base never needed to be lied to? That might explain why, despite "Fahrenheit 9/11" and all the other enraged documentaries … the polls keep reflecting strong popular support for Bush's "leadership" and why he continues to find cheering crowds, especially at military bases where troops give their commander-in-chief the big "hoo-ah." These people aren't deceived. They know exactly what Bush is up to -- and it's OK with them.
And I suspect he’s right. It’s not just about Bush. It’s about a major segment of the American public, about a significant body of American public thought and discourse. It’s about the assumption of American centrality, if not superiority, if not domination, in the world today. It’s about an attraction to imperialism and fascism among many people in a nation that likes to think of itself as the home of the free and defender of the oppressed.

And this worries me deeply, because the most powerful country in the world is increasingly becoming the representation of everything I despise – greed, bigotry, intolerance, authoritarianism, imperialism, arrogance and ignorance to name a few – and is equally increasingly inclined to impose its position on the world. The mere fact of the presence of such a large block of Americans who support the policies of the current Republican party suggests that, even if their numbers are not sufficient to return Bush to power, any future governments must take their desires into account when creating policy. Which will, in turn result in the U.S. lurching evermore toward fascist and imperialist policies and actions.

Offred, meet Nehemiah Scudder. It’s 1984 forever. Have a wonderful life.

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