Saturday morning I got up shortly after 11, just in time to remember that the White Privilege Wankfest was streaming live online and I should probably watch some of it. The term “White Privilege Wankfest” is probably not going to sway many people who don’t already think that’s what it is, I realize, but I have never been known for my measured, diplomatic argument style and, frankly, would much rather call this spade a motherfucking spade than pretend to play nice with the nastiness that is driving much of the tea party/Restoring Honor/etc. backlash these days.
I was surprised at the huge turnout, which immediately led to a deep feeling of pity. Which sounds condescending, I guess. And maybe it is. I do not understand how or why anyone would follow Glenn Beck anywhere for any purpose. He has worked so hard to cultivate a nasty, fear-mongering, hyperbolic persona who “cries” on command and “feels” deeply for his country. That anyone takes anything he says for true and right is proof that we need to educate people better about television and how people who are on it for a living are pretty good bullshitters and maybe not the best people to throw your allegiance behind in times of what you perceive as national crises.
The flipside of that is how ridiculous it feels to get so worked up over what Glenn Beck says and does; after all, he’s a just a huckster on TV. Except, well, my fellow Americans sure do like to give a lot of power to hucksters on TV.
I made a throwaway comment on Twitter on Thursday about how I couldn’t believe any reasonable conservative would be on board with the ill-timed Beck rally. I thought this was a fringe event, I really did. Honestly, it never occurred to me that anyone could NOT be at least a little squicked out by the timing and the framing of the rally. But Mick Wright called me out and asked me why I thought what Beck was doing was gross. And I thought he was being facetious or coy. He wasn’t. At all. Sometimes it seems like there are vast, impassible chasms between the left and the right, and in very fundamental, non-political ways.
So. Saturday morning I watched Beck’s wrap-up of the event, cringing at his every over-emphasized emotional flail. I listened to what he said, and watched a stream of tweets on the side of the webpage. Lots were excited that Beck was talking about the nation returning to God. Lots were talking about how much of a moron Beck is. Some said Beck was doing God’s work, that he was a modern Patrick Henry. Buhh? Meanwhile, the buzz around the nets was that the rally had turned out to not be political at all, that it had turned into one big white tent revival (yes, I know there were some brown people in attendance; the cameras stalked them something fierce).
And sure enough, Beck wrapped up by pleading with his followers to get the country back to God.
But that is hardly apolitical. In fact, that is an insanely political bomb to drop on a crowd.
And it scares the shit out of me, and should scare you too.
I don’t want my country to get back to God. I don’t even know what that means, pragmatically. I can line up ten people and get ten different definitions of what God is. If you think that is a solid foundation for the day-to-day operations of government, then I’d like to go build sandcastles with you, because you’ve got more faith in rocky foundations than I do.
You get the country back to God and once again you’re giving nonbelievers and skeptics like me the finger. And guess what: Nonbelievers and skeptics count too. We get to be a part of this big crazy experiment too. And not just on a token, tolerated basis either. (Don’t let me get started on the myth of Christian persecution in this country; try electing an atheist president and see how far you get.)
Here’s what evangelical Christians need to understand about this insane plea for a governmental return to God:
You start basing/strengthening laws based on interpretations of your religion’s holy books, and you are setting yourself up. Sure, right now Christianity is the prevailing religion in the United States, so evangelical Christians feel righteous in their push to base our laws on whatever morality they interpret from the Bible (good luck cherry picking which edicts to adopt). But what happens when you have entrenched godly law into the country’s fiber and suddenly Christianity isn’t so hot anymore? What if the Christian alarmists are right and the EVIL SCOURGE OF ISLAM TM* actually does eventually get a good foothold in this country? Then what? You think out of respect for the Christian minority, these laws will still be interpreted based on what people think the Christian god wants? So many Christians are convinced that Sharia law is coming to America (horrors, they’re building mosques, which are just underground political nodes, EVERYWHERE!!!!!) that the best way they can think to combat what’s frightening them is by returning our government to … God? Whose god? Whoever is in power?
No no no no no.
We must fight for a completely secular government that exists independent of the whims of ANY religion, including yours. Find a common ground of human decency and bolster it with the understanding that we are all free and it’s the government’s job to ensure those freedoms. Turn to god, if you wish, in your own life. But pushing to re-establish and strengthen Christian hegemony in basic government/school/etc. functions is the least stable thing you can do for this country.
I just want to know: What honor was restored Saturday? From whom are we taking our country back? How has this country strayed from its basic values or, perhaps more specifically, which basic values have been abandoned? How will a God injection save the republic and its people? These are questions Beck left unanswered. These are questions the rally attendees in videos I’ve seen from the event have left unanswered, even when asked to provide specific examples of their grievances and ideas for change.
This country has a short but brutal history. We don’t have as honorable a past as many would like to believe, and we all have benefited from things we’d probably just as soon never know about. When I hear “we need to return to our country’s values,” all I hear is “take me back to the mythical good old days, when [X] folks knew their place and my right to certain kinds of power was never subject to changing social tides.”
You may not be saying that, but if you align yourself with Beck and Sarah Palin and their ilk, you might as well be squawking it from rooftops.
Oh, and? If you suddenly woke up in 2010 and decided that the country had gotten to a deeply fucked-up place and it’s all because of Barack Obama, then I am going to laugh at you. I’m sorry. But how utterly ridiculous.
*that’s supposed to be a superscript but my superscript code isn’t working! wahhh!