One of the many ridiculous phenomena I see in political arguments–chiefly in the Right vs. Left, Republican vs. Democrat, Christian vs. secular realms–is how people from both sides of the Obama fence willfully ignores the polices and principles any given politician stands for, and instead rationalizes atrocious anti-democratic behavior in favor of arbitrary factors such as:
What religion they belong to, or what people suspect their religious beliefs might be, or whether or not they consider themselves a religious person at all; what political party they happen to belong to; what race, gender, or ethnic background they happen to be, or happen not to be; whether they publicly identify as “Right” or “Left” of the political spectrum; what their public mannerisms happen to be; whether or not they are considered good-looking, or articulate speakers, or whether they come off as someone we imagine we could sit down and share a beer with (or perhaps an orange juice for us teetotalers), etc., et al.
Case in point, but just one of many: The loony hypocrisy I see between many people–including a few personal friends on both the “Right” and “Left” of the political compass–who are either a mindless hater of Obama, or a mindless supporter of him. It’s my profound pleasure to get this rant off my chest and tell both sides why they need to put themselves above this meaningless nonsense and support principles and policies that actually matter to our lives, and to the fate of the world.
Obama: *clap clap!* “Hurrah for American global hegemony! Right, Mr. Bush?”
Bush: “You got it, blo!”
Obama: “Um, I think you meant bro, Mr. Bush… and that was rather racist.”
Bush: “Whoops! My apologies, Mr. President. I assure you, some of my favorite housekeepers were black!”
Obama: “Um, no doubt. Anyway, Mr. Bush, at least we’re down for capitalist dominance of the people, and American dominance of the world, right?”
Bush: “I like what I’m hearing, bro!”
Obama: “Um, hee hee, you know it! And God bless American Empire, right?”
Bush: “Yeppers! I knew there was a good Christian somewhere inside ya there, Mr. President!”
Bush supporters, in unison: “Fuck Obama! He’s the Anti-Christ! And-and… a Muslim! And he’s pro-gay!”
Obama supporters, in unison: “Fuck Bush! He’s not a Democrat! And-and… he’s a Republican! And he’s anti-gay!”
I. Is There Really Any Major Difference Between Politicians Like George W. Bush and Barack Obama?
I’m glad I asked that question!
There are no fundamental differences between the policies of Barack Obama and his hanger-on Joe Biden, and those enacted by the immediate predecessor administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. None. Whatsoever!
Both sets of men are dyed-in-the-wool supporters of the corporate hegemony of the 1%, the tiny handful of people in America–and by extension, the world–who benefit from this top-down, dog-eat-dog, ruthlessly competitive economic system that impoverishes huge segments of the working class, and is rapidly shrinking the size of the so-called “middle class” (i.e., the segment of the working class who make decent enough wages to lead a relatively comfortable life… until, of course, they are hit by unexpected expenses like huge medical bills, an expensive necessity like the furnace or a vehicle going on the fritz, being laid off or terminated from work due to downsizing or offshoring, etc.). Both of them support a global order based on massive inequality and the building of a vast global empire that operates on the basis of imperialism, perpetual war, oppression of any group of people who may make the best scapegoat at any given time, monopoly control over all media and information outlets; all of which are the essence of capitalism, the private ownership of all the industries and services every human being on this planet requires for basic survival, comfort, and access to information.
Let’s start with good old Dubya, which is always fun.
Bush took full advantage of the 9/11 attacks on America, using the incident to initiate draconian domestic policies like the USA Patriot Act and the establishment of the Dept. of Homeland Security, which served to enact and rationalize a vast amount of systematic spying on millions of Americans, as well as the governments of several of their foreign allies (including those in the European Union), sans any requirement of a warrant and no serious oversight.
He justified the flagrant lying to the general public about WMDs (that’s an acronym for Weapons of Mass Destruction to the many politically illiterate out there) being present in Iraq to justify a brutal assault and prolonged war on that small, nearly defenseless nation that killed or seriously injured thousands of innocent people, a large chunk of that number being children; those children who weren’t killed or maimed were so infuriated over seeing their neighborhoods blown to bits and family members killed before their very eyes that they became easy recruits for the next wave of anti-American terrorists, who are spawned by the endless imperialist policies which the global capitalist system–led by America and its closest allies in the G-8 nations–thrives upon.
Bush also launched a rampant suppression of whistle-blowers and any media outlet who may have presented criticism of his policies (remember what happened to the Dixie Chicks?). He made the infamous and ominous “you’re either with us or against us” announcement to the world. He further led the way for polices that blatantly broadened the definition of “terrorist” and “terrorism” to cover just about any person, group, or actions that opposed U.S. policies. This included nationalist insurgents in Iraq who limited their assaults to military targets, and simply wanted the U.S. forces out of their country because they viewed them as an occupation force, not a “liberation” force; as well as certain American dissidents by labeling them “enemy combatants.”
He established Guantanamo Bay and other “black” prisons that denied inmates the important Constitutional protections of due process and habeus corpus (how many Americans do not know what these things mean, or even care?); and allowed for the use of torture under the euphemism “enhanced interrogation,” along with extraordinary rendition to put prisoners in the hands of governments that never ascribed to the Geneva Conventions in the first place (how many Americans know what extraordinary rendition means, or simply don’t care? Or the Geneva Conventions, for that matter?).
He strongly supported the dismantling of Medicare, hoping to transform it into a private investment fund where workers would be encouraged to risk their life savings the same way they would if they played the stock market. This would guarantee that many elderly retired workers would lose everything in bad investments, thus receiving less than the pittance they currently receive under the government tax-supported system… only worse, since they would now be responsible for paying the government back for funds advanced to them for the investment purpose. Bush wanted to de-regulate every business and privatize virtually everything, including the Armed Forces to at least a certain extent by hiring numerous mercenaries trained by the private corporation Blackwater (since renamed Academi), as well as technicians from various firms, to replace government-paid and accountable soldiers and technical specialists. So much for supporting the troops, huh?
Now we come to our esteemed President Obama, who is also fun to throw a bit of truth at.
Obama came into office by manipulating the hopes of many progressives and other Left-of-Center participants in politics, including those who foolishly believed his race somehow made him immune to the corruption that can befall any human being placed in such a position of power, or supported him simply for the novelty of getting America’s first black president into office, without really caring too much what his policies or loyalties were. From the get-go Obama’s supporters were willing to ignore plenty of evidence that he supported most of the same general policies that the Bush/Cheney administration did, including the fact that he likewise accepted vast amounts of private funds from lobbyists representing the 1% (euphemistically referred to as “special interests” by the press) and appointed numerous well known Wall Street fat cats to helm his various fiscal-oriented departments (yanno, so they could run the government like a business and support the continuation of the de-regulation craze).
One of his most pernicious distracting lies was his alleged, much-ballyhooed support for the establishment of a “government option” to supplement our wasteful for-profit health care system, whose eventual outcome made it quite clear he never intended anything other than a hefty giveaway to the big health insurance and pharma corporations who have nearly every high-ranking politician in their pockets, and the American health care system itself by the proverbial balls.
After his election, Obama continued almost all of the Bush/Cheney assaults on the foundation of democracy, including the policy of perpetual war in Iraq and Afghanistan, escalating the very same foreign policies that result in worldwide hatred of America, and ultimately led to the horrific 9/11 attack. For that, he hedged his bet on his numerous blind followers conveniently ignoring the fact that destructive attacks of this nature occur almost daily in the Middle East by the American government, rather than against it. After all, it should only matter to Americans if other Americans are getting attacked, especially on American soil, right?
Along those lines, Obama’s use of drone assaults and targeted assassinations of even American citizens now living abroad with no requirement of trial or due process have been particularly baneful. His suppression of whistle-blowers and invocation of the “natural security” excuse to rationalize this has surpassed its invocation by all other past presidents combined. Let’s not forget his current antics going on in the Ukraine, which is provoking Russia and allying with Neo-Nazi “anti-communist” elements to establish a pro-Western coup in that nation; all of which is gearing for a mad war with Russia and China that Bush, Cheney, and their “Project for a New American Century” empire-building cronies have been hoping for all along so as to establish one ruling class as the dominant one on the planet (guess which ruling class that is?). And of course, the Blackwater/Academi mercenaries have been utilized as faithfully by Obama as by Bush, as 400 of them have recently been reported on the ground in Kiev, with evidence of this backed up via video uploads to YouTube.
Yet… many Republicans and other right-wingers–including the Christian Right–continue to hate Obama, despite the fact that he has given them 98% of what they want!
Equally ridiculous are the many left-wingers who continue to support Obama, despite the fact that he has continued and even in some cases escalated the very policies their principles stand against, and the very things they vehemently criticized the Bush/Cheney administration for carrying out! WTF, you might be asking?
II. What is Up With This Mass Hypocrisy?
Here’s the thing which I believe explains this phenomenon: Americans are conditioned over the first 18 years of their life in what passes for our standardized education system to not develop any critical thinking skills, and to limit their creative faculties to a few very narrow directions. Because they are forced to endure this situation during their most formative years–when they lack the civil rights to resist–by the time they reach the age of universal granting of legal adulthood, they have already been intellectually “zombified,” completely complacent with the current system, and used to limiting the parameters of their incessant debating to arbitrary and “wedge” issues that in no way challenge the very system they live under itself, or the basic and major economic laws it compels the entire world to operate under.
The majority of people who do fight for change tend to be those who have natural critical thinking skills, and were thus less likely to have had these faculties successfully suppressed; or individuals who were later able to develop them against many odds. This is why all revolutions have started with a handful of agitators, with the great masses only adopting a willingness to consider fundamental change when material circumstances finally get so bad that it forces them collectively out of their system-induced intellectual stupor. But as history and the present make clear, things often have to get very bad indeed before the sleeping masses “wake up” en masse.
The above, I think, explains a lot, including the particular phenomenon described in this blog. Specifically, it appears that the majority of people in any given era who live under a class-dominated system are willing to adopt a group mentality within the overall worldview. That is, they basically accept the major aspects of the world order that keep their era’s equivalent of the 1% in power over the vast majority of the world while limiting their energy and bickering to arbitrary issues that do not challenge the actual system itself. In fact, these distracting arguments only serve to play into the hands of the ruling class on many levels, foremost among these being the manner in which it keeps large swaths of the working class divided against each other into separate camps fighting over meaningless nonsense and secondary “beside the point” issues instead of standing united as a class like the capitalists generally are (save for the odd rogue or progressive maverick capitalist here and there).
This groupthink is all about brand loyalty, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the principles and policies of any given politician. It’s a form of tribalism carried out on a civilized playing field. It represents a self-defeating and outright defeatist attitude that has workers beating each other over the heads to compete for whatever crumbs the ruling class is willing to throw on our plate, while accepting their “right” to enjoy the entire banquet amongst the few of them. Americans even go so far as to worship these parasites as readily as the religious fundies do their conception of God, looking up to them them with awe and reverence while looking down at the poorest members of their own class with the same contempt the capitalists do.
Or, if they do not revere the handful of wolves in charge of the multitude of sheep, they more or less worship the conception of the market economy itself, either proposing its expansion free of any government restraint (as do the libertarians); or at least trying to tame it and curb its excesses instead of eliminating and replacing it altogether by a more socially advanced, egalitarian, and humane economic system which modern technology makes possible (i.e., the “tame capitalism” mentality of the mainstream liberals who comprise the “social democratic” school of thought).
III. Gotta Love That Bush…
“Here’s to war… er, America! Heh heh…”
The mindless Obama haters are against him, but likely love Bush, because Obama is not a Christian, and many believe he might (gasp!) be a Muslim! They rationalize everything Bush did–which was much the same as everything Obama currently does and stands behind–because they believe his faith makes him a “man of God,” so everything he did must have been with God’s approval and blessings, right? If not, well, at least he did everything in the interests of making America a “Christian nation,” right? You can’t fault even the most extreme lunatic for such noble intentions, huh? (Cue the many enlightened young women out there to shout in unison: “ikr”!)
Of course, some of these right-wingers are motivated by the old-fashioned Southern tradition of racism (this goes along with their traditions for hospitality–to fellow white people, that is–and good fried chicken that black people are stereotypically fingered for liking). As such, they hold the arbitrary factor of Obama’s race against him, without even caring how hard he tries to placate his corporate sponsors (or that he’s actually half-white, for that matter).
As far as all of the above is concerned, every atrocious thing Bush did was motivated by “good intentions,” or that 9/11 forced him to ignore democratic precepts and resort to extremes, etc. “No president ever had to contend with an attack on American soil like Bush did!” his supporters will bellow forth in justification for his anti-democratic, war-mongering actions. Of course, this conveniently ignores the sad fact (noted above) that for many decades prior to 9/11, innumerable innocent people living in foreign Third World nations have had to deal with practically every neighborhood in their vicinity turned into brutal war zones thanks to the imperialist policies of America and its various First World allies (*cough* Britain *cough*; *cough* Israel *hack*); or by terrorist organizations armed and sponsored by the governments of the U.S. and some of its close allies: Hmmm, remember the Contras? Or the fact that the U.S. bolstered and armed both Saddam Hussien’s regime and the Taliban back when they served American business interests like, yanno, the Saudi government currently does?
But just like Bush’s proven lies to justify a perpetual war so his partners in the petroleum and war-profiteering (*cough* Raytheon *cough*; *cough* Halliburton *gag*) industries can make a killing in these small nations–yanno, both fiscally and literally–they try not to think about any of these inconvenient facts (it’s harder to be a hypocrite when you face reality, after all). The innocent people who live in these small countries whose governments do not cater to American business interests are labeled “rogue nations,” and every single citizen living within their borders instantly become written off as “collateral damage” (that’s military-speak for innocent people and essential support services like hospitals or schools being blown to bits by ordinance). Of course, the American government and military wouldn’t be able to write these innocent victims off so easily if so many of the American people didn’t either cruelly cheer them on or apathetically ignore it because it wasn’t happening to them and their neighborhoods personally. After all, a chauvinistic lack of empathy for anyone who doesn’t live within the borders of America has been as much a pastime of American culture as apple pie, baseball, fetishistic consumerism, fake wrestling, and reality TV shows.
“Well, how can you possibly expect me, of all people, to get the Vulcan peace symbol correct?”
Or, the Obama-haters-but-Bush-lovers (I didn’t intend an innuendo here, guys!) resort to the tired old excuse that Bush’s attempts to transform America into a theocracy based on fundamentalist (read: right-wing extremist) Christian precepts is totally okay because they believe the Constitution was based on Christian rules, and that America has supposedly always been a “Christian nation.” In actuality, the Founding Fathers of America were of diverse religious beliefs, including some who were deists and Unitarian. While Christianity did indeed influence all of their thinking (how could it not, considering the era?), none of them were akin to the evangelical Christians of today, nor did any of them believe that Biblical scripture should be writ into government policy in the manner in which sharia law is written into both ancient and modern Muslim theocracies like Saudi Arabia.
[Btw, let me remind everyone yet again, since I don’t it can possibly be overstated: The despotic nation of Saudi Arabia is one of America’s most staunch allies in the Middle East–perhaps second only to Israel in this regard–and the majority of the 9/11 terrorists, including their ringleader Osama bin Laden, were Saudis. In contrast, Saddam Hussein, as much of a dictator as he certainly was, happened to be highly secular in the way he ran Iraqi law; none of the 9/11 terrorists were Iraqi; and Hussein and Bin Laden were not allies or in any way on good terms, let alone in cahoots over 9/11. But how many Americans on the Right actually care about any of this, or even have the courage to openly acknowledge these inconvenient facts, assuming they even know about them in the first place?]
“Psssst, Mr. President… that’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, not Weapons of Mass ‘Derision’…”
“Whoops! Fruitian slip, I guess!”
“Um, that’s Freudian, Mr. President…”
IV. … or If You Hate Bush, You Gotta Love the Bush-Lite (er, Obama)
In contrast, the mindless Obama supporters rationalize everything he does simply because he’s a Democrat, or they identify him as a progressive, or even worse, because they love the novelty of a black president without caring overly much about any other factor.
As a relevant aside: We can, of course, expect these same adherents of political correctness to similarly support Hillary Clinton in office for 2016 no matter what policies she happens to espouse simply because she’s a woman, and for no other reason. The mind-addled purveyors of PC will argue that it’s so important to have the first woman president in the Oval Office that it really makes no difference whether this woman happens to be Hillary Clinton or Cynthia McKinney–the latter of whom is both a woman and black, and who I would have been honored to support–because, they will insist, at least Hillary will “open the doors” for other women becoming president, blah blah blah and yadda yadda yadda…
I even had one respected friend actually tell me that he believes Obama is a great humanitarian who is really concerned about the welfare of all humanity. Yes, really!
And when I mentioned how the False Left-Wing Messiah is running things precisely the way Bush/Cheney did, he stepped back and gave me the following disclaimer-cum-excuse: “Well, I never said Obama was perfect.” He then announced that he didn’t want to argue with me about the subject. Mmm-hmm.
And yes, Obama even won the Nobel Peace Prize, as crazy as that is! Maybe Benjamin Netanyahu will win one next! If the standards for whichever committee is responsible for awarding that exalted international prize allow for Obama to win it, then why not good old Bibi, the Prez’s honorable Israeli ruling class equivalent and treasured ally?
Two peeps in a pod. Birds of a feather. Partners-in-crime. You get the gist.
After all, considering how much a beloved personage like Sean Hannity likes Prime Minister Netanyahu, well, one can’t possibly ask for a better endorsement for a Nobel Peace Prize winner than that, right? And of course, Obama is as firm and strong a supporter for Israel as any and all conservative politicians and pundits have ever been, correct?
“Pssst, Mr. Prime Minister, I just wanna tell you… you’re totally my idol!”
“Aw Shucks, Mr. Hannity, I was about to tell you the same thing! Please call me Bibi, all my friends do.”
“Meaning, every politician in America who actually wants to get elected, eh?”
“Ha ha, yup!”
“Go ahead and kiss him, Mr. President. You know you want to!”
“But-but… the conservatives will lambaste me for coming off as gay if I do! Bad enough in their eyes that I’m black!”
“Yeah, yeah, no doubt, but the PC liberals will love you even more! And it’s about time you actually started throwing a few bones to your base of supporters, don’t ya think?”
And of course, another popular excuse for Obama’s behavior and policies by his supporters–this one was also popularly used to rationalize Bill Clinton’s anti-democratic policies that set the stage for both the Bush and Obama administrations–is that unlike Bush, he didn’t actually want to do the things he did (yanno, like about 99% of everything he did and continues to do), but he simply had to do them because he was subject to overwhelming pressure from a Republican-controlled Congress (even during the time the Democrats controlled it, I suppose) and conservative Southern voter and “swing voter” constituents whom he had to appease if he wanted to be elected, or to get any small measure of progressive policies enacted while in office, etc. And then there’s the justification that we have no choice but to support Obama–and any other Democrat in office–because they are invariably the lesser of two evils. Mmm-hmmm.
V. The Main Point…
This shameful and useless back-and-forth hypocrisy has fueled the debate between too many individuals on both sides of the Obama Fence, despite the fact that both camps tend to either criticize or support mostly the exact same policies depending upon what politician happens to be espousing them, which is predicated upon all of the above-described arbitrary factors. In other words, these policies are only to be criticized if someone who is or isn’t a Christian is enacting them; or if the politician enacting them happens to be a Republican or a Democrat; or if they believe this or that about abortion, gay marriage, public prayer, whether or not they accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior, whether we should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” during the holiday season, their opinions on the use of contraception (all legal matters aside), etc.
Totally absent from these debates from everyone save those on the “fringe” of politics (yanno, including socialists like myself, who are considered too “loony” to listen to, let alone elect to office) are discussions about starting a third political party that is not funded by private corporations; which is comprised of, controlled by, and truly represents the interests of the vast majority of the 99%, not run by a handful of politicians beholden to the canyon-deep pockets of the 1% (as are the Democrats as much as the Republicans); and supports fundamental democratic and egalitarian principles that are above petty little wedge issues, or any arbitrary factors that do nothing to address the core of the problem. That core problem is the current economic world order, which is based on an unsustainable economic dictatorship that is completely archaic in light of the abundance that modern industry and productive capacity can readily supply to every human being on this planet in exchange for a modest share of the useful work; an economic framework that would be a moneyless, classless, and stateless system based on cooperation and abundance for all, not ruthless competition that rewards only a tiny few at the expense of all the rest.
Two other peeps in a pod. The Capitalist Empire Pod, that is. (That’s why their respective supporters hate the other so much! No one likes a rival!)
Three peeps in a pod this time. They sure look like enemies, don’t they?
Straight female Bill Clinton lovers, in unison: “Well, at least Bill is nice-looking! Say what ya want about his policies and personal conduct, but you can’t take that away from him!
“Bill Clinton for president again! Or Hillary! If we can’t have Bill in office, at least we can have the lady he sleeps with! Boo-yah!”
VI. Were the Founding Fathers of America Intent on Creating a Christian Nation, or Were They Die Hard Secularists?
In light how much this question comes up in the debates between the mindless Obama haters and the mindless Obama supporters, I think it’s a relevant matter to tackle here in this particular blog.
The fact is, both die hard evangelical Christians and die hard “radical” secularists and atheists have extreme positions on this issue that are equally wrong. As historical theologian Gregg Frazer, author of the new book The Religious Beliefs of America’s Founders: Reason, Revelation and Revolution, noted in this interview:
Obviously one side are the Christian America advocates who argue that the founders were largely Christians and that they intended to create a Christian nation, and that the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, were constructed on the basis of biblical principles, and that they wanted to establish a Christian nation. And then that obviously has important consequences for today. On the other side are the secularists, the ACLU-types and so forth, who argue for a strict separation, wall of separation, between church and state. They argued that the founders were rank secularists or deists, and that they intended to separate religion from public life, and they have constructed this sort of wall of separation notion, which, by the way, I would argue, is not what the founders believe. And I would argue that both of those sides are wrong; that, in fact, the [truth] is somewhere in the middle.
The key founders that I write about were raised in this generally or nominally Christian culture and so they knew Christianity, they knew the language, they knew the terminology, and then they were educated in Enlightenment thought and rationalism. And then they were politicians, like politicians today, who know how to speak to an audience, they know how to speak publicly to appeal to their audience, just as politicians today do. And so they were able to couch things in terminology that would keep them popular with the people, but when they talk to one another—and this is the focus of my research[,] on their private writings, on their personal correspondence with one another, their letters, and their diary entries, and personal memoranda, and I believe that’s when you really get at what someone believes is what they say in private that they don’t think others are going to see. And there we can see what they really believed as opposed to the public pronouncements or just, for example, denominational affiliations that some people focus on.
Based on his incisive studies of these extensive personal statements and records made by the key Founders of America, Frazer notes that they seem to adhere to a school of thought that he identifies as theistic rationalism. He describes it thusly:
Theistic rationalism was a hybrid belief system, as I call it, mixing elements of natural religion, or deism, Christianity, and rationalism, with rationalism as the predominant element. And rationalism here I define as the idea that fundamental truth can be gained through reason basically. And so, the adherents of theistic rationalism believed that these three elements of Christianity, natural religion and rationalism would generally complement one another, would generally take you to the same place, but, on occasion, when there’s conflict between them and you can’t ignore or resolve the conflict, then reason was to play the decisive role. So rationalism then is the noun and theistic is the describer, the descriptor.
The above is a far cry from the Biblical literalist, “end times” evoking evangelical Christian fundies like Bush, on the one hand; and equally a far cry from the die hard ideological materialists and secularists who operate under the mantle of “radical atheists” today. Both are fundamentalists of the opposite stripe, and as author Win Scott Eckert has poignantly reminded others in the past, fundamentalists of any form or creed cannot be reasoned with, because they are absolutist in their thinking and will not consider any evidence for a more nuanced perspective.