I always thought it a shame that Republicans could summon up no nostalgia for a past that really was, and felt compelled instead to invent a past not for nostalgic purposes but as a divinely ordained state we must be returned to.
There was never a Golden Age on earth. No matter what anyone says, Christian or Pagan or otherwise. None that history can identify. We find no evidence for such an exalted state in the Bible either, as the Garden of Eden went sour before that experiment could bear any fruit. It is hardly surprising that a woman thinking for herself is said to have been the cause of our species’ downfall. Women to this day are being told not to use their brains or even that they have none to use.
Americans love to fantasize about our country’s lost innocence. If such a thing can be said even to exist it is more along the lines of an illusion of innocence, or perhaps delusion is a better word. It is commonly said that it was World War II that destroyed our innocence, and Korea, and the debacle of Vietnam. But we are a country that first slaughtered the Native Americans east of the Mississippi, stole their land, and for an interlude started a war with Mexico so we could steal the Southwest (Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Utah, Nevada) before finishing off the Indians of the Great Plains and Southwest and engaging in some small-scale imperialism in the Caribbean and Philippines. Innocence in 1941? Delusion. By 1941, America’s virginity was a distant memory.
When Republicans do miss something American, it’s always from before the Constitution, the Constitution forming a demarcation point between bad ass oppress-your-neighbor thinking of the Old Testament and the enlightened principles of secular reasoning, a demarcation line between belief and science, between individual human rights and obey or die.
Because here is the thing. If you go down the list of all the things Republicans oppose, you won’t find any of them banned by the Constitution. The Constitution says nothing about contraception, or abortion, or same-sex marriage. The things the Republicans want banned are addressed in the Bible (and sometimes not even there, whatever they claim to the contrary). But the Bible is not the founding document of this country. The Bible doesn’t even get a mention in the Constitution, nor do the supposedly hallowed Ten Commandments.
Their constant appeals to belief and to rights of conscience are all aimed at the Bible – mostly the Old Testament (It is almost as if the New doesn’t exist). Fundamentalist leaders have always opposed the Civil Rights movement, which had its basis in the principles of the secular enlightenment and individual human rights. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham were conspicuous by their absence, Falwell going so far s to say in 1965: “Believing the Bible as I do, I would find it impossible to stop preaching the pure saving gospel of Jesus Christ, and begin doing anything else—including fighting Communism, or participating in civil-rights reforms.”
Meanwhile, Jesus has been twisted into the lapdog of plutocratic imperialists, a supporter of the rich against the poor, a reversal as dramatic as the claim that the Constitution is somehow based on and dependent upon the Ten Commandments. One Republican principal stands head and shoulders above all others: If you are going to lie, lie big, and lie often. Outside of the intolerance, which is perfectly in keeping with monotheistic religions in general, there isn’t much of Christ to be found in fundamentalist Christianity, with its focus on Old Testament fire and brimstone; you don’t see fundamentalist leaders or politicians quoting the Sermon on the Mount. When was the last time you heard one of them so much as mention the beatitudes?
No, Republicans don’t want to take back our country; they want to take our country back, back to a time before the United States, before the Constitution to the unworkable Articles of Confederation, to pre-Constitutional religious intolerance and oppression of minorities and of women. They want to take America back to the time the Constitution was designed to banish, when state-sponsored religion could freely trample the rights of men, women, and children and force blind obedience to a narrowly defined set of beliefs and punish those who refused to conform, to a time when religion could banish science and punish the audacity of scientists for casting doubt on holy writ. Republican legislation proves this: it is all punitive, designed to punish and humiliate those who dare live outside their dogma and doctrine.
America cannot go back and remain America; America is irrevocably tied to the Constitution and its secular enlightened principles, principles which stand counter to the restrictions and intolerances of Biblical religion. America cannot be the new Israel, it cannot be the new Jerusalem or the shining city on the hill, because the Constitution forbids that. What Republican talk about taking back America really means, what it really amounts to, is their saying, “How dare you? I should be able to kick the shit out of you for rejecting my beliefs, and if I get my way, I’ll make sure you never say no to me, and if you do, you will regret it.”
Republicans speak in code, not just through Frank Luntz’s political lexicon but through religious codes, and Americans need to understand that what Republicans say is seldom what you think they are saying and seldom what they actually mean even if you get the general gist. As George Lakoff says, Republicans don’t think like us and we don’t think like them and the sooner we figure that out, the better off we’ll be. Americans need to wake up to the viper in their midst and quit letting Republicans distract them with things like Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran and Sharia law, or appeals to taking America back to its Christian roots, because those roots aren’t American at all, but Biblical, and they are not the same thing at all. Right now you have a choice: Embrace delusion if you will in 2012, but you’ll do some real lamenting later because if you embrace it now, you’ll give up the right to say no later, and many other rights besides. Because your free thought violates their rights of conscience, and guess who wins that one?