The BBC World News broadcast its 5.00 am summary to the world this morning, and the news anchor described her as, “…. a gun-toting, church-going, mother-of-five…”. Many Americans will not view the portrayal as particularly grotesque, but the antithesis it conjures will be obvious outside of the US.
The very next news segment concerned a shooting in Washington yesterday, in which a number of people died. It served to emphasize the contradiction arising from professed Christianity coupled with a desire for lethal weaponry. The nomination of Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, has caused raised eyebrows and muted ‘tut-tuts’ across most of Europe.
The concept of a crucified Christ viewed through the crosshairs of an AK47 does not sit well outside the United States. Despite serious attempts by the religious marketing moguls, always eager to purloin another buck or two from any available source, few Europeans are sufficiently simplistic as to entertain the idea politics and religion make loving bed-fellows, even when the weaponry is left outside the boudoir door. Sarah Palin may consider her religion not at odds with a willingness to kill things, but as a Republican she’s likely one of the first to condemn Islamic extremists motivated by a similar philosophy.
There are still huge numbers of US citizens who take an egotistical delight in poo-pooing what the rest of the world thinks of them. After all, for decades their nation has marched, jack-booted, around the planet wreaking havoc on any country daring to resist US doctrine.
Those times are long overdue for change.
Just as the Middle East has to drag itself from agrarianism to modernity before the fundamentalists eventually bow to the inevitable and leave the stage, so too has America to relieve itself of doctrines designed solely to inflate the US ego. Religious self-righteousness; the self-delusion of superiority over the rest of the planet; a notion that weapons are more important than words, all need to be released if America is ever to become both ‘in’ and ‘of’ the world, assuming a supportive role rather than taking what it needs and leaving others to pay the price.
Sarah Palin and her “soulmate” John McCain, are devoted to preserving the present US model, just as were their predecessors, Cheney and Bush. They are prepared to sacrifice the American people on their altars of Christian fundamentalism and gun violence, as Cheney and Bush slaughtered four thousand US soldiers and uncounted Iraqi innocents in the cause of their twenty-first century, God-inspired, Crusade into the Middle East.
The choice of the ultra-right-wing conservative, Sarah Palin, as a potential US vice president, with all its implications, was brilliant Republican strategy by those determined to preserve the status quo in this country. At a stroke it has re-opened an issue that dogged the Democrats for the last twelve months, though they hoped it had died at their Convention: the vexed question of race versus gender. Even if Clinton’s supporters were won over by their heroine’s speech’s in praise of Barack Obama, this new star in the ascendant, this Boadicea or Tomyris, may well be viewed as a substitute to lead them to the glory that will be theirs when a woman finally becomes the most powerful person on earth.
After five years of a bloody Iraq war, are Americans finally ready to relinquish their egotism and join the rest of the human race?
In his book, “The Limits of Power”, Andrew Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, and former US army colonel, writes in its introduction:
“History will not judge kindly a people who find nothing amiss in the prospect of armed conflict so long as they themselves are spared the effects. Nor will it view with favor an electorate that delivers political power into the hands of leaders unable to envision any alternative to perpetual war.
Rather than insisting that the world accomodate the United States, Americans need to assert control over their own destiny……..the onus of responsibility falls squarely on citizens.
Bacevich rightly believes it is the politicians’ promises to maintain the status quo, reinforce America’s egotistical beliefs, and glorify its self-obsession, that wins them the votes into power. The electorate needs reassurance that nothing in America will ever alter; that all is permanence.
The decision to choose Sarah Palin may appear to be a willingness to change – a ‘first’ in gender equality at the top – but the opposite is true, because Palin represents everything about America that resists change: its multiple obsessions with God, guns, abortion, a superpower mentality, and imperialism heavily disguised as benevolent foreign policy.
Is the US finally prepared to evolve into the humane, caring, nation it has pretended to be for years while it was waging wars across much of the globe? Or, is a ‘gun-toting, church-going, mother-of-five’ too much for the addicted American psyche to resist?
The answer will come on November 4th.
 “Bill Moyer’s Journal, PBS, August 15th 2008
Filed under: Metaphorical oppositions