Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Between the Lines

My wife commented yesterday that as she was researching local politicians for the upcoming election, she was put off by how prominently politicians displayed their religion in bios.

And it got me thinking… why? It’s true, politicians flaunt their religion. It’s part of their brand, their image, and sometimes even their policy. Why?

Well, I came up with some theories. The first is the simplest: people are more likely to vote for someone like themselves. If you are representing a predominantly Lutheran district, you start going to the Lutheran church. I assume that is how it’s done.

Another reason is that hiding one’s religion may seem suspicious. People want to know they aren’t electing some atheist, after all. I’m sure there are plenty of exceptions, but I know that most of the Protestant sects are very wary of Catholics, and I pity any Muslim running in a predominantly white, Christian district.

This got me thinking… why? Why does any of this matter? Is it simple bigotry?

Well, yes and no. Yes, because it is bigotry, but no because it is not simple.

Politics in America today relies on dog-whistle tactics. Everything you need to know is written between the lines. Sometimes it’s not so subtle, like when Rand Paul hoists an assault rifle in the air and says that the founding fathers gave us the second amendment, also known as “Plan B.” Usually, it’s glossed over in a vague deluge of meaningless drivel.

“I’m very pro-family [anti-abortion], and I go to church every week [I hate gays]. I believe we need a return to the constitution as it was originally intended [black people shouldn’t be president]. I support our troops and vow to get tough on terrorism [I’m funded by the military industrial complex]. We need jobs [let’s not tax the rich]. I’m not a professional politician [I have no idea what I’m doing]. I represent you [if this is a commercial on Fox News].”

It’s a fun game to play, figuring out what all the codes are.

But what on Earth does religion and all of these issues have to do with each other?

Well, one has to realize that religion is a serious influence upon one’s overall view of the world. There are many religions in America that believe in determinism, for example. This means that they believe in fate, that everything happens for a reason, and it was destined to happen since the formation of the universe.

It seems like a cosmic and deep thought, and it can be, but the brutal conclusion many of these believers in Providence come to is thinking that people who are different are marked that way by God, and are therefore evil or inferior.

On the flip side, some believe that through God and prayer, all things are possible, so if you fail in life, it’s because you’re a horrible person and you deserve it. These Christians believe everyone is the master of their destiny, and because they are not bigots, they often shut out the notion that anyone could be unjustly discriminated against (by, perhaps, that other group of Christians).

Nearly every Christian denomination condemns abortion, but many people are not fervent about pushing their belief on others. Only the most fundamentalist believers seek to impose their views on everyone, so saying you’re “very religious” or that you “work closely with my church” may imply that you take your faith… ahem… very seriously. Some might say too seriously…

The same goes for homosexuality. There are lots of liberals opposed to gay marriage, because this particular issue really seems to creep uncomfortably up the thigh of all the Christian faiths. I think the first one to cave in and support homosexual marriages will cause a mass exodus.

There’s also a lot of constitution talk, and it could mean any of a number of things. Mostly, it’s an empty bullshit phrase, like “pro-family.” Like there’s any candidate out there going, “I hate the damn constitution, and fuck families!” Really? Why not say, “I like to breathe and imbibe liquids. I eat, three times a day. Chew, swallow, chew some more. At night, I like to sleep. In the morning, I wake up, brush my teeth, jerk off in the shower, and start my day, like everyone else.”

Stating the obvious is a clear sign that the real issues are not something this candidate wants to publicly discuss. With today’s “gotcha” media, anything you say can (and will) be repeated, so if you slip up and say something that reveals how stupid, racist, sexist, homophobic, angry, violent, apathetic, aloof, or just downright unelectable you are, everyone will find out. The nerve of the damn liberal media, repeating what people say and write…

What cracks me up is all the conservatives talking about jobs. Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. The guy has cancer, give him some breathing space. What Republicans really mean when they talk about “creating jobs” is cutting taxes to the rich, which doesn’t do anything except line the pockets of wealthy hedge funds investors, because that’s were the rich put their money, not in more jobs. On the contrary, when the rich get money, they purchase labor saving devices and “efficiency experts” to fire people, so that the company is more efficient and the rich get richer.

But hang on a minute, Republicans have been saying the government can’t create jobs… maybe they mean that Democrats can’t create jobs, but Republicans can break the laws of political possibility (why not, they’ve pissed on the Constitution and defied the Geneva Convention, what’s one more broken law?).

Then there’s the old stand-by, the “political outsider.” When Democrats do it, they’re inexperienced, but when Republicans do it… they’re rogues. “Isn’t a rogue a dishonest person?” Well, at least they’re honest about duping you.

You wouldn’t get your cavity filled by a dentist who says he “graduated from the school of life.” You wouldn’t get a vasectomy from a urologist whose “enthusiasm more than compensates for her lack of experience.” You wouldn’t have your taxes done by an account who “completely redefines math.”

So why would you elect someone who has no real qualifications? There are only two professions where some people would advertise how little experience they have: politicians and prostitutes. Uncanny…


  1. Perfectly put.

    Politics in America today relies on dog-whistle tactics. Everything you need to know is written between the lines.

    You'd think that needing to declare a religious affiliation was part of the Constitution/First Ten Amendments, wouldn't you?

    They obviously do.


  2. I live in China, and people here are absolutely amazed that one's religious views can be thought an important criterion in determining someone's suitability for public office.

    I don't write much on religion, but you may be interested in my essay Knowledge or Certainty [the title is self-explanatory].
    Cain and Abel is a deconstruction of the well-known Bible story.


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