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Religious Wars: Book I

Posted by Rick · November 11th, 2004 · 3 Comments

Since — if you believe the pundits — “moral values” (ha!) factored so heavily in the current election, I’m going to be doing several articles on religion. No doubt, I’ll lose many of my readers, too, because I’m told that you are strictly forbidden to say “the Emperor has no clothes” in American society these days. (I almost said, “modern American society,” but “modern” has, in some circles, attained progressive connotations.)

Please forgive me, but if the Emperor has no clothes . . . well, learn about that somewhere else.

At any rate, the topic of today’s blog entry is a discussion — more of an altercation — between Salman Rushdie, John Le Carré and Christopher Hitchens.

You can read the letters that both constitute and document the spat here.

First, an aside, perhaps, is due here. The parenthetical “ha!” above is based on the fact that we have a President now presumably because Americans were extremely concerned about moral values.

Uh…not exactly.

You think I’m wrong? Please explain to me how Americans, then, voted for a President and a Vice-President, both of whom lied to win the election? (And if we ever find out the truth about Diebold, we may find they did more than lie.)

And I’m not even talking about the war. For the sake of argument, I’m going to go ahead and agree with you that he didn’t lie about the war. (For future reference, do not forget the phrase “for the sake of argument.” But for this discussion, we will assume he wasn’t lying about the war; he was just too stupid/blind/substitute-your-chosen-belief to realize that when the CIA said they couldn’t say, that meant they really couldn’t say.)

So, okay. What about…oh, “He voted for the war in Iraq before he voted against it”? Now, seriously. The President thought that was a truthful statement? Why didn’t he present the papers that said, “I, John Kerry, do solemnly swear that at this moment, I vote ‘for the war in Iraq'”? After that, he could have shown us the list from the roll call when Congress was asked, “Who among you votes against the war in Iraq?” And, when the answer came back, “I, John Kerry, vote against the war in Iraq!” Well, it would be a no-brainer. I’d vote against Kerry in that instance, too. Go Bush.

There’s just one problem. This never happened. I have no doubt whatsoever that Kerry voted for certain appropriations bills. He may thereafter have balked at being millioned-and-billioned-to-death by the Bush Administration which refused to say up-front how much money they needed. It’s entirely possible, since he’s a fiscal conservative (a.k.a., not-a-Republican), that he questioned the budgetary sleight-of-hand that Bush’s outside-the-budget requests represented. That’s not the same as “voting for, before I voted against” the war. But apparently the moral thing to do when you’re unsure if you can win — oh, say, the Presidency of the United States where integrity matters to the entire world — otherwise is: lie.

Point number two: John Kerry said that he would follow the example of our Founders who declared,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

For those who don’t recognize it — and I deliberately broke from my traditional presentation today by not citing it — those words come from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. You see, about 225 years ago, our Founders decided that they’d had enough bullshit from King George. So, rather than refusing to re-elect him — since that wasn’t an option in those days — they rebeled.

Freakin’ terrorists.

But before they rebeled, they decided that “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires” an explanation when such events occur. Imagine that!

Freakin’ terrorists. Shoulda slapped ’em all in chains when they ruined that good tea. I mean, after all, that was real Earl Grey. At least our President is a moral man.

But, of course, he’s just one man. And although he’s the figurehead of this administration, we can’t depend entirely on him.

So consider next his chosen Vice-President. The one America elected because, after all, we’re concerned about morals.

He, of course, had the misfortune of meeting John Edwards for the first time ever on-stage for his debate against him. This little tidbit was revealed to us by Dick Cheney so we know it must be true, right? I mean, wouldn’t it be immoral to lie?

Maybe it wasn’t about “moral values.” I suppose we might have heard them wrong. After all, “oil values” does sound a little bit like “moral values” to those who aren’t used to southern accents. The pollsters might’ve misheard them.

That would explain a lot, when you consider that the poorest millionaire in the Bush Administration, Condoleeza Rice, had a Chevron oil tanker named after her.

Okay . . . enough of the “aside.” 😉

Believe it or not, what got me started on that was a speech by John Le Carré that fired up Rushdie and Hitchens. Apparently, back in 1997, Le Carré — who is not living in hiding right now — gave a speech in which he complained about being branded an antisemite. For my friend “kjezt” from Australia (see comments at the bottom of this article on Mel Gibson), I looked up that word in Merriam-Webster again.

Rushdie wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times, which had published Le Carré’s speech, in which he essentially said, “Welcome to the club! Now don’t you feel stupid for having told me I deserved membership for insulting Islam?”

In that exchange — I already linked it above, so I won’t repeat it — Le Carré plays the Republican. You know, deep concern for the girl in the mailroom at Penguin Books — is he sexist because he has the girl in the mailroom instead of the boardroom? or is he a compassionate conservative because even if it was a guy in the mailroom, he’d still care? — and his concurrent lack of concern for the rich guy collecting royalties. Just your typical Republican. And over against that, Rushdie plays the evil Democrat, whose despicable mind focuses on freedom of speech.

It brings back tears. One can only wonder what the next four years will bring. (I mean, seriously, there ought to be limits to freedom!)

Although I wasn’t fond of Rushdie’s book — in all honesty, probably because I lacked the cultural context to appreciate it, I found the little bit of it that I read boring — nevertheless, I remember being horrified that a writer should live the rest of his life in hiding, because of death threats, because he wrote a fictional work. I mean, shoot. It’s not like he had a “King George” sticker in the back window of his car!

At any rate, I suppose what inspired me to blog the exchange between Le Carré, Rushdie and Hitchens was Rushdie’s line that said,

We have the freedoms we fight for, and we lose those we don’t defend.

And once again in America, Le Carré’s contrary comment notwithstanding, it has become unacceptable to speak out against overbearing religion, against theocratic forms of government, against our own version of the Taliban.

As for Kerry, we know why he didn’t win the Presidency.

Categories: Religion


3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chepooka // Nov 11, 2004 at 10:47 am

    It’s amazing how far we’ve come from the founders’ vision of America.

  • 2 Rick Horowitz // Nov 11, 2004 at 10:56 am

    I agree.

    Some of it, however, we did willingly, by the passage of certain amendments. And that’s neither a perversion of the Constitution nor necessarily a bad thing when it has happened (case in point: 14th Amendment).

    But most of what is happening today is happening either via the perversion of the Constitution, for example via overextension of the Commerce Clause and/or the Necessary and Proper Clause, or else by outright ignoring the Constitution, as when things like the USA PATRIOT Act can last longer than a month without being stricken down on First, Fourth, Fifth, Six, Eighth, Ninth, or Fourteenth Amendment grounds.

  • 3 One Of These Days… // Sep 3, 2008 at 11:37 am

    […] though, I can’t really be blamed for not having enough time to blog as “religiously” as I did in the […]

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