"It [the State] has taken on a vast mass of new duties and responsibilities; it has spread out its powers until they penetrate to every act of the citizen, however secret; it has begun to throw around its operations the high dignity and impeccability of a State religion; its agents become a separate and superior caste, with authority to bind and loose, and their thumbs in every pot. But it still remains, as it was in the beginning, the common enemy of all well-disposed, industrious and decent men." ~ H.L. Mencken
So, When Does It Get Weird?
Exclusive to STR
December 4, 2006
In previous essays, here and elsewhere, I've focused on many aspects of the State, and the duplicity thereof. Some might accuse me of ascribing too much evil intent to those who lead this fine nation. Even if a few 'bad apples' have infiltrated the highest halls of government power, all is not lost, right? As long as our 'leader of the free world' is at the helm, we have little to fear, right? Well, I'm not so sure.
A while back my fellow libertarian essayist Stefan Molyneux related a personal story during one of his podcasts. During his single days, he had his fair share of oddball dates. After a few in a row, he would sit down to dinner or drinks with a new romantic prospect with the same question floating in his mind: 'OK, now when does it get weird?' After being burned a few times myself, I can certainly understand. (Now that I think about it, they may have been asking a similar question about me!)
I've reached a similar place when it comes to our elected officials. If the office of president automatically precluded lunatics from obtaining it, I might feel better. But unfortunately, this is far from the case, and it spreads throughout those ostensibly in control of the awesome power of democracy. For our first case study, we need search no further than the confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court of the United States .
Soft As a Baby's Ear
Before the Alito confirmation hearings, three priests sneaked into the chambers and anointed the chairs with oil. Yes, that is exactly what happened. No, I'm not joking. What next? Will somebody sacrifice a chicken before the next invasion? (Wait. Maybe that's what's wrong with this one!) The difference between Vietnam and, well, some other war with a great outcome might just be the quality of the poultry. If that's all it takes, I say go for it. Better to choke a chicken before the war than spend the whole time after the war begins spanking a monkey ' if you know what I mean.
But anyway, the man now serving as Chief Justice for the 'highest court in the land' apparently owes his confirmation to the graces of a supernatural being. What justifies this behavior? And just as important, when will voodoo get a fair hearing in the halls of Congress? Discrimination, I say! But even this little tidbit isn't quite enough.
Take Out Your Bibles and Pass the Crisco
First-term Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft has gone on record saying he often tries 'to invite God's presence' when he needs to make a decision. In fact, when no 'holy' oil could be found, he substituted Crisco when he was about to be sworn into the Senate. I'm relatively certain that most of the U.S. would not find Ashcroft's admission strange in any way. What I am having a little trouble with is determining exactly why this is true.
If a candidate for office showed up for a debate wearing one of those hats signifying membership in the 'Loyal Order of Water Buffalo,' I am pretty certain he would be escorted to the nearest exit. Later that same day, his name would not appear on any ballot. By dinner time the next day, people would be asking, 'Whatever happened to, um, er, old what's-his-name who was running for Congress?' But Ashcroft can dip into a can of partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening while looking for divine inspiration and it's all good? (Talk about a novel use for transfats!) As one might expect though, this reliance on 'voices from above' doesn't stop at the President's Cabinet.
My Invisible Friend Can Beat Up Your Invisible Friend
Listen, I know a 'personal relationship with your lord and savior' is, well, personal, but Bush apparently doesn't believe in the personal part. But this is not just about him. In fact, if one is running for president of the U.S. and does not admit to having one of these personal relationships, he can 'hang it up' with regard to getting elected. At the risk of being crass, what the hell does it say about a country when our current leader openly admits to 'hearing voices' and no person vying for that job can get it if he doesn't hear them too? They used to lock people up for that kind of stuff, no? Even if I gave Bush a pass because of his apparent lack of intellect, that still wouldn't explain it.
According to Sam Harris, something like 75% of Americans subscribe to a Biblical view of creation. Despite that statistic, Harris also points out the interesting fact that most of those people are also atheists in one way or another. No one or at most a scant few believe in Poseidon or Zeus anymore. Commenting on this phenomenon in a recent interview he said:
'It strikes them [Christians] as utterly preposterous that anyone could compare the God of Abraham to a dead god of Greece or Rome or any other god. What seems an apt, accurate, and devastating analogy to secular people seems like a non sequitur to Christians . . . . Christians think there's something about the Christian tradition and the contents of the Bible that puts the God of Abraham on a completely different footing epistemologically.'
Of course, there is nothing rational that separates the contents of the Bible from the teachings of the followers of Poseidon. The real issue is not really the religiosity, or how openly it is displayed. I really am okay with that, even from my world leader, just so long as live ammo is not in play. The real issue is the ramifications of having such a train of thought exist in combination with ready access to WMDs. The problem is letting the equivalent of a witch doctor have access to any weapon more efficient and effective than a spear. I certainly do not want to be alarmist, but that kind of thing is enough to make me start praying!
So where does all this leave us? Let me be very clear. I am completely supportive of anyone's right to worship as he pleases. In fact, if you want to smear pig blood on your genitals and bay at the moon on Wednesday nights, I'm cool with that too.
I just don't want you to have access to "the button"--if you know what I mean.