Freedom: Bow now or bow later


Let’s not point fingers, but for all their hands-over-their-hearts, pocket-Constitution-carrying, misty-eyed Americanity, there are certain of our neighbors who are just not comfortable with democracy. With one-person, one-vote. With freedom of speech and religion that is not theirs. With facts that do not support their preferred view of the world. With not being in control. Galileo Galilei knew a few. As Jesus said about the poor, they will be with us always.

Thomas Jefferson knew to be wary of them:

Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom

So it was no surprise that things did not go smoothly in Spring, Texas this week when the Church of Lucifer opened its doors:

The Luciferians officially opened their doors on Friday, with their first meeting scheduled for Saturday. But they were greeted by a vocal group of Christians after having their building vandalized this week. Video taken by ABC13 Friday evening shows protesters upset with the organization’s presence gathered outside, with a law enforcement presence needed to keep the peace.

“This is what we get when we have freedom of religion,” protester Christine White told ABC13 angrily. “We ought to be filling up the whole street here, that they have to pass through us to get into that church.”

White continued to say that God loves the Luciferians “enough to say, ‘you either bow now, or you will be forced to bow later,’ and then it’s too late.”

Just maybe it’s not God who wants them to bow.

Many of the protesters were from a group calling itself The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), which believes it is “on the front lines of the Culture War, peacefully defending the values of tradition, family and private ownership.” Hard to find a better definition of that bizarre amalgam of Horatio Alger, Ayn Rand and Jesus Christ that for many Americans passes for Christianity.

Threats to their cultural or political dominance are mortal ones. A North Carolina state senator told a publisher bluntly during a public meeting, “I am the senator, you are the citizen. You need to be quiet.” Some politicians don’t want to govern. They want to rule.

As we saw this week in the third GOP presidential debate, they really get testy when challenged. They prefer that, as Heather Cox Richardson wrote about Fox News, “a few white men reign unchallenged in a world of Christianity and free-market capitalism. This worldview is inherently right.” Woe unto you who challenge it:

This insistence on a false reality was in full force Wednesday. When charged with his connection to the disreputable nutritional supplements company Mannatech, Dr. Ben Carson denied any involvement with it. He lied. When Becky Quick asked Donald Trump to explain his assertion that Senator Marco Rubio was “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator,” Trump denied that he had ever said such a thing. He lied (that exact phrase was on his campaign website). When asked about the national debt, Senator Ted Cruz ranted that such a question simply illustrated “why the American people don’t trust the media,” then went on to misrepresent the substantive questions the moderators had asked by turning them into cartoon sound bites. Carly Fiorina’s astonishing lie was in the last debate, when she insisted—contrary to all evidence—that she had seen a video in which Planned Parenthood employees murdered a baby to sell its organs.

These lies are symptoms of the real problem: that the rigid ideology of Movement Conservatives concentrates power in a very few wealthy men. When asked to justify with actual math the regressive economic policies that underlie all of their candidacies, the candidates obfuscated. Their numbers do not add up, as they have not added up since President Reagan’s budget director David Stockman notoriously made supply-side tax policy work with a “magic asterisk” that represented cuts and loophole closures to be made later. Charged with the fact that his ideas do not work in the real world, Carson simply said “that’s not true… when we put all the facts down, you’ll be able to see that it’s not true, it works out very well.”

Insisting that the world is as strict-father grifters say it is because they say so is by now an established strategy. You will bow now or bow later. Digby pointed to Rick Perlstein’s analysis of the GOP dabate. It looked something like a medicine show:

It takes a lot of energy to sustain a lie. When enough people do it together, over a sustained period of time, it wears on them. It also produces a certain kind of culture: one cut loose from the norms of fair conduct and trust that any organization requires in order to survive as something more than a daily, no-holds-barred war of all against all. A battle royale. A circus, if you prefer.

Perhaps the freak show is more appropriate. It takes a contortionist to avoid all the swords thrust though the magician’s death box.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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