Simon's final rant of 2007
Spoiler alert: This post says unkind things about religion, and some things about avowedly religious people that make my words about religion look practically glowing by comparison.
Regular readers will have gathered that I'm one o' them pinko relativist humanist atheist Jews, the cultural bête noir of choice for today's crop of asshole demagogues. The advantage of hewing to this despised set of beliefs is that it clears up all the ambiguity: What you see is what you get.
Not so, however, for more than a few of the ostensible humans now seeking the job of President of the USA.
Sadly, it is now a prerequisite for politicians to parade their religious beliefs (though it's de rigueur to employ the nauseating euphemism "faith") as a cornerstone of their campaigns. So we are treated to the spectacle of these office-seeking ghouls touting the spiritual values they hold so deeply as they grub for votes in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and other primary states.
"Hold on there just a minute, Jew," I hear you object. "MY candidate isn't like that. MY candidate is a genuinely spiritual person for whom church attendance and quiet contemplation of the scriptures are the purest sustenance – and his/her pious nature, once apotheosized in the presidency, will fill the world with magnificence."
It's awfully sweet of you to believe that. But let me tell you something really, majorly super-important about your candidate, no matter who he or she may be.
Your candidate is a sociopath.
Please, don't get upset; I'm just stating facts here. In order to seek the presidency in this day and age, you have to have something horribly, terribly wrong with you.
I don't simply mean the hoary old truism that politicians are largely corrupt, hypocritical, whore-mongering shitbags who are about as spiritual as a CIA plane stuffed with black-tar heroin (and let's face it, things become hoary old truisms because they contain some measure of truth).
Nor do I mean the freaky, frisky underbelly of righteously religious pols, who swarm like sexually stunted moths to the lurid light of men's-room trysts as soon as they've finished delivering their latest sanctimonious soundbites.
I mean that in order to seek the presidency in the 21st Century, you have to have a personality disorder. And let's be clear about which kind. You know those people who bottle up their rage and then one day snap and take out a fast-food joint with an assault rifle? Not that kind. More the kind who serves you a couple of scotches and then kills you in your sleep for the insurance money. The kind that can justify the most grievous misdeeds, the most shocking atrocities with a chilling sangfroid and some elevated language about the national interest.
A sociopath regards any obstruction to his/her desires as something to be annihilated. Unfortunately, this has also become the model for a U.S. president, as fed to us by the bloodthirsty bobbleheads of the punditocracy and a political process in which one's opponents are to be dispatched with a rhetorical bayonet. Indeed, a sociopathic personality is the very zenith of what our noxiously reactionary political culture would call "a thick skin."
And just look at those thick-skinned candidates go on and on and on and on and ON about their, ahem, faith. In fact, they're all in the midst of their Christmas messaging, perhaps the most puke-inducing phase of the piety wars so far. There was much ado, in particular, about Mike Huckabee's Christmas ad, a sickeningly effective "let's all put politics aside and love Jesus together" spot that was the folksy state of the art of American Theocracy.
Huckabee projects a self-deprecating charm and WWJD compassion that's political gold. He almost convinces me that he's genuine. So it's important to remember that grinding away beneath that smiley layer of aw-shucks is something akin to the servo-mechanism of The Terminator. I strongly believe that Mike Huckabee would tear a baby's heart out of its chest cavity and eat it like a fuckin' apple if he thought it would help him attain the presidency.
Even with his new diet.
To say that Huckabee is genuine because he seems so is the most lethal mistake of all. Sociopath George W. Bush as Mr. Born Again won two elections; he is a far less capable liar than is Huckabee, but the difference is entirely one of polish. You may laugh at the poor schmucks who are taken in by a crappy home-made commercial for a used-car dealership, but there is a Jaguar ad out there that has your number.
Perhaps you're enchanted by the oleaginous Willard "Mitt" Romney, who has brandished his personal relationship with JC in hopes of charming evangelical voters who might otherwise wish to exterminate him on the grounds that he's a Mormon. Romney is all "faith" all the time, and his recent, ballyhooed speech on the topic essentially said that if you weren't religious you had no role to play in America.
Oh, and fightin' the icky Muslims requires us to flush our values down the toilet; hence Mitt's declaration that he'd like to build multiple Gitmos. Meanwhile, ol' Huck says the prisoners at Guantanamo are being treated, if anything, too well.
Jesus Christ would be so fucking proud, right?
John McCain, who once criticized the religious right as "agents of intolerance," needed to curry favor with evangelicals for his presidential crusade. So he came crawling back to Jerry Falwell and all but fellated the good reverend at Liberty Baptist University. He also begged the odious James Dobson for forgiveness. Because beneath the Straight Talkin' Maverick's facade is the same grasping, clawing appetite for power at any cost.
(Fred Thompson, who returned from doing nothing of value in the Senate to read his lines off other actors' foreheads on Law and Order, made similar gestures; he'd be more germane to the conversation if he hadn't displayed all the political initiative of an Arizona State freshman with a Hefty bag full of weed.)
Hillary Clinton, with typically corporate aplomb, hired a "faith guru" to appeal to evangelicals, appeared on Fox News to talk about how faith saved her marriage (I'd rather hear Ladybird Johnson describe how Mint Juleps dulled the hellish sound of Lyndon's ecstatic cries while he was serviced by truckloads of hookers, but that's just me) and generally attempted to soften her image with the bigoted throngs of the right by talking about how much time she's spent in church. I believe Hillary Clinton would swim laps in an Olympic-sized pool filled with goat's blood to win the Presidency. Fortunately for her, that won't be required.
Barack Obama, to his credit, at least uses religion as a way into discussing his party's obligations to the less fortunate. But the man wants to be President, so who knows who or what will get thrown under his bus?
Wait again, Jew, you object. What's wrong with the compassionate example of Jesus, undeniably a VHJ (veritably historical Jew, and certainly hot if you think he resembled Ted Neeley), guiding our leaders?
Actually, nothing. In fact, even a gimlet-eyed nonbeliever like me can be moved, mesmerized and motivated by religious passion. Martin Luther King, Jr., quoted scripture in a way that could wring tears and commitment from the most mulish rationalist.
But MLK wasn't running for high office. He sacrificed pretty much everything to lead the greatest American social movement of his century and a grateful nation repaid him with a bullet.
If you think any of the faith-espousing pols now slouching toward primary season would take that deal you're high on crack.
Am I cynical? Not in the least. In fact, I'm the veritable orchid of optimism, pushing out of this shit-covered ground. You know what's cynical? Airing clips of these candidates and asking without a scintilla of irony how their "faith" will factor into the election.
And lest you accuse me of picking on Christians – and really, heaven forfend – I give you our featured socio-politico-path: Sen. Joe Lieberman.
Joe makes a great spectacle of his Jewy piety, but he has demonstrated time and again that he will stab anyone and anything in the back, front or sides to perpetuate his ongoing project of self-empowerment, self-enrichment and self-aggrandizement. He has fucked his own party six ways from Sunday (ultimately endorsing McCain after promising to help elect a Dem in '08), lied through his teeth, agitated for preemptive war with Iran, and crawled joyously up the asses of Dubya, Cheney and the rest of their loathsome circle. The fact that he does it all while wrapped in the prayer shawl of righteousness only confirms his utter lack of principle.
And he 's not even running for President.
Like all of his buddies in "faith," Senator Joe regularly and lustily violates the First Commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." You cannot have this kind of political career without putting the exaltation of yourself above all other considerations.
That would be the "me" with the small "m."
Since we're supposed to be electing a President and not a High Priest, let's just make the rules a little more explicit. By voting I'm entering into a contractual relationship with a self-interested party. That party is not my friend. He or she does not embody my deepest hopes and ideals. I will join like-minded people to exert pressure to make that party do what I want.
But the idea of selecting a candidate based on his/her professions of cosmic belief is pathologically stupid. Even Jesus thought so, peeps – that's why he drove the moneychangers out of the Temple.