The Clash of Fundamentalisms

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Prior to voting in the US presidential ballot there was a lot of talk about this being the most important election in decades.

For the first time in many years there actually were some important differences between the two major parties. The Democrats, though still on their knees with one hand tied behind their back, were no longer totally prostrate in the presence of Ronald Reagan's ghost. Kerry's loss was depressing, to say the least, and even a slightly higher turnout (125 million?) might have done the trick, but such an outcome would not have altered a trend that can no longer be denied and which is making it increasingly difficult for any truly progressive politics to get a hearing in the US. I speak of the mindless Christian orthodoxy that now permeates the whole body politic.

Kerry did his best to kowtow to what is a modern version of McCarthy's loyalty oaths, but this American version of the worldwide tide of religious fundamentalism swept him aside and took Bush to victory. So it is in god's name that the minimum wage will stay at $5.15 while billionaires are gifted vast tax rebates. It is god that ordains the hegemony of drug industry profits over available healthcare, and the 100,000 civilian deaths in Iraq are a blood sacrifice in his name. And when the Patriot Act, and the even more patriotic act that is sure to follow are applied to cripple the Bill of Rights, it will all be done in the name of Christian civilisation.

Amazingly, an administration that uses the technique of the 'big lie' as an ongoing matter of policy, and purveys thinly guised bigotry as its main motivational tool, has succeeded in capturing the so called 'moral high ground' and from its lofty perch can now happily designate those who disagree with it as 'evil'. This disturbing situation needs to be exposed and confronted if our society is to remain hospitable to anyone other than the smug, self-righteous denizens of Bush World.

A government that effectively operates only for the richest and most powerful is screwing its lower class, Christian base as much as it is screwing the rest of us, so perhaps we shouldn't worry too much and just hope that people might eventually wise up.

If this were a more benign phenomenon, such a passive response would have a certain logic. But this is not benign: it is a social cancer that could eventually transform American society into an unrecognisable parody of democracy that reserves real freedom only for those who would never exercise it in any way that isn't in full conformity with some arbitrary religious ethic. In truth, modern Christian-fundamentalist thinking would take us back to the norms of America's colonial days. These are people who would have been very comfortable in the Salem of 1692.

The separation of church and state is not just in the interests of unbelievers. Those who wish to retain the freedom to follow their own particular religion all need to support this same position. For, as the war in Iraq and the election of 2004 have amply demonstrated, the US no longer exists in the Age of Reason. When our religious society happily acquiesces in the slaughter of more non-combatant Iraqi women and children than the US armed forces lost in the whole of the Vietnam War, even after the supposed basis for this brutality has been exposed as false, we have a real problem that it would be irresponsible to ignore. Nor can we avoid the obvious truth that a good part of the problem rests in the unspoken belief of both the leaders and the led that 'God's on our side'.

Please, let's never forget that the terrorism that provides Bush with the cover he so desperately needs for his elitist programme is the ultimate 'faith-based initiative'.

Glyn Carver
Illinois