Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Right Wing's Conflicting Narratives

It never takes long after a major tragedy in America for rightwing extremists to lay the blame on evolution and/or abortion.

After the Columbine massacre Tom Delay had this to say:

“Guns have little or nothing to do with juvenile violence. The causes of youth violence are working parents who put their kids into daycare, the teaching of evolution in the schools, and working mothers who take birth control pills.”

After 9/11 Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said that the ACLU, abortionists, feminists, gays and People For the American Way shared the blame for the attacks.

Karen Hughes, counselor to the president and now Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, once tried to compare supporters of abortion rights with terrorists when she said, “the fundamental issue between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life” (Tell that to the Iraqis, whose civilian deaths we refuse to count).

And now in the wake of the Virginia massacre we have these words from Pastor Parsley, president of the Center for Moral Clarity in the “On Faith” section of the Washington Post:

“Choosing a world view that excludes God and disregards the value of human life makes the unforgettable scenes from Virginia Tech possible.”

(Apparently Pastor Parsley didn’t read what the Virginia killer had to say about his motives, such as this: “Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.”)

Obviously, the rightwing extremists in our society and government don’t care about facts. The places in the world where abortion is safe and legal are by and large the most peaceful and prosperous on earth; the societies where abortion has been criminalized are by and large repressive and filled with violence. Aside from most of the Middle East and Central Asia, take Brazil, where abortion is illegal except in cases of rape and incest: in the last five years almost 2,000 minors have been murdered in Rio alone.

The rightwing doesn’t seem to care that there are over 200 million guns in the hands of Americans, half of the world total for small arms, which helps to fuel the approximately 30,000 gun-related deaths per year. In fact, America is an anomaly in terms of the high level of violence in a country where abortion is legal.

But again, facts are beside the point. Even if abortion were criminalized (which will fortunately never happen; more on this next week) the rightwing would find someone or something to blame for the violence that persists because their worldview is not amenable to reason.

At the same time that we are told by the far right that our domestic violence is a product of our moral decay, President Bush tells us repeatedly that we are at war with terrorists because they “hate our freedoms”. Which freedoms I wonder? I doubt Osama Bin Laden cares that we have 500 channels to choose from or 10 types of toothpaste or even that we can own guns; he probably respects that part of our culture.

What bothers the Islamic terrorists is that we have freedom from religion. For the Islamists this is the greatest sacrilege: to have the arrogance to be a secular society. Islamists also hate the fact that women are free in our society, free to dress in skimpy clothes, free to be the bosses of men, and yes, free to control their own reproductive decisions.

This is where the rightwing’s narratives collide. On one hand they want us to believe that all of our problems are due to our secular society, but the freedoms of this secular society are supposedly what we are fighting to protect. The rightwing can’t have it both ways.

The far right’s continued efforts to criminalize abortion demonstrate their insistence that women are morally and intellectually infantile and that their bodies should be subjected to the whims of a patriarchal state; their continued attacks on evolution demonstrates that the far right wants to discredit basic science; their persistent and hate-filled attacks on homosexuals demonstrate that they want a sexually oppressive and unequal society. All of these goals are shared by the Islamic terrorists with whom we are at war.

I have one humble desire for our next president. I want him or her to work to strengthen, not undermine, the basic freedoms and liberties that our enemies despise. I want there to be nothing in common between the goals of my government and the goals of the Taliban, Al Qeada, Iran, and the rest of the Islamic extremists who are the enemies of free and just societies.

Jason Scorse

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