On Friday, April 16, Sarah Palin spoke at the Women of Joy Conference in Louisville, Kentucky to a group of women who, like Palin, believe in a religion based on human sacrifice that regularly engages in symbolic cannibalism. During her speech, Palin said, “Lest anyone try to convince you that God should be separated from the state, our founding fathers, they were believers. And George Washington, he saw faith in God as basic to life.”
As tempting as it may be, I will not discuss Palin’s abysmal syntax because that would be like complaining because a duck quacks instead of singing arias. Nor will I go into a lengthy explanation of why these remarks are enough to make little jets of blood shoot out of the eyesockets of any informed American familiar with the Constitution of the United States. There is an abundance of information readily available that proves Palin to be flat wrong. Rather than dissect the mind-blowing inaccuracy of Palin’s statements, I want to address the attitude on display here. It is an attitude Palin shares with her admirers.
According to these people, America is a nation of the Christians, by the Christians and for the Christians. It was founded by the Jesus-loving faithful to be populated by Jesus-loving faithful and its laws and Constitution were based on the bible. Some seem to believe that the Constitution was simply copied out of the bible word for word. These people want prayer to be mandatory in public schools and civic functions – not just any prayer, but prayer to their specific god, the victim of their beloved gory human sacrifice (as depicted in Mel Gibson’s popular 2004 homoerotic BDSM porn film), their lord and savior Jesus Christ. This reveals not only their unfamiliarity with the Constitution and the intent of the founding fathers, but also their unfamiliarity with the bible, which claims Jesus Christ himself told his followers not to pray in public, but to go to their closets where they wouldn’t be seen or heard and wouldn’t make arrogant spectacles of themselves (Matthew 6:5 – 8). Of course, it’s much easier for one to believe the bible is the infallible revealed word of god if one doesn’t know what’s in it, just as it’s much easier to believe the Constitution says whatever you want it to say if you simply choose to ignore what it really says.
These same people are fond of saying, “America – love it or leave it!” For decades now, this slogan has been emblazoned on bumper stickers and T-shirts and has been shouted at anyone who does not agree with those who shout it. The shouters believe that anyone who has not pitched a tent in their particular political camp hates America and takes undue advantage of its freedoms. You disagree with the government when a Jesus-loving, flesh-eating, blood-drinking Christian Republican is in office? Then you hate America and should leave. You agree with the government when a godless, Marxist, America-hating Democrat is in office? Then you hate America and should leave. You don’t support any and all wars in which America participates? Then you hate America and should leave. You don’t go to church? Then you hate America and should leave. You don’t believe in god? Well, in that case, these people will pack your bags for you and, at their own expense, put you on the next bus to godless Europe.
I find this baffling. Most of the people this group identifies as unpatriotic haters of America are simply trying to go about their business in a country that they, in reality, appreciate and love a great deal, a country which they feel not only free but duty-bound to criticize when they disagree with its actions or upkeep. America is, after all, a country where dissent is not only allowed but needed. It is a free society in which you don’t have to agree with anything anyone says, but you have to agree that they have just as much right to say it as you have to say whatever’s on your mind. In fact, America was created by dissenters! Of course, it helps if both sides of the disagreement are inhabiting the same reality. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan so eloquently put it, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” But the “love it or leave it” crowd seems to think that anyone who disagrees with or doesn’t like their America should get the hell out of it.
There’s just one problem. Their America doesn’t exist and never has.
America is and always has been a secular nation. Yes, it’s true that the population of this country is predominantly Christian, but that has nothing to do with the government, which recognizes no religion and allows and accepts all religions – and all who are not religious. The freedom to believe or not to believe, to worship or not to worship is part of what makes America such a great country. One of the keys to maintaining that greatness is to keep religion out of government and government out of religion. The daring experiment known as the United States has not always succeeded in this, but it is a country that is constantly evolving. More than 230 years after it opened for business, America is still growing into itself. Church and state have not always been kept as separate as they should be and mistakes are still being made and corrected, made and corrected.
For example, in March of this year, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the phrase “one nation under god” in the Pledge of Allegiance is not a prayer or a recognition of religion, but instead invokes patriotism. The court claimed that it is “a recognition of our founders’ political philosophy that a power greater than the government gives the people their inalienable rights.” This, of course, suggests that those of us who do not believe in god and do not think that any of our rights come from such a being are unpatriotic. Sooner or later, this will be challenged again. This is how America works – it feels it’s way along. Don’t forget that once upon a time in this country, black people were bought and sold like property and women were not allowed to vote. We’ve moved past that, we’ve grown, evolved. We will continue to do so.
Unless the “love it or leave it” crowd has its way.
This group labors under the weight of the delusion that America was created only for people exactly like them. They think this used to be a white Christian theocracy in which they got everything they wanted and there was no disagreement or dissent allowed, and somehow, bad people have come along and changed it into a country in which – gasp! – folks are allowed to have other opinions, other beliefs, or – even bigger gasp! – no beliefs. Now they are angry, and they are determined to change the country back to the way it never was. They are so committed to this delusion that they simply turn their noses up at the intent of the founding fathers, at the words of the men who shaped this nation, and at the Constitution – just as they turn their noses up at science when it disagrees with their superstitions and myths, and just as they turn their noses up at their own lord and savior Jesus Christ when he says they should go home and pray in private and leave everybody else the hell alone (apparently Jesus is good enough to eat, but not good enough to obey). In the last couple of decades, their delusion has become so complete that, for them, it has taken on the appearance and texture of solid, tangible, three-dimensional reality.
In the beginning, there was Rush. Then followed the flood of angry, mean-spirited, logic-defying, fact-trampling Christian right babble – Fox News (facts are not “fair and balanced,” they simply are – only opinions can be “fair and balanced,” but opinions are not “news,” and on Fox News, opinions are not “fair and balanced”), Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Laura Ingraham and all the others. Now add to that group Sarah Palin, who has become their patron saint. These talking heads have made the delusion of the “love it or leave it” crowd a kind of reality, an alternate universe that exists side-by-side with this universe, the universe in which the Constitution of the United States exists, the universe in which our founding fathers lived. For years now, these people have lived in a bubble in which everything they watch on TV and listen to on the radio has told them that they are right, that this country was founded on Christian principles, that there is no separation of church and state, that all of our founding fathers were devout, Jesus-loving, flesh-eating, blood-drinking Christians. This bubble has allowed them to become utterly confident that this nation used to be what they think it used to be, but that some bad people have changed it into something else and must be stopped. They place this template over reality so that no matter where they look, no matter what they see or hear, they are able to continue this delusion uninterrupted. I live in an area of California in which I am surrounded by these people. They know no other reality. If you try to discuss with them the facts, no matter how gently, they react exactly like an addict in denial who’s been told he has a problem and needs to get help – they argue, then they get angry, then furious, then comes a storm of personal attacks, sometimes threats, and then they stomp away in a rage. Like angry little children, they clap their hands over their ears and shout, “La la la la, I can’t hear you!”
Then something happened in 2008 that threw a wrench into their delusion generator. A Democrat was made the President of the United States. But not just any Democrat, no – a BLACK Democrat. This has made it impossible for them to maintain their delusion. Even when that fantasy template is placed over reality, there’s still one very big problem for these people – there’s a black man in the White House. It’s right there, plain as day. Even Fox News, the window into their alternate universe, cannot erase the fact that Barack Obama is black, so even when the deluded watch it with the expectation of having their delusion nourished, what they see instead disrupts their delusion: A black man in the White House. Somehow, right here in the United States of America, the country that Jesus built, the majority of the nation voted a black man into the White House! Not only that, but a black man with the name Barack. Hussein. Obama.
Wait a second – what the hell kind of a name is that? With a name like that, he couldn’t have been born in this country, could he? Of course not! No real ‘Mericans would name their kid that. And what about Hussein? That’s a Muslim name, ain’t it? What decent Christian ‘Mericans would name their kid Hussein?
The bubble in which they’ve been living has popped and they are very, very angry. Although they don’t seem to realize it, they are also very, very confused. Now, all across the land on talk radio and at Tea Party rallies and at Sarah Palin’s poorly phrased speeches, you can hear their cry: “WE’RE TAKING OUR COUNTRY BACK!”
But from whom? Who stole the country that never existed? In order for bad people to take over the country, they would have to change or abolish the Constitution and make the country into something it wasn’t before. The Constitution is still there, and it still says the same thing – that the government will neither enforce nor prohibit the practice of any religion. Read it again if you haven’t recently and try to find something in that document – anything at all – that makes this a Christian nation. It’s not there. The “love it or leave it” crowd claims it is – but it’s not. They also claim that this country was built on Christian principles, but plenty of documentation – most notably Article 11 of the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli, which states, quite unambiguously, “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” – proves otherwise. They claim that our founding fathers were Christians, but the words left behind by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and others – some of which are quite acidic about religion in general and Christianity in particular – clearly state otherwise. Although it has suffered some mighty blows over the years, the Constitution is still in place, none of the founding fathers have risen from the dead to declare their acceptance of Jesus Christ as their personal lord and savior, and America is still America. So how can the “love it or leave it” crowd hope to take back their Christian nation built on Christian principles by Christians for Christians if it wasn’t that in the first place and no one has taken it away from anyone? They can’t, of course.
They can’t take it back. But they can take it. If we let them.
Am I the only one who finds it odd that the very people most likely to shout, “America – love it or leave it!” are the same people who seem to be very unhappy with America as it is and want to change it into something it isn’t now and never has been? These people don’t love America. If you doubt me, just listen to them! They have big problems with the Constitution of the United States, so big that they claim it states things it doesn’t. It’s obvious that this Constitution doesn’t work for them and they want it to go away. They have big problems with the secular government of the United States, so big that they want that government to adopt their religion and recognize it in an official capacity. They say this is a Christian nation, but we do not have a Christian government, so clearly they want a Christian government. That is their goal! It’s obvious that this government doesn’t work for them and they want it to be replaced with one that does.
Do these people have any business shouting “America – love it or leave it!” to anyone who disagrees with them when it seems pretty clear that they do not love it? They don’t even seem to like it! America gives them the freedom to believe and worship as they please, but they abuse that right by demanding that their religion be king of the hill, that it be injected into government, that everyone be required to pray as they pray and recognize their god. For them, the freedom of religion is not enough and they seem determined to get what they want. When they say they want to take the country back, it seems that they, like Sarah Palin, are simply inarticulate and unable to express themselves clearly. It would seem that what they really mean is this: They want to overthrow the secular government of the United States, abolish the Constitution as it currently exists and turn this into a Christian theocracy.
That is un-American. That is unpatriotic. That is the attitude of people who live in a country they hate so much that they want to overthrow it, dominate it, remake it in their own image. When it comes to the separation of church and state, they don’t care what the Constitution says, they don’t care what the founding fathers intended – just as, when it comes to public prayer, they don’t care what Jesus Christ, who they believe to be the son of god, said. They want what they want and they just don’t care about anything else.
And goddammit, there’s a black man in the White House!
They have wrapped themselves in the American flag, commandeered words like “freedom” and “patriotic” and “traditional” and “values” and are using them against the very country that affords them the freedom to do all these things. If they get their way, you can kiss freedom goodbye. And all they need to get their way is our silence and inaction. All they need to get their way is our continued fear of making waves, our fear of offending someone, making someone angry. They certainly don’t care about making waves or offending or angering people. They’re happy to do those things. They are bullies – bullies for Jesus. They own talk radio and the window into their alternate universe regularly kicks ass in the TV “news” ratings, and with those tools, they are confusing an increasingly uninformed electorate and capturing hearts and minds. They are well on the way to overthrowing this nation, and all they need from us is a little more polite confrontation avoidance.
It’s time to start calling this what it is – an attempt to overthrow the United States of America and turn it into a fascist theocracy. It’s time to start telling the truth and saying it to their faces. You want to throw out the Constitution by which this country is governed? You want the United States to be a Christian nation? Then you are unpatriotic. Then you hate this country.
America – love it or leave it!