Today I read two great articles from two of my favorite writers, and since it just so happens I have nothing else to write about today (the next issue of Justice Friends would ordinarily have been up today, but I’m putting it off a few more weeks in order to a: publish it, a Christmas-themed story, a little closer to the holiday; and b: be as lazy as possible until absolutely necessary) I figured I’d favor you with links and quotes and whatnot, as is my custom.
But which one to feature? On one hand I’ve got Roger Ebert with a blog entry titled “New Agers and Creationists Should Not Be President”; on the other I’ve got the redoubtable Christopher Hitchens with a column at Slate called “Sarah Palin’s brand of populism is dangerous and deceptive” — see why it’s so hard to choose?
So I won’t. Fuck the unities! I read ‘em both, so I’ll write about ‘em both. First, to Ebert, who posted his article to his blog on December 2.
Roger hooks me early by equating Christian fundamentalists with believers in psychics and astrology. They are merely different religions, neither one more or less absurd than the other. My girlfriend’s parents, some of the finest folks I’ve ever known, join me in rolling our eyes whenever a particular aunt starts going on about the ghosts that haunt her old stone house, or the 19th century mansion owned by the historical society of which she is a member. Obviously things like ghosts and hauntings and the spiritual artifacts supposedly evident in photographs and audio-visual recordings are ridiculous. Yet these same people attend church two days a week, and believe to the very core of their beings that they have been saved from eternal torment and granted a blissful everlasting life through their faith in the deity of a particular human who was executed more than 2,000 years ago. How can one be supernatural nonsense and the other — with no more evidence to support it — be the rock upon which you build your life?
Of more pressing concern to Ebert is why some people would seemingly rather enlist for active duty in Afghanistan than vote for an openly born-again candidate in an election, yet many of those same people would have no problem throwing their support behind someone like Dennis Kucinich, who doesn’t buy the dogma of fundamentalist Christianity, but has professed his belief in things just as insane — alien abductions, for instance.
Correction: As plwinkler was good enough to remind me, Rep. Kucinich merely responded to a question from Tim Russert in a 2007 presidential debate that yes, he had seen an unidentified flying object, not that he believed the object to be of extraterrestrial origin. So far as I know, Kucinich has never expressed any belief in alien abductions, or alien visitations, or anything else of the sort. So, you know . . . my bad.
From Ebert’s article:
It’s not my purpose today to argue the equal absurdity of Creationism and New Age beliefs (no, not even though the tenets of astrology were formed when astrologers knew piss-all about the planets). Those debates have been pretty much settled to the satisfaction of both sides, which agree with themselves.
. . . My only purpose today is to state early and often that if a Presidential candidate believes early humans used saddles to ride on the backs of dinosaurs, as they are depicted at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, that candidate should not be elected President.
And if a candidate counts among close friends and advisors anyone in communication with the spirit world, that candidate should not be elected President.
And if a candidate accounts for the fact that humanoid and dinosaur bones are never found at the same level in the fossil record by evoking the action of sediment after the Great Flood, that candidate should not be President.
And if a candidate has a spirit guide, consults his or her Chart and takes more than a passing amusement in the horoscope, that candidate should not be elected President.
Ebert also touches on one of the most troubling aspects of this issue — the reluctance, for calculated political purposes, of politicians to fully embrace science when it contradicts the claims of religion:
Palin can draw applause by affirming she doesn’t believe mankind shared a common ancestor with orangutans, but Obama will prudently refrain from revealing his belief in the quite provable fact that we do.
It pisses me off too, Roger. Can I call you Roger?
Speaking of Palin, my man Hitchens writes about her some more in his column for Slate, posted earlier today. He expands on a few of the points he touched on in his recent article about her in Newsweek, including her spineless tendency to embrace the darkest fringe elements of her conservative base while insisting to the rest of us she’s doing nothing of the sort.
From Hitchens’s column:
Writing about Sarah Palin in Newsweek last month, I pointed out the crude way in which she tried to Teflon-ize herself when allegations of weird political extremism were made against her. . . . Last week, the new darling of the right did her best to vindicate me. She appeared on the radio show of a certain Rusty Humphries, another steaming and hearty slice of good-old U.S. prime, and was asked whether she would make an issue of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Her response: “I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue. I think it’s a fair question.” That was on Thursday, Dec. 3. On Friday, she had published a second “thought” on her Facebook page, reassuring all and sundry that: “At no point have I asked the president to produce his birth certificate, or suggested that he was not born in the United States.”
Well, exactly. Of course she hasn’t. She just thinks it’s a good idea for others to do that, in their “rightful” way, since, after all, it is “a fair question.”
Could anything be more cowardly and contemptible?
Palin’s persistence in trying to have it both ways pisses Hitchens off, as well it should anyone who wishes to deny their vote and support to a shameless, pandering fraud if at all possible. Having thus been worked up, Hitchens treats us to a few details about Palin confidant and anti-Semitic Nixon administration veteran Fred Malek, then delivers the money shot:
At least Richard Nixon had the ill fortune to look like what he was: a haunted scoundrel and repressed psychopath. Whereas the usefulness of Sarah Palin to the right-wing party managers is that she combines a certain knowingness with a feigned innocence and a still-palpable blush of sex. But she should take care to read her Alexander Pope: That bloom will soon enough fade, and it will fade really quickly if she uses it to prostitute herself to the Nixonites on one day and then to cock-tease the rabble on the next.
So, to sum up: read the first article at Roger Ebert’s blog, read the second one at Slate.com, and be better people for it. You don’t have to thank me. I already know.