The results of the Iowa caucuses – both the Republican and Democratic – proved tp be very interesting in what they might portend for the general election in November. The results, for me at least, show just how polarized the American people are.
The Republican winner, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, won, according to media analysts, because of strong support from the evangelical community. These right-wing religious conservatives probably see Huckabee as the second coming of G.W. As if we needed a second one; the first one was more than we really needed, thank you. And, from what I saw of Huckabee when he was governor here in Arkansas, this country will not survive him as President. The man is incompetent, to say the least.
Barak Obama won the Democratic caucus, which was very surprising to me. Obama, a Senator from Illinois, happens to be black. That should not really matter, but, unfortunately, in this country it matters a great deal. We have never had a President of color, at least not one who admitted it, anyway. The fact that Obama won in a state without a significant percentage of black voters is promising. It seems that the Democrats in Iowa, at least, are looking at the issues and how the candidates stand on those issues, rather than their race, creed, gender or shoe size. If this trend continues through the November election, we may very well be part of some serious history in the making.
The differences between these two men, Huckabee and Obama, are tremendous. They have very different positions on every issue, starting with the so-called war in iraq, all the way through to their stances on health care and Social Security. Should these two men be the standard bearers in the November election, the American voters will have, for the first time in a very long time, a real choice to make.
With that choice available, I think that the malaise of voter apathy that has been the trend the last half dozen presidential elections will end. We should see record numbers of voters turning out. You see, the problem has not been apathy on the part of the American voter, but rather the lack of clear choices. Given real choices, I suspect American voters will take a serious interest in this election.
Tomorrow is the New Hampshire primary. Should Huckabee and Obama win there as well, the battle lines for the rest of the campaign season will have been clearly drawn. Do Americans want a theodicy controlled by white Anglo-Saxon fundamentalists or do we want a country that celebrates and embraces its cultural diversity? Do we want a return to the Geneva of Zwingli and the Calvinists or do we want the freedom of worship that the Founding Fathers guaranteed in the Bill of Rights? Do we want a return to the Crusades of the Middle Ages or are we prepared to engage in dialogue and listen for a change to what the people of the Middle East, Jew and Arab, are saying to us?
Whether we all want to believe it or not, much of the situation in the Middle East is the result of American bungling grounded in American intolerance and bigotry grounded in the religious fundamentalism that has been such a significant force in American politics for the last thirty years or so. We, and especially the fundamentalists here in America, criticize the Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, etc. But these Christian fundamentalists are no better than those they criticize. The islamic fundamentalists, like bin-Ladn, call for a jihad – holy war – against the USA. But, the rhetoric we here from the Christian fundamentalists is much like the rhetoric of the Church in the Middle Ages calling for Crusade to retake the Holy Land from the infidels. Jihad and Crusade mean the same thing.
Ir is time to disengage the gears of war and for America to reassess its attitude – and its policies – toward the Islamic nations. Confrontation only leads to escalated confrontation. Right now, we need to back off our Crusader stance and attempt to repair the damage of the last fifty years. We need to realize that we cannot impose Christianity on everyone in the world. Contrary to what the fundamentalists on either side preach, neither religion is the one and only Truth.
Each is only a small piece of that Truth. No one human or mo one human institution can comprehend the fullness of God. The Infinite Creator is beyond human comprehension. That is why we use metaphors- whether religious, scientific, or some other form, to try to understand and explain the Unexplainable. That is what is referred to as the power of myth. Myths are not falsehoods, but neither are they the objective truth. They are the way humans come to grips with the Infinite. Christianity is myth. Islam is myth. Science is myth. All attempts to bring order, as we humans understand order, to the chaos of Reality, is myth.
And one myth is as good as the other. As long as it works for those who believe it, that”s all that really matters. All I ask is don”t try to shove your myth down my throat or anyone else”s. Your truth is no more true than mine and mine is no more true than yours.
We sort of got off on what appears to be a tangent, didn”t we? But, if you really think about it, it was not that far afield. Religious bigotry and intolerance breed political bigotry and intolerance, especially when religion controls the politics. Think about the Puritans both here in the USA and in England in the seventeenth century. Think about Calvinist Geneva. Think about Iran under the Ayatollah Khomeini. Think about any country that has or had a state religion. When the state controls the religion or the religion controls the state, oppression and intolerance become manifest.
It is my worst nightmare that this will happen here in the US if the religious fundamentalists gain even more political power than they already have. Id tht happens, we might as well take down the Statue of Liberty. We will have ceased to be the light of hope for the rest of the world. We are the light of the world, not because we are, as the fundamentalists preach, a Christian country. We are the light of the world because we believe and practice, to some extent anyway, religious tolerance and freedom of worship.
When you make your choice on who to vote for in a Presidential primary or in the general election, please keep this article in mind and vote, not for the candidate who believes the same myth you do, but for the candidate who will do the most to preserve your right to believe in that myth, even if he disagrees with you. That is what America is and always has been about.