Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Aarrgh of the Covenant

jesus_for_bush_9_1 For some reason many people find Chris Hedges' work "controversial"---possibly in the same way that some people find heliocentrism controversial. Personally, I can't understand how a man speaking plainly about the obvious dangers we face when we look in the mirror is controversial, except that the most self-evident truths are often the most painful, and we're prone as a race to kill the messenger. Well, hone those axes and pitchforks again, folks, because Hedges turned the article "...that no major publication will print" (as well as numerous observations and articles of the last couple years) into a full-fledged book: American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America. And few others have the standing he does to make that charge. Tracing the movement to its authoritarian racist beginnings, he proposes that it has flourished because of the steady erosion of social infrastructure brought on by the coporate-government fusion of the last decades, and suggests that, given the its current entrenchment, it would only take a crisis like another 9/11 to bring the Christian Right fully into control of the government.

In an interview to Michelle Goldberg of Salon in January, he said:
For me, the engine of the (Christian Right) movement is deep economic and personal despair. A terrible distortion and deformation of American society, where tens of millions of people in this country feel completely disenfranchised, where their physical communities have been obliterated, whether that's in the Rust Belt in Ohio or these monstrous exurbs like Orange County, where there is no community. There are no community rituals, no community centers, often there are no sidewalks. People live in empty soulless houses and drive big empty cars on freeways to Los Angeles and sit in vast offices and then come home again. You can't deform your society to that extent, and you can't shunt people aside and rip away any kind of safety net, any kind of program that gives them hope, and not expect political consequences.

Democracies function because the vast majority live relatively stable lives with a degree of hope, and, if not economic prosperity, at least enough of an income to free them from severe want or instability. Whatever the Democrats say now about the war, they're not addressing the fundamental issues that have given rise to this movement.

But isn't there a change in the Democratic Party, now that it's talking about class issues and economic issues more so than in the past?

Yes, but how far are they willing to go? The corporations that fund the Republican Party fund them. I don't hear anybody talking about repealing the bankruptcy bill, just like I don't hear them talking about torture. The Democrats recognize the problem, but I don't see anyone offering any kind of solutions that will begin to re-enfranchise people into American society. The fact that they can't get even get healthcare through is pretty depressing.
He wrote a piece on the subject at Alternet the same month, and later, on NPR, he discussed it again. You can read the first chapter here. Then watch his interview with Stephen Colbert (thanks to Crooks and Liars) here. A note on this, though: I enjoy Colbert, but his stage persona really got in the way here. I would have liked hearing Hedges express more of his anger at the hijacking of his faith. He is a deeply spiritual, deeply committed Christian, and these are the people we need to hear from most.

Nobody writes like Chris. Nobody. Get this book. Just watch out for the angry mob.

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