Modern American PoliticsBy Shlomoh
October 30, 2011
I recently read an interesting book called ANTISEMITISM IN AMERICA which was published in 1994 so it does not deal with the anti-Semitism in the 21st century. Anti-Semitism, along with anti-Catholicism and anti-foreigner-ism has been a trademark of American culture since our origins in the late 18th century. To be sure, the Founders of the country wanted to establish a society of equals among citizens in term of rights and protections. Among these protections were guarantees of religious liberties for all and a separation between religion and the state. The Founders had seen what the wedding of church and state had done to European civilization for two millennia, and they didn't want that kind of strife here. One of the stipulations of the Constitution was that there was to be no religious test for public office.
Modern American religionists like to tell each other and the rest of us that America is a Christian country founded on the Bible. This is not true. America is founded on Greek and Roman ideals. The Founders were mostly nominal Christians at best and were almost, to a man, Deists and Masons. They were, in effect, Freethinkers whose writings reflect there antipathy to classical Christian theology which they saw as a detriment to social progress. In any event, they believed that Americans ought have the right to express their beliefs and unbelief´s freely without suffering evil consequences.
But they helped to deny the absolute success of their socio-political dream by limiting American privileges to white, male, property owners. They thereby set the stage for the American history which unfolded over the next centuries by their implicit suggestion that American equality had varying degrees between the more equal and the less equal. This means that as enlightened as they were in their own generation, the Founders were still the inheritors of past ideas, the which limited American freedoms. Any sane person knows that freedom has to be limited. This is the essence of the dialogue between Eve and the Serpent. The Serpent's entire argument to Eve is that God has only granted limited freedom to the human race - which - according to him - is no freedom. The problem is that by varying degrees of equality, they created varying degrees of freedom. In that America, not everyone was created equal and therefore not everyone deserved equal freedoms.
Nevertheless, the Founders were a special class of human beings, inspired by lofty ideals. Only the could have created a country where, over the generations, the disenfranchised have been inspired to actively work to achieve the actuality of the lofty ideals of the Founders. The average American was, and has been, a person quite different from the Founding Fathers. The average America has never believed in the lofty ideals of the Founders. He only gives lip service to them.
Most Americans are descendants of European ancestors and have inherited the pre-modern and prejudicial attitudes of pre-modern Europe. From the beginnings of our country, white Anglo-Saxon protestants have believed, and in the main, continue to believe that they are the possessors of the "truth", the ONLY truth, and that this truth separates them from the lower order of humans. Who constitute the lower order? The same then as now. Catholics, Irish, Italians, Jews, non-white, non-Anglo-Saxon, not-Protestant immigrants.
America is the cultural and linguistic offspring of England, an England which enacted laws to guarantee the rights of its subjects long before any other European country had dreamed of doing so. But an England which expelled and prohibited Jews on British soil for 400 years. What were the reasons for the expulsion but a belief among the English that Jews were the killers of the Christian savior and the ritual murderers of young children that symbolized Jewish repetition of the Crucifixion and Jewish mockery of the Christian religion.
Anglo-Saxon Protestant America acted against the dreams of the Founders from the time of the creation of the country until the current generation. What we witness now among the Right Wing of the political spectrum is Protestant elitism dressed up in political correctness and sometimes not even dressed up but nakedly apparent. After all, didn't Sarah Palin say that Joe Six-pack should be president? Who is Joe Six-pack but an archetype of American who thinks he is the ONLY "real American". he is the antithesis of Adams, Washington, and Jefferson, the type of individuals who are fit to be president. When I expressed this to a right wing friend of mine, she called me elitist. Elitist because I believe that only the best among us should lead us.
Anti-Semitism has existed in America from the beginning. Most of the time it manifests itself in less virulent and less violent forms than it did in Europe. Sometimes it is as mean as it was experienced by our European ancestors. Protestantism is seen as the best way to God and Judaism is seen as the best way to Satan. In recent times it is not expressed in so vulgar terms. nevertheless it is there. All the mythology about Jewish power, Jewish money, and other negative stereotypes come back ultimately to one issue. Although it is expressed as the Jews' crime of Deicide, it is not really that. It is the Jews' refusal to recognize the Crucified man. I say not recognize, not reject. The Jewish crime is far worse than mere rejection. Rejection needs concentration and reflection to that which is rejected. Christian anger is directed, not against rejection of him but ignoring him.
Be that as it may, America's attitudes vis-à-vis various non white Protestant groups, seems to be informed by American protestant religion. America's attitudes about almost everything seem to be informed by that religion. Anti-Semitism is only one expression of it. recently I saw PBS' 3 part documentary on Prohibition. The move toward Prohibition was a work in progress for almost a century. It was the work in progress of rural, white, Protestant America, inspired by an arrogant religious impulse. It created a situation wherein if Jesus were to appear in the United States and change water into wine, he would be a criminal, arrested and imprisoned.
The war against alcohol, against legalized marijuana and other substances, against so-called illegal immigration, against homosexuals, against abortion, against the fair distribution of wealth, against Jews, Negroes, Mexicans and ethnic Catholics - the war of the rural area against the cities - is Protestant based.
The mean-spirited intrusion of religion into American politics is not new. It has always existed since 1776. It went underground during the 1960s and 1970s, allowing real social progress to take effect for the first time in our nation's history. It resurfaced with a vengeance in 1980. The "silent majority" had had enough of the equalization of society. The brief era of a faith free society came to an end. The very people who said that government ought not interfere in the private lives of citizens now tried to impose their Christian values on American society. Politics on the Right once again became faith-based with consequential religion tests for candidates for public office. Science came under attack by the Right, Not only science but medicine as well. What the 1925 "Scopes Monkey Trial’ in the state of Tennessee should have put to rest, namely the teaching of "Creationism", reared its ugly head. Prohibition of marijuana and other substances as well as victimless sexual practices such as prostitution remained tainted by the concept of 'sin".
Angry, mean-spirited, militant Protestantism on the Right gave birth to equally angry, mean-spirited, militant atheism on the left as a response when it should have given birth to a rational Leftist faith based movement based on "values" of equality of people and fairness in economics. Unfortunately the Left has been as adamant about denying the expression of "values" as the Right has been adamant about the imposition of its own arrogant and ignorant vision of Christian values.
This essay began by discussing anti-Semitism in America. American anti-Semitism goes hand in hand with Protestant Christian anger towards the Cities, ethnics, immigrants, the poor and disenfranchised, and sexual deviance [the word used here in the neutral sense of different from an expected "norm". The Right wished to impose a value system on America but a system of values contrary to human dignity, self esteem, and freedom and equality. Protestant Christian unwholesome values have had their strong hold on the government and the citizens of America in the past. Will it have that same strong hold on the America of the future? The way we vote and the way we protest over the next decades will determine whether we remain a nation of intolerance or whether we once again experience the hope generated in the 1960s and 1970s.
Return To The Essay Index Return To The Literary Index Return To The Site Index Page Email Shlomoh