Sunday afternoon, we were on the back nine of one of the toughest courses around Lake George, and I was feeling pretty good about my game, shooting two under par with a four stroke lead. I'd had a couple of bad holes. The merry-go-round on 12th hadn't given me much trouble, but the lobster on the 7th ate my ball and the 8th proved that I couldn't hit the broadside of a barn or put it through the barn door either and I wound up taking the course regulation six without putting it in the cup. But I was confident I'd be able to roll this one up the ramparts of the Hoover Dam with just the right spin to drop it on the green in one and I was about to take my swing when Oliver Mannion called out, "What state is that supposed to be?"
"Which state is which?" I asked looking up from Arizona and scanning the holes ahead of us, Kentucky, represented by the post at Churchill Downs, Hawaii and its life-size surfer dude, and the state Oliver was pointing at, which was surrounded by a ragged sculpture of dirty white plaster that more or less looked like a mountain range.
"Alaska," I said.
"Oh. I thought it was some Rocky Mountain state," Oliver said.
"Nope. Alaska. See the polar bear and the igloo and the little oil rig?" Then I couldn't resist. "And that tiny figure of the governor holding a gun and a bible trying to get the polar bear taken off the endangered species list?"
Ho ho! Ha ha! Lance, you're such a card.
The joke went right by the Mannion boys. But, unusually for them when one of my jokes bombs and they're content to just roll their eyes and shake their heads at the old man's goofiness, this time they asked me to explain it.
Of course I welcomed the chance to give them the benefit of my political wisdom, but as soon as I started I caught myself being a little too careful. Mainly, I didn't want to bore them or hold up the game, but I didn't want to have them thinking I was making fun of other people's religious beliefs or that hunters shouldn't have their views represented by the people they've elected to represent them.
I didn't like the sound of the too careful me and opted for blunt.
"She's one of those god-bothering types who think that because they know they're going to heaven they can tell the rest of us how to live here on earth and she wants to let polar bears drown so the oil companies will get richer."
I birdied Arizona and we moved on to the next hole, talking about how Sarah Palin's Climate Change denial conveniently combines her big business friendly faux-libertarianism, her reactionary religiosity, and her love of seeing big critters shot and skinned and their hides worn in the cold weather. I think the boys were paying attention.
I was listening to myself, anyway, and I was making a note that when we got home I'd revise my post from Friday night to add another reason why I thought Sarah Palin was a pretty good bit of stunt casting as McCain's running mate, one that should have been obvious to me right from the start but which wasn't because I'm such a East Coast latte-swilling argula-munching god-hating gun-fearing liberal elitist, and I say that with some pride, which is of course part of my problem.
There was a lot of media blather about what a gamble the Maverick and Commander was taking with Palin and wasn't that just like his Mavericky-ness, what a gutsy guy, huh? But it really wasn't the case that McCain was being bold and gusty. The bold and gutsy choice would have been Lieberman because Jumpin' Joe would have pissed off half the Republican establishment and scared the rest. By picking Lieberman he might have been showing that he really was an independent himself. Palin, though, is on the ticket as the result of yet another pander.
Palin is a heroine to Right Wing reactionaries and a saint to the Religious Right, and McCain desperately needs both factions to come out in force this fall.
All the talk about this election being decided by Independents is hot air. It's going to be decided by turn-out. The winner is going to be the one who gets more of his voters to the polls than the other guy. Nevermind all the PUMAs, who aren't all that numerous anyway and may not include as many Democrats as they'd like us to think, McCain is the one with the disaffected base.
Most people do not turn out to vote against candidates. They turn out to vote for them. As much as the Right might hate Barack Obama, John McCain has made it clear over the years that he's not somebody they'd be happy to vote for.
It's funny to watch McCain, who has only been shy about expressing his disdain for these people on the campaign trail and the floor of the Senate, but never aboard the Straight-Talk Express, kowtowing to them, and it's even funnier to watch the pandering backfiring on him.
What's not funny is the realization that while the news about Bristol Palin's making McCain a laughing stock among political junkies and media types who see this as a story showing up the McCain campaign's incompetence it's probably not hurting him at all with the people he was pandering to.
If they're mad at anyone, it's not at McCain and it's sure not at Palin, even though McCain could have saved everybody, including and especially Bristol Palin, from embarrassment if he'd made his choice with more care. No, if they're mad at anybody they're mad at the Media for not respecting Bristol's privacy and at Liberals and Democrats, whom they suspect, with good reason, are sniggering at them for their holier-than-thou hypocrisy and the inadequacies and fallacies of the religious beliefs that are supposed to guide them in the raising of their children.
And, if anything, it's probably made Palin even more of a saint in their eyes.
Aimai, of If I Ran The Zoo, makes this point in a comment over at Lawyers, Guns, and Money: One of the reasons people embrace such an authoritarian and judgmental religion is that they feel that their lives are out of their control. The world as they know it is falling apart around them. Drugs, booze, domestic violence, adultery, divorce, families dissolving---even if they themselves are doing all right at the moment, that's what they are, all right for the moment.
They've seen enough to know, watched enough good people they've admired and loved fall to be worried that the moment won't last very long. One little slip-up on their part, one seemingly easy to forgive demonstration of normal human weakness on the part of someone they depend on, and everything can come crashing down.
Liberals are inclined to see the roots of a lot of the troubles that beset their communities as economic or cultural. Teach the children well in good schools, make sure there are good jobs for them when they graduate, guarantee their children will have be able to see the doctor and the dentist, give daughters the same respect and opportunities and freedoms as are given the sons, and, although none of these problems will just disappear, their corrosive effects upon the community will be much the less because the community itself will be strong enough and smart enough to withstand them and take care of the victims. This seems so obvious to us that it constantly leaves us asking in various ways, What's the matter with Kansas? Why can't they see that their well-being is tied to their communal, economic well-being?
But we're asking this about people who believe that no matter how badly things are going economically or even personally it's everybody's first order of business to get themselves to heaven and that's a job that is up to each individual. An individual's personal salvation is between that individual and God, which makes me wonder why they feel a need to be so public about it. I'll get to that though. Right now it's important to note that they also believe that even the best and strongest-willed individual is a weak and fragile and nearly helpless creature when faced with trials and temptations and the only way anybody can make it through is with God's help.
Getting and staying right with the Lord is a life and death matter.
And they know from personal experience how difficult it is. When they around them they don't see signs of nationwide economic distress or political turmoil or derangement as much as they see individuals who are failing at the very difficult business of personal salvation, who cannot get right with God. And since they are not Puritans of the bleak Jonathan Edwards stripe and do not see us all as sinners in the hands of an angry God but as wayward children a loving father wants to save and bring home, while we're asking what's the matter with Kansas, they're asking what's keeping God away from us here in Kansas? Their answer is some form of "New York" and "Hollywood."
I'm not saying that they don't see an individual failure to be good as having nothing to do with individual depravity, stubbornness, and plain stupidity. They just know that with God's help all of us can be saved, and since they know too many good people who didn't get God's help when they needed it and that God would have helped them and they would have welcomed that help, something or somebody is either getting in God's way or offering what looks like a quicker and more attractive alternative.
They often call this something else the Devil. But sometimes, through the encouragement of bought and paid for preachers, they call it "Liberalism."
One of the things that annoys me about their old-time religion is the way it often seems to make a virtue of vanity. They are vain about their virtuousness. For people who claim to believe in a Savior who preached against praying in public they do what strikes me as an awful lot of it. All their boastful testifying and bragging about being born-again and asking me if I'm saved, with that infuriating smile that implies they know they are but they're highly doubtful about me and no matter what answer I'm going to give I'm going to confirm they were right to doubt it. They are the Pharisees showing off before God at the front of the temple, as far as I'm concerned, congratulating themselves on what's really the very bare minimum of decent behavior.
But I keep forgetting how weak they feel, how incompetent, how close to failure and disaster. What sounds to me like bragging is cheerleading for a team that's way behind in the fourth quarter. They are trying to keep their strength and their spirits up. They need each other's example to inspire themselves to keep plugging away. Sarah Palin's story is her testimony. They hear it and they say, If she can do it, I can do it. This is one of the things Barack Obama was attempting to do in his acceptance speech, testify. The trouble is that as heard by Right Wing Christians he seemed to be putting government where God ought to be in his plans for change. Which makes him dangerous.
Another thing about their fire and brimstone preaching that annoys me---infuriates me, actually---is that they are reserving the fire and brimstone for others. They seem to assume all virtue belongs to themselves, that nobody but but them has ever led a good and righteous life. The canonization of Sarah Palin because she didn't have an abortion when she knew her baby would be born with Down Syndrome, as if no one but someone as right with God would have done the same, especially makes me spitting-nails mad.
To get more help from Aimai, this time writing in a post at If I Ran The Zoo:
Despite right wing propaganda abortion isn't a sacrament in the liberal church. There are plenty of pro-choice women and men who have chosen to give birth to, and care for, children who were "not perfect." Not only that, but there are, as I pointed out over at LGM, literally thousands of gays and lesbians, liberal single dads and moms, who have gone out of their way to adopt or foster children with developmental or social difficulties of all kinds. Not only do liberals, gays, and lesbians value the lives of their own biological children, they actually have proven again and again that they value and even exalt, protect and love the lives that other members of this majority christian society have thrown away in the foster care system.
Makes me want to buy ten-thousand copies of Michael Berube's book, Life As We Know It, and start crossing the country handing them out on the doorsteps of the mega-churches like a Gideon handing out bibles.
But the fact is that while they believe that a lot of us liberals are actually wicked and evil, committing every sin in the book daily and with glee, they really don't care if we are or aren't. They're perfectly willing to accept that some us are saints in our private lives and even that many of our leaders and politicians are more virtuous than theirs or at least no more stupid, greedy, hypocritical, and ruled by their dicks. But it's irrelevant, because it's our politics that are evil and dangerous: Liberalism, as far as they can tell, leaves out the most important ingredient for any solution to any problem---God. Without God in the mix everything is doomed to failure. Telling them that liberal policies will make their lives better and showing them proof is a temptation.
It's the Devil talking, for isn't it written, What profiteth men or women if they gain jobs in Kansas but loseth their souls in the process?
End of Part One. Part Two is here.