Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bringing Up the F-word

It's hard to talk about the threat of fascism without sounding like an alarmist crank. But more and more, the F word is showing up. Robin Meyers used it last year in Why the Christian Right is Wrong. Kevin Phillips, a one-time Nixon speech writer is also concerned with "proto-fascist" tendencies in the Christian Right. Local journalist David Neiwert tracks developments on the extreme right on his excellent Orcinus blog. Chris Hedges, the distinguished war correspondent with an M.Div. from Harvard has a scary book out, and then there's the new book on the Blackwater Security forces to keep you up nights as well.

And that's just what comes up on the Real Change site.

Reinhold Niebuhr's The Children of Light and The Children of Darkness, published in 1944, is a discussion of democratic theory that expands on many of the ideas first published in 1936 in the landmark Moral Man, Immoral Society. The book examines what was the key question of the time: how did this happen?

It's a question that almost always gets asked too late. Niebuhr described the blindness of liberals to what in hindsight is often all too obvious in a passage that is as relevant today as it was 63 years ago.
According the the scripture, "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." This observation fits the modern situation. Our democratic civilization has been built, not by children of darkness but by foolish children of light. It has been under attack by the children of darkness, by the moral cynics, who declare that a strong nation need acknowledge no law beyond its strength. It has come close to complete disaster under this attack, not because it accepted the same creed as the cynics, but because it underestimated the power of self-interest, both individual and collective, in modern society. The children of light have not been as wise as the children of darkness.

The children of darkness are evil because they know no law beyond the self. They are wise, though evil, because they understand the power of self-interest. The children of light are virtuous because they have some conception of a higher law than their own will. They are usually foolish because they do not know the power of self-will. ... Modern democratic civilization is, in short, sentimental rather than cynical. It has a ... fatuous and superficial view of man. It does not know that the same man who is ostensibly devoted to "the common good" may have desires and ambitions, hopes and fears, which set him at variance with his neighbor.

It must be understood that the children of light are foolish not merely because the underestimate the power of self-interest among the children of darkness. They underestimate this power among themselves. The democratic world came so close to disaster not merely because it never believed that Nazism possessed the demonic fury which it avowed. Civilization refused to recognize the power of class interest in its own communities.

My friend Rev. Rich Lang at Trinity United Methodist Church in Ballard has called an Emergency Meeting at his church for August 1, at 7 pm. I'm going. Rev. Lang has been concerned with the growing signs around us for some time, but a recent Executive Order signed by the President has him particularly concerned. His column from today's Real Change is reproduced below.
We are in a grave constitutional crisis with a President who seemingly wants to be a king, and a Congress unable and unwilling to oppose him. This administration is building, plank by plank, the framework for military dictatorship. Already in place is a global governing philosophy that uses the military as muscle for invading other nations for the purpose of social engineering and massive corporate profits. The Defense Authorization Act of 2006 empowers the President to impose martial law in the event of a terrorist incident. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2007 permits the President to command National Guard troops without the consent of state governors. The National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive gives the President dictatorial powers in the event of a “catastrophic incident.” The Military Commissions Act suspends the right of habeas corpus. This short list doesn’t include widespread wiretapping of citizens, construction of concentration camps, private armies, an ever-expanding military budget, increased government secrecy, non-cooperation with Congress, and the inevitable bankrupting of domestic budgets. And, now, the latest grab for power has the Executive announcing that “our property” can be seized for dissent against the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

We are in a very grave constitutional crisis, folks. I encourage every one of you to make a noise in the offices of Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and your congressional representatives. Silence is the death of democracy.

But I think we also need to begin the process of organizing some form of resistance, protest, and/or strategy for impeachment. Our politicians are fiddling while democracy burns. Feeding from common corporate money sources, they are no longer worthy of our trust. Indeed, they have betrayed us.

For example, almost daily some media figure or political operative drops a hint that our country might be hit again by the terrorists. Ask yourself: In the event of another catastrophic occurrence, can you trust this government to stay true to the idealism of democracy, and the laws of limited checks and balances of power, encoded in the Constitution? Can you trust Congress to represent the people?

I certainly cannot. We are, I repeat, in a grave, surreal even, constitutional crisis. We are dealing with a spirituality of tyranny, an unleashing of ruthless, arrogant power that corrupts all it touches.

It’s time to get angry and cast out this unclean spirit from our land. Such a statement can now get me arrested, disappeared, and stripped of all assets. Is this America? Is this the country in which we have been raised? And how long, friend, until you yourself awaken only to discover that there is now a knock on your door?

I call upon all who care to assemble at Trinity United Methodist Church, on Aug. 1 at 7 p.m. There we will begin to strategize how to reclaim the power of the people, the birthright we share from our heritage of democracy.

Knock. Knock.


Anonymous said...

To little to late...the real culprit are the critics of the right who wait what 7 years to start thinking about meetings to protest! And the call is to write to Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell!? Please tell me that their is more teeth than that in the movement.

Anonymous said...

To BEGIN to strategize? Come on -- after the first Bush enthronement, people were angry and amazed and did nothing. After the second Bush enthronment, people were forming groups to discuss and "strategize" and did nothing. We're now in an election season for 2008. No Congressperson will be interested in getting themselves mired in an impeachment process (which is only a TRIAL, not a sentence), because many of them will be running for their own offices or running for President. Progressives/liberals were asleep at the wheel and we are now living with the consequences. We'd better not be asleep in 2008; those of us who decide to vote for Nader or some other spoiler who is more "pure" than the Democrat should think very hard about that. Until then, hammer your elected representatives as much as you can, but don't expect a revolution now. And don't think quoting liberal Christian theologians--or ANY theologians--will have any practical impact. We all know where we are, and we know how we got there. It's been a long journey and all along the way, we were reading books of warning, past and present (there must have been 50 books published in the last 6 years about "imperial theology", etc.). No more talk; work for a Democrat. Spend your time in more blather and you're going to get another Republican. It's as simple and as crass and as unglamorous and un-revolutionary as that.

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