Friday, August 22, 2008

Rightwing Ideology: The Other Bioterrorism

In their comments on "Why Would Any Genuine American Ever be a Rightwinger?" both AvenueFog and Morning Angel offered interesting observations. AvenueFog suggests that it comes down to perceptions of right and wrong. Morning Angel suggests that the answer lies in my post of June 17, "Should This Man be Our Next President?" I agree with both, but after having closely followed the rise of the Far Right in the US since the mid 80s, I see perceptions of right and wrong as only a small part of the story.

In earlier posts this week, I've offered some working definitions of "conservative" and "Rightwinger," and laid out the twin absurdities in the doctrine of "original intent"--i.e., that what the founders "believed" is knowable and matters. Read these if you haven't, because they will help make the following a little clearer.

Because we've undergone nearly 40 years of relentless on-message propaganda designed to discredit the great Liberal ideals on which the country was founded (fact, not opinion. See American Revolution, French Revolution, Enlightenment, etc.), and because W has directly attacked the Constitution many times and many ways in the last 7+ years, I say the Far Right isn't about moral positions. I say that the Far Right is the enemy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights themselves.

What the Far Right so dislikes is the fact that our Constitution explicitly empowers judges to correct legislative excesses and to interpret the meaning of the Constitution for each era. This Far Right's antipathy to constitutionally mandated judicial review is behind Bush's claim to a "unitary presidency" and behind the special pleading in that favorite conservative epithet, "activist judges" (special pleading means reserving for one's side that which one will not grant to the other. E.g., in the formula "only liberal judges are activist. Rightwing judges are never activist," highminded purity and adherence to the mythical "founders' intent" are characteristics of Rightwing judges alone.)

Why the antipathy? Because in the latter part of the last century, US Supreme Court judges have interpreted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in favor of minorities' claims to equality; women's claims to autonomy and free will; and the priority of the common good over the rights of the individual (as in environmental protection and gun control rulings). Liberals and progressives see these interpretations as the slow but steady march toward universal human rights. Conservatives and Rightwingers see them as full frontal assaults on white male supremacy and on the primacy of material possessions: property ownership.

Gay marriage, for instance, is a question of the constitutional meaning of equality--equal rights, equal protection under the law--a question of morality based on biblical interpretation, and a phenomenon inseparable from gender relations. Though they might not be consciously aware of it, Rightwing foes of gay marriage sense correctly that it destabilizes male supremacy. Let me repeat. It doesn't destabilize egalitarian heterosexual marriage. It does destabilize ideals of male supremacy and therefore those heterosexual marriages that reinforce male supremacy (not all do). How? Because homosexuality inherently demonstrates the fallacy of immutable social roles based on biological sex, it undermines doctrines of male supremacy and female inferiority simply because it exists.

Similarly, questions of the morality of homosexuality exist ONLY within a religious context. Therefore, legislative and judicial findings of the equality of LGBTQ persons to heterosexuals will inherently run afoul of fundamentalist belief. When they do, the Constitution itself guarantees advocates of LGBTQ equality of person, equal protection under the law, and the right to be free of somebody else's religious dogma. Unless Rightwingers can replace 230+ years of legal tradition with nonsense about "original intent" and "judicial activism," there will be legalized gay marriage. It's just a question of time. Ergo, gay marriage (equality for LGBTQ persons, actually) is among its top priority issues.

What I'm saying is that Rightwingers are fundamentally opposed to universal equality. That's not to say that some aren't also sincere religious fundamentalists whose objections are "faith based." It's to say that there's no daylight between fundamentalist religion and secular fundamental belief in white male supremacy. They are of a piece. Show me a form of religious fundamentalism that isn't profoundly sexist and racist, and I'll modify my views. Until then, I rest my case.

This thumbnail sketch of what I see as the nature of the division in America (actually, it's in many ways a global division, too) ought to suggest that the Far Right is not interested in compromise or bipartisanship. It isn't. As arch-winger Grover Norquist famously remarked (it's interesting that he chose a violent sexual metaphor) "Bipartisanship is another name for date rape." (An aside: That we are in a mortal war about sex privilege is underscored when the Far Right attempts to smear its opponents with questions about their masculinity or heterosexuality. If you doubt it, linger awhile on the Free Republic website and pay attention to the language. Or listen to John McCain's "jokes." (Follow the rhetoric, find the target.)

The only things that stand in the way of US Rightwingers intent on imposing their social, political, and economic doctrines are the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That is why I do not believe Rightwing ideology can ever be consistent with the ideals that make America uniquely America. Our nation was born out of and is forever grounded in the great Liberal ideals, making who we are anathema to the Far Right.

Unfortunately for us, Bush 43 has inflicted a series of grave wounds to both (separation of church and state, equality, balance of powers, consent of the governed, privacy, etc.). Harsh and demonizing Rightwing propaganda since the 1970s(and Rightwing media control, of course) has muddied the water for a goodly number of Americans.

We're dealing with the breakdown of an ancient, heavily layered problem formed of a mix of secular and religious socio-cultural ideas better suited to a time when male physical power made all the difference between a village's life or death. When that's no longer the case, anxieties about role and meaning can and do amplify to the point of hysteria. (See The Chalice and the Blade for a more nuanced version of this analysis.)

One thing is clear: One way to deal with anxiety of crisis proportions is through sumbolism and surrogates: domestic terrorism (illegal detentions and spying), permanent predatory wars of domination, "legitimized" torture, and money, sex, idealized violence (extreme fighting), rapacious environmental practices, and WMD as avatars: the economic, social, and foreign relations ideologies of the Far Right. They're the other bioterrorism.

Scary, isn't it?

Get busy. The US Supreme Court is on the line in this election, and as it goes, so goes the nation.


Morning Angel said...

"The only things that stand in the way of US Rightwingers intent on imposing their social, political, and economic doctrines are the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."

It's true.
Great post, as usual. Thank you for taking the time to make the statement.