Fundamentalism is fundamentalism. Jidhadi or Teahadi. The rage and fear that is stoked is real, but it is only a by-product, not a popular groundswell of real thought or desire. These demonstrations of dystopian dysfunctionalism are the handiwork of a handful of powerful Oz-like people who hope these images sell their narrow agenda and keep them in power.
The political rage and false populism of Middle East extremists and American fundamentalist groups, from the Tea Party to the Westboro Baptist Church, are equally manufactured.
Author Salman Rushdie, a recent guest on Bill Maher's HBO program "Real Time," was speaking about the bottom line of the recent Arab protests that sprang up after a video about a largely unknown movie made in the United States defaming the Prophet Muhammad went viral.
"One of the things that I think that is important to see when we look at what's going on, is how politically manufactured this rage of Islam is. This isn't some like spontaneous outburst of the people rising up. It's run by politicians and religious leaders for political purposes. So the solution to it is first of all call it by the right name. This isn't about Islam vs. the West. This is Islamic leaders manipulating their own countries to in order to gain greater power in those countries... I agree with the problem, but if you want to look at the solution, the solution is to start calling this politicized manufactured outrage by its true name. Don't react to it as oh we should apologize for this. Just say: Would you just stop winding people up? Would you stop distorting facts. When the head of Hezbollah makes a speech and says that this pathetic video on YouTube was made by U.S. Intelligence, what do you think he's doing?"
Rushdie, in a 2001 New York Times op-ed, "Yes, This Is About Islam" also noted that most of the fundamentalist fervor that al Qaeda whipped up with the 9/11 attacks was not really religious, but more of a culture clash with the West.
"[M]ost religious belief isn't very theological. Most Muslims are not profound Koranic analysts. For a vast number of 'believing' Muslim men, 'Islam' stands, in a jumbled, half-examined way, not only for the fear of God -- the fear more than the love, one suspects -- but also for a cluster of customs, opinions and prejudices that include their dietary practices; the sequestration or near-sequestration of 'their' women; the sermons delivered by their mullahs of choice; a loathing of modern society in general, riddled as it is with music, godlessness and sex; and a more particularized loathing (and fear) of the prospect that their own immediate surroundings could be taken over."
The same is amply true here. What are on trial in this round of elections really are not the economy, or Republican intransigence, or our chasmic budget deficit. We are at a crossroads, with a black president, and a country becoming more majority minority by the day.
That "cluster of customs, opinions and prejudices," most notably those held by the richest of the white aristocracy of this nation, but reinforced by poorer whites who would love to be them, and somehow see affiliation in skin tone, or perhaps choice of church, are very much the political war that has been prosecuted for 2012's election cycle.
The difference between the Mullahs and the Dead Billionaires Club is that the clerics are more direct in their confrontation with progressive life and thought.
The DBC's Kochs and Coors, Mellon-Scaifes and DeVos, wrap their personal agenda and ceaseless covetousness in the American Flag, saturate it with the gasoline of fear of the "other," using code like "Kenyan" and "socialism" and set it ablaze in the media. Tell the "big lie" enough and it can be sold to the fearful with ease.
Steeped in the divine right which they feel that their elevated station in society provides, these elite few feel that they have the ability and a moral imperative to reorganize their respective nations into their world view, steeped in the traditions that perserve their power and wealth. Extremist religious sects in all countries exploit faith and the faithful and pervert the broader message of that faith to their narrow aims.
These 19th century libertarians dress up their American fundamentalism in a red, white, and blue burqa of nationalism.
It is not a true nationalism, though. The dogma of the far right is junk food patriotism. Propagandists poke at joblessness and the debt which they ran up to generate fear, then mock fact and the fact-checkers to keep the faithful from the truth by taking away credibility from the sources as being "the other:" Liberal, socialist, evil.
The airwaves are filled with distortions and misdirections as to what is at stake in the upcoming elections. They are counting on you to be the good consumerist sheeple that you have always been. They are counting on your compliance with the lies you have already ingested:
- Both parties are just as bad, and equally to blame;
- The government can do no good
- The only solution to the debt that the wealthy and powerful racked up is more sacrifice from average Americans
Pot-boiled down, the aims of plutocrats are to increase personal wealth, and remold the rest of America into a more pliable, passive workforce who are compliant consumers.
They use ignorant, dogmatic people to push their agenda. People who will ape whatever they are told. They turn them into a force that causes the rest of the public to shrink back.
In the movies, zombies are cannibalistic carnivores drooling black ooze. In the real world, they carry signs calling Obama a communist, or screaming about "socialism" which they live every day as a positive but hear is "evil."
They graze and "like" memes instead of reading articles and learning more in depth how they are being played.
They lock the doors and cram a little more money under the mattress and hope that the world goes away while they blow away simulated zombies and try to ignore the doubling and tripling of their food and gas bills.
This is not really new. The pull of the extremists has been that way in societies since humans grouped in mass millennia ago. Romans. Russians. Americans. Islamists. The question for any free society that wishes to survive fundamentalist extremism, though, is:
Can you stand up to it?
It doesn't matter whether you're in Tehran or Toledo. Fundamentalism is a cancer on any body politic. It's time for some political chemo. Stand up for real freedom. Stand up against fear and hate and "otherism."
It is the power that billions are being spent to keep you from exercising.
My shiny two.