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Paula Gordon

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Domination as Politics

Posted: 09/03/2012 4:52 pm

Fundamentalists have three traits: rigidity, domination and exclusion.* Fundamentalist are not necessarily religious**. They may be economic fundamentalists or political fundamentalist or educational fundamentalist or business fundamentalists or, oddly, science fundamentalists. The list is as long as human perversity is great. Fundamentalists' rigidity and exclusiveness forecloses change, so evolution is not a plausible idea to them as they have never changed or, more precisely, experienced change. As Republican nominee Romney said, "I think I can get America back from those that (sic) want to change this country."

The domination trait ultimately relies on brute force. So discussions about "legitimate rape" are discussions about domination, specifically the domination of women. In Republican doublespeak, "legitimate rape," apparently refers to what non-fundamentalists consider illegitimate, or illegal, rape. Rape is legitimate (i.e., illegal) if there is no baby and, presumably, illegitimate (i.e., legal) if the rape results in a child. Brute force, domination, is OK if we like the results. I couldn't make this up.

They've also managed to introduce the notion of "legitimate rape" as if there is such a thing. There isn't ... but there was: feudal lords and American slave-masters had de facto and, frequently, de jure right to apply brute force as they saw fit. Domination.

Candidate Romney, master of the Wall Street takeover, knows a great deal about domination. He's made a career of it: take over companies, then overburden them with so much debt that many bankrupt, leaving others to pay the price while Romney and his Bain colleagues raked in millions. Classmates' stories of the young Romney as a bully and sometime bogus policeman are consistent with a dominating character.

Look behind the curtain of the extremist SCOTUS-sponsored SuperPACs funded by individuals and corporations (Citizens United's "people") and you'll find ruthless domination financed by and rewarded by massive tax avoidance strategies. This domination fits perfectly with candidate Ryan's drive to eviscerate Medicare which will, inevitably, enrich the rich at the expense of great numbers of the rest of us. Had George W. Bush been successful with his version of the perennial Republican effort to privatize Social Security, two generations would have had their retirement savings eviscerated in the 2008 financial collapse. What then? Would Bain Capital have filled the yawning fiscal gap?

And how can one avoid the idea of domination when listening to Candidate Ryan's appalling glibness in trivializing rape as a "method of conception"? Romney's kaleidoscopic shades of anti-abortionism make it easy for Ryan to be confident of a good fit, at least once a day.

Remember, Ryan is in perfect harmony with the Republican Party platform where a woman's right to self-determination is denied, with the right wing of the Catholic hierarchy and with his political ally Todd Akin, whom Ryan regularly collaborates with in Congress. If one can get past Akin's horrifying "legitimate rape" comment, there's an additional, little-noted insult to contemplate. The raped woman is completely absent in the conclusion to Akin's now-infamous incantation, "... I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child." Dominated into a silenced invisibility.

Religion matters. That's why religion is constitutionally separated from governance. No one religion** has a corner on rigidity, domination and exclusion. So while both Romney's and Ryan's religious preferences may not on the surface look fundamentalist, their belief systems** share important elements when it comes to domination. Romney is a Mormon and Ryan is a Roman Catholic. Sure, all religious institutions go to great lengths to be the dominant influence in the lives of their adherents. But both of these hierarchical institutions have too frequently allowed men to dominate and subjugate women .. and others.

Domination is a temptation for all humans. It's especially tantalizing for those who fear they're losing their grip on power and wealth. But domination is not inevitable. We do have -- and make -- choices. America at least has the cultural experience of having rejected British domination, and we continue to strive to overcome our cultural addiction to white supremacy and its own brutal forms of domination. That said, it's important to hold tight to the fact that over the centuries, the U.S. federal government really has forged ahead, setting limits on who can do what to whom (black people, gay people, women, Catholics, children ... ).

So let me lighten up the dark scene above. Citizens -- real ones, not the corporate impostors -- across the United States defied the odds in 2008 and elected a president who has not rejected our revolutionary distaste for domination. Á propos of the above, President Obama not only set the record straight with "Rape is RAPE." He also insisted that health care reform include women's access to contraception. It was a courageous stand on behalf of women's religious freedom (as George Lakey and Elisabeth Wehling spell out.) And it is noteworthy that our president stood strongly for women's rights in the face of virulent opposition from powerful male religious authorities intent on dominating women's sexual health care decisions.

In polite society, money is the modern manifestation of brute force. Will the Mitt Romneys and Paul Ryans (along with the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelsons and any number of rich-right-wingers and corpracrats) of the world get away with dominating the election process with money and voter suppression, blanketing us with lies, distortions and propaganda? That depends on what we -- individually and collectively -- do between now and November 6.

Curiously, rigidity, domination, and exclusion effectively preclude the "freedom" which is so much a part of political fundamentalists' hypocrisy. I think I don't trust these guys.

*This is former President Jimmy Carter's articulation in his book Our Endangered Values and in our 2006 conversation with him. A self-proclaimed born-again Christian, he warns of the damage that fundamentalists are inflicting on us.

**In The Religious Case Against Belief, James Carse argues that "belief systems," to which fundamentalists of all types adhere, do not qualify as authentic "religions."

 
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