First, a few quotes:
“The weak are the most treacherous of us all. They come to the strong and drain them. They are bottomless. They are insatiable. They are always parched and always bitter. They are everyone’s concern and like vampires they suck our life’s blood.” – Bette Davis
“You cannot run away from weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?” – Robert Louis Stevenson
“A weak mind is like a microscope, which magnifies trifling things but cannot receive great ones. ” – Lord Chesterfield
“What is bad? All that proceeds from weakness. ” – Friedrich Nietzsche (using this quote despite a general rule that anyone who quotes Nietzsche is an a-hole)
So what’s all this focus on weakness and how does it connect to the GOP? After all, the Republican Party is supposed to be the party of manly men (and mamma bears), strong on defense, strong on the war on drugs, and illegals, and sex, etc., etc. and it constantly attacks the left for its own weaknesses and for encouraging weakness in others through a ‘nanny state’ and the encouragement of a pervasive culture.
The genesis for this post was two issues that have recently received some attention, and as usual, the media, bloggers, pundits, et. al seem to have missed an important point. To wit: the GOP’s hot issues are all based out of an assumption of America’s weakness, not it’s strength. Furthermore, this is a trend that has been growing stronger on the right since 9/11.
To begin with, let’s look at the issues involving the rights of homosexuals. By denying the legal right of marriage to same sex couples, the entire GOP stance is built on “protecting marriage.” That most sacred institution which so many of the GOP leadership has entered into multiple times. That most holy of unions; honored by Americans with a divorce rate, according to some estimates, of 50% percent for first marriages, 67% for second and 74% for third marriages. A societal institution that is so important that, depending on study, it is estimated that 26–50% of men and 21–38% women commit adultery in their lifetime. In this case, I would not look so askance at claims that marriage is such an important institution if it could be shown we actually behaved as if it was a centerpiece of our civilization.
Also, there’s the infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy affecting the GLBT community’s ability to openly serve in our nation’s military. Why is this an issue? A good example of the thinking behind it is referenced in letters like this one. We are told DADT helps “protect” our troops. Evidently we have the finest fighting force the world has ever known, but all that can be put at risk by a small minority of gay soldiers — who knew that gays had superpowers that could defeat an entire army?! I mean obviously countries like Russia, Israel, Germany, and the U.K. that allow homosexuals to serve are going to be pushovers for whoever comes along with the butchest fighting force.
It also strikes me that in both the case of gay marriage and gay military service, the arguments used are eerily similar to those used to justify making interracial marriages illegal and for keep the armed services racially segregated. For all those conservatives out there who want to “roll back the clock” on legal protections of groups, one has to wonder exactly where they want to stop. All in all, it seems that the GOP stance on all the issues surrounding the GLBT community focus on, as usual, fear and ignorance while masquerading as an argument for strength. If the GOP has any faith (they seem big on that, don’t they) in marriage, don’t you think it would make sense that it would be strong enough to stand up to some gays getting married? By seeking to ‘protect’ it — aren’t they really saying it is so weak and anemic that it needs protecting? For our military, which the GOP seems to support as long as said support involves buckets of money going to military contractors, is it really such so enervated that it can’t stand up to allowing gays (who are already in the military by the way) to openly serve? Since when does a lie make anyone or anything ‘strong?’
So, aside from that, what other display of weakness is in major evidence from the right? Most of you have probably guessed where I’m going with this: the ‘Ground Zero Mosque.’ To start out with, let’s get one thing straight — I don’t like Islam. Just like I don’t like Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism, or Scientology. Religion is, and always has been, to me a short-circuiting of our reason and not something I personally choose to engage in. There are many Christians, Jews, and Muslims whom I like personally, and I regard their religious beliefs as a personal quirk, similar to knowing someone who regularly engages in the purchase of lottery tickets. Well, slightly different — I’ve seen people win at the lottery, still waiting to see a pic of one of my friends with the big guy upstairs.
Anyway, I just wanted to make it clear that I’ve got no horse in this race. And honestly, neither does anyone outside of New York City. So why do we all know about it? Because the very effective GOP talking points and their bullshithorn, aka Fox News. We’re all supposed to be mortally offended that Muslims want to built a community center in the rough general vicinity of the World Trade Center. Evidently, Americans are such fragile little daisies that an Islamic community center and place of worship is supposed to painfully remind us of the attacks of September 11, 2001 — despite the fact that the actions of those involved were far more closely tied to their ignorance than their religion.
The GOP — the same party that championed the flying of the Confederate Flag over South Carolina’s State Capitol (and everywhere else it seems) is now saying that to protect the sensibilities of all Americans, we shouldn’t allow Muslims a place of worship near the site of something terrible that happened, but nonetheless something that had nothing to do with Islam.
We might as well forbid those with dark hair or dark eyes from being near there. Or perhaps we should just stop Saudi Arabians from owning or building around the WTC? After all, most of the men who took over that plane were from Saudi Arabia. As it happens, many very expensive buildings are owned by various Saudi Arabian companies all around the WTC neighborhood. Of course, that would prove to be quite embarrassing for Fox News – the man who co-owns News Corp. with Rupert Murdoch is Saudi Arabian Prince Al-Waleed, and he’s not only invested in several properties in the area, he’s also helped fund the causes of the very Imam tied to the community center. I’m sure Fox will come up with a fair and balanced explanation of why this is all okay.
But more importantly, are we a nation of folks who hide? Are we a nation that is afraid to engage in a debate over what it means to be free? We took a shot on the chin nine years ago, but we have over 200 years of doing democracy better than anyone else. Over 200 years of religious freedom. And after many long, hard battles, we mostly have achieved some rough equality of race, creed, and gender. We have more work still to do, not less. The answer to terrorism is not to become terrorists ourselves, but to become even more what the terrorist of the world hate — a land of freedom and opportunity. Because only then can we roll back ignorance, and that ignorance is where our true weakness lies.
It is our ignorance that allows 1 in 5 to believe Obama is a Muslim. It is our ignorance that allows creationism and ‘intelligent design’ to be taught in schools like they had anymmore factual basis than the tooth fairy. It is our ignorance that forces us to treat people who disagree with us as inferior. Just as it was ignorance, not any specific religion, that led a group of cowardly terrorists to crash a plane into a building. It is ignorance that allows a small conniving minority to pull the emotional strings of an undereducated populace and get them to react foolishly under August’s blanket of moist heat.
The GOP would have us believe that with enough border fences, guns, and religious/sexuality/drug police, all will be well. They would have us believe that to stand up and embrace the progressive advancement of knowledge and liberty will lead to moral bankruptcy and a ‘fall from grace.’ But mostly, they play off the message that we all are weak and that our institutions and ourselves need to be protected against corruption — for while they trust the Goldman Sachs of the world to run themselves without government intervention, we who are actual citizens are evidently going to run off and join the Village People once gay marriage is allowed, become stoners with the legalization of marijuana, and we evidently are so weak, we will be offended by a place or worship for no logical reason.
On a personal and societal level, few things bother me more than willful ignorance. An honest mistake in judgment grown out of a lack of experience or knowledge is perfectly understandable, but to be wrong — willfully wrong in the face of evidence is the worst kind of weak cowardice. It means you have seen the truth and turned your back on it. That is where the GOP is today, that is the weakness of their message, and that is where they wish to ‘lead’ the rest of us to.
It truly amazes me how a group of people can claim to be patriotic and love this country and get it all so damn wrong. America is not great because of our military, our immigration controls, or our drug policies. We’re not great because we’re mostly straight, caucasian, or any specific religion. America is great because we truly were conceived in liberty and are dedicated to the idea that we are all equal, and deserving of equal opportunity. That is the strength Americans should embrace.