So what is this? We have the leaders of the mightiest country in the world believing, or pretending to believe, that they, their party, their political base, and their country are under siege from groups of people who look, objectively, like powerless minorities.
In modern times anyway, when political parties or leaders want to consolidate absolute power they usually try to inflame fear and rage towards people painted as radically Other even while building a secret police and internal spy apparatus to keep track of enemies of the state. It helps if the designated Others do not have a lot of political clout.
Obviously we haven't reached the customary next stage in the process, where there is a coup and the enemies of the state are, well, "neutralized," as Karl Rove might say. But are the Republicans building the foundation for it in this country today? I wish I could say that's absurd. Right before our eyes, we see them setting up a spy and police organization as part of their permanent war, which is almost completely exempt from ordinary legal checks, and which seems to have lost any focus on the followers of Osama Bin Laden. I think it was John Ashcroft who mentioned that he expected the War on Terror to last 50 years. He could just as easily have said forever.
And now we have the truly astonishing spectacle the leaders of the party in power making a pilgrimage to Louisville to join with the Christian Taliban in a nationally televised rage-fest directed at liberals, homosexuals, an already subservient media, and--significantly, I think--judges.
It could be--I am actually an optimist at heart--that the rage is because of their declining poll numbers, and they see that the power which they thought would be theirs indefinitely, might slip away from them. In a democracy it can happen.
Although I believe in separation of church and state, and am a practicing Buddhist, I think it might be a good idea to say to say to the Republicans "fine, let's put the Ten Commandments on the White House lawn like you guys want"--but on the condition that we have a series of nationally televised discussions about what they mean and how they apply to our politics.
Have you read them, lately? It doesn't take a deep understanding of religion to see that the First Commandment could be taken to be less than friendly to Republican aspirations. And there is a prohibition against serving and bowing down to graven images. Can put your hand over your heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or salute the flag, and still keep the First Commandment?
Keep the Sabbath? Keep it holy? George Bush's campaign contributors at Walmart and Home Depot might want to de-emphasize that.
Honor your parents? and steal their social security? How does that work?
Thou shalt not kill? How about Iraq? Death row? Now this one could really be a very useful national discussion, and one hard to restrict to abortion and Terry Schiavo.
Bearing false witness? That would bring up the swept-under-the-rug matter of the missing WMDs, would it not?
Thou shalt not steal? Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff, whaddaya say to that?
There are some other commandments, but those would do for starters.