Friday, November 18, 2005

It's The End Of The World As We Know It, And They Feel Fine

The December issue of Vanity Fair features an article entitled American Rapture, by Craig Unger (frustratingly not online). In the article, excerpted from his forthcoming book, he deals with the rise of "end times" evangelism, with special focus given to how it is affecting politics, including foreign policy. He talks about the blind support that evangelicals have been giving to Israel, support premised on their interpretation of passages from the Book of Revelations stating that in the end times, all nations will turn against Israel, save the righteous. The Israeli government has courted this support, which is a tricky matter, since these same evangelicals believe that at the final moment of Armageddon, the Jews will convert to Jesus (talk about your back-handed compliments).

Unger pays particular attention to the Tim Lehaye "Left Behind" series of novels, an evangelical revenge fantasy where Christians lead a militia-style rebellion against a demonic "one world government" that represents everything about the liberal world they love to hate. In the end, all these "secular humanists" and their pawn-like armies are violently murdered by a serial-killer Jesus who descends in terror from the sky as the ultimate tyrant, to murder anyone who doesn't buy the party line.

It's chilling stuff, especially when LeHaye leads a tour group to Israel, and standing on Megiddo, the group leader describes how the valley below will be filled with blood. Literally. Like, they've calculated it, how many murdered non-believers it will take to make the rivers of Palastine run red. They tell each other these fundamentalist ghost stories with whispered reverence, the same hushed glee that I heard in Sunday School when the "last days" would come up. Like all true believers, Christian fundamentalists want their beliefs justified in blood.

Which got me to thinking. The left too has its share of "true believers"; folks who use the same neural pathways of unquestioning obeisance, who also have a "born again" experience when their eyes are opened to the stations of the liberal cross. I'm not talking about the Communists here, although they of course provide the great example of how "religious" thinking isn't always about god (think of Lenin welcoming news of a famine in Russia with the cold calculation that it would advance the goals of the revolution). Instead, I mean the current, contemporary, growing Left, a loosely defined body amongst which I count myself a member. Because unfortunately, I have also seen some of the same delicious anticipation of destruction on the Left, that is the calling card of the evangelical Right.

Look at the war, for instance. Maybe one of the most lasting consequences of the Iraq War to the United States (the consequences to Iraq are another matter) is the extent to which those who opposed the war are proved right. The problem is that "those who oppose the war" paints a broad brush. It includes everyone from real-politic Republicans put off by its tar-baby potential, to hard-core pacifists who would stare impassively if jackboots marched down their street.

In amongst those who opposed the war there are those who could be described as Left-fundamentalists. These are folks who, in their desperation to be right about the things wrong with America, wish failure upon it. There really are those who want us to lose the war; no they are not Democrats in Congress. But there are true believers who would rather be proved right, no matter the consequence to Americans and Iraqis.

There is only one reason I can see to hope that we lose the war. That's in the belief that by losing, America will be forced, in its newfound humility, to become a better actor on the world stage. I can see the rationale behind this; a kind of liberal "tough love" approach, a belief that there is only one way to learn some lessons, and that's with hard lumps. The problem with this mind set, which I think a lot of the war's fiercest critics hold, is that it basically misunderstands human nature; when defeated, people are not prone to introspection and improvement, but rather, they are prone to discontent, defensiveness, and re-writing their failure to create a painless revisionist history. See Germany, after 1918.

Defeat for America in Iraq could teach us some valuable lessons, such as that you cannot impose democracy, you cannot rule a people that do not wish to be ruled, imperial power is not enough to change hearts and minds, and it's better to lead by example then force. But it's an act of unreasonable optimism to think that these are the lessons we will learn. If we couldn't take such truths with us out of Vietnam, why Iraq? We should have learned in Vietnam the old lesson of colonialism, that no people that wishes not to be ruled can be. Instead, the biggest lie I heard about Vietnam growing up, was that we could have "won" that war if only we had fought it full-throttle; if we hadn't of been hampered by Johnson, the anti-war movement, and other various disloyal Americans, from the Media to the Trilateral Commission to those pussy vets who threw their medals over the White House fence, we would have won that war. I would guess by killing every single Vietnamese, thereby assuring that the putrid red rose of communism never swelled in their breasts. If only we had used the bomb...

This thinking was born in both a fond keening for absolute power in the face of an object lesson in the limits of power and technology, and also an as excuse for dealing with the painful reality of a lost war, America's first. The Right looked at Vietnam and instead of digesting the bitter medicine and allowing the wound to heal, they shirked the psychic truths of that conflict and turned with poison to their fellow citizens, blaming them, instead of accepting the spoiled fruits of their own pride. Who's to say they won't do it again?

No one should rejoice at our failure in Iraq. Losing this war will fuck up this country for a generation. Extremists are people who look on tragedy and see opportunity before they see empathy. Tragedy can however be an object lesson, if understood with the proper heavy heart. I hope dearly that we will learn well the lessons of our failure here, and make America a better, more responsible nation. I hate what this war has done to my loved and native home. But for the death cults on the Right and the Left, waiting for their respective Armageddons, this damage is not to be mourned, but to be embraced, for it takes them one step closer to their final orgiastic denouement, the destruction of everything they hate.

The destruction of the West.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both the Religious Right and the Far Left but ideology above morality.

Facist tendancy do exsist in this society.

12:04 PM  

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