Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ode to Joy

The problem not only with fundamentalist Christians but with Republicans in general is not that they act on blind faith, without thinking. The problem is that they are incorrigible doubters with an insatiable appetite for Evidence. What they get off on is not Believing, but in having their beliefs tested. That's why their conversations and their media are so completely dominated by implacable bogeymen: marrying gays, liberals, the ACLU, Sean Penn, Europeans and so on. Their faith both in God and in their political convictions is too weak to survive without an unceasing string of real and imaginary confrontations with those people -- and for those confrontations, they are constantly assembling evidence and facts to make their case.

But here's the twist. They are not looking for facts with which to defeat opponents. They are looking for facts that ensure them an ever-expanding roster of opponents. They can be correct facts, incorrect facts, irrelevant facts, it doesn't matter. The point is not to win the argument, the point is to make sure the argument never stops. Permanent war isn't a policy imposed from above; it's an emotional imperative that rises from the bottom. In a way, it actually helps if the fact is dubious or untrue (like the Swift-boat business), because that guarantees an argument. You're arguing the particulars, where you're right, while they're arguing the underlying generalities, where they are.

Once you grasp this fact, you're a long way to understanding what the Hannitys and Limbaughs figured out long ago: These people will swallow anything you feed them, so long as it leaves them with a demon to wrestle with in their dreams.

- Matt Taibbi

I thought of that passage while reading this. I'm not sure I agree with Taibbi that the personality type in question doesn't want to be free from doubt; I suspect they may just be too stupid to realize that their own neuroses and lack of intellectual integrity are what prevent them from achieving a relaxed peace with insecurity and uncertainty. It's not that radical of a concept to recognize: it's much easier to blame the entire rest of the world for your unhappiness than to take a close look at yourself.

At any rate, Williamson's screed is an impressively compact example of the genre, in terms of pounds of bullshit per square inch of blog post. We've got the nonexistent War on Christmas, the obligatory ACLU-takin'-away-mah-freedom trope, and the whinging about secular, cosmopolitan elitists from someone who would never dream of leaving the big city to practice what they preach and move to East Bumblefuck, Alabama, where they could marinate in Real Myrrhkinism all the live-long day.

As George Carlin famously said, the only good thing to come out of religion was the music. I love a lot of choral music myself, even though, to paraphrase Zarathustra, I want to meet the man more godless than I so that I may delight in his instruction. I have yet to encounter a fellow atheist who would bother to make a scene, especially at a party or as a guest at someone else's house, over having to listen to Christmas carols or J.S. Bach, but I have indeed known people who base their Christmas shopping around which big-box stores greet you with "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays", or who make sure to underline the "Christ" in the cards they send to you, knowing full well you don't share their beliefs.

Obviously, it's no shock that people who would turn a time of year devoted to good cheer in myriad forms into a partisan pissing match are miserable fucks all year-round. My wingnut relatives are the type of people to politicize absolutely everything, from food to sports to vehicles to lifestyle choices, even though the topic does nothing but provoke them into railing bitterly about enemies real and imagined. Sometimes I feel bad for people who don't have the self-awareness to stop furiously obsessing over topics that only make them even more discontented, who simply don't know what to do with themselves if they're not picking a fight they can never win. Other times, though, life's too short and there's too many good things to enjoy.

Screwed-up people everywhere
But I ain't got time to care!
I feel lovely

- Suicidal Tendencies