How to celebrate the inauguration: with the outcome of the November 2004 elections, Humanists, progressives, and all who oppose the right-wing extremism of the Bush administration are called to vigorous and decisive action.
Many explanations have been offered as to why the Democrats in 2004 lost the presidential race and lost seats in Congress. But a major factor was Karl Rove, Bush's chief political strategist and one-time Enron major stockholder. He is a no-holds-barred political chess player who has evidenced a willingness to hit below the belt. As reported in the March 9, 2004, issue of the Guardian, while age nineteen in 1970, using a false I.D., Rove entered Democrat Alan Dixon's office and stole letterhead upon which he printed a thousand fliers announcing the opening of the candidate's headquarters and promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing." He distributed these at rock concerts and homeless shelters. Rove has been credited with engaging in political dirty tricks ever since.
One effective Republican strategy was placing amendments to ban same-sex marriage on the ballots in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah. All passed. But of even more importance, all of them mobilized Republican fence sitters to get out and vote. This wasn't exactly the first time in American history that bigotry was used to motivate political action. Nor was it the first time the civil rights of those who wish to be married were denied. The 1935 Nuremberg law forbade Jews to marry Aryans. And it was only in 1967 that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned anti-miscegenation laws in sixteen states that denied blacks and whites the right to marry. Meanwhile, in Florida, Republicans helped propel conservatives to the polls to pass a parental notification amendment to the state constitution, despite the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court in the Baird v. Bellotti cases of 1976 and 1979 gave minors the right to abortion without parental veto.
Another strategy was to paint Bush as the "moral" candidate while assassinating the character, and even the war record, of John Kerry. As former President Bill Clinton told the New York Daily News, as reported on November 6, "the Republicans did a great job of using the 'culture war' to leave the Democratic party demonized--cartoonized as aliens.... If we let people believe that our party doesn't believe in faith and family, doesn't believe in work and freedom, that's our fault."
Beginning in the 1970s the religious right proceeded to invent a positive moral vernacular around such terms as "family values" and "culture of life"--giving their organizations names like the American Family Association, the Center for Moral Clarity, Concerned Women for America, Focus on the Family, and the Traditional Values Coalition--to mask what is actually bigotry and fanaticism. A matching negative moral vernacular was created for the opposition with which abortion rights advocates have been labeled "baby killers" who create a "culture of death," women's rights activists and sex educators labeled "anti-family," GLBT activists tarred as advancing "the gay agenda," and those critical of the administration regarded as "helping the terrorists."
Adolph Hitler's minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, was a master of such "we're good, they're evil" manipulations. He churned out oratories asserting that Germany was the one true, virtuous, moral nation, weaving words like "holy" "eternal" "heaven," "faith," "fate" "miracle." and "blessed" into his exhortations. He even referred to propaganda as a "spiritual weapon."
And he said, "If we can control a nation's media, we won't need armies." One of the big lies propagated by the religious right is that the "liberal media" is persecuting them when, in fact, progressive voices are receding as large corporations buy up print media and the airwaves. Today's leading opinion makers include such radical rightists as Ann Coulter, James Dobson, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O' Reilly, Michael Savage, and Laura Schlessinger. Ole Anthony, president of the Christian-based Trinity Foundation, an organization that monitors religious broadcasting, reports that, beyond these, there are over 500 televangelists and 350 religious television stations that are members of the National Religious Broadcasters Association. There are also 750 radio evangelists on 1,550 religious radio stations. His organization estimates that the total number of television and radio evangelists in the United States is 2,500 with more on the way.
Just trying to keep track of the trends is an overwhelming task. For example, Bill Baird, a Humanist activist for birth control and related causes since the early 1960s, has amassed over 800 file boxes of documentation covering the rise of fundamentalism and conservative Catholicism in the United States. Thus, in January 1973, when asked by the media for his reaction to the Roe v. Wade decision the day after it was handed down, he predicted that the Catholic church and other anti-abortion crusaders would organize to attempt a lawsuit or propose a constitutional amendment to ban abortions. But most activists ignored the warning signs that this would become a major source of cultural and political divisiveness. Years later, in a 1989 New York Times piece, New York City's then director of Planned Parenthood, Al Moran, admitted that, after the Roe decision, "Most of us in the pro-choice community put our feet up and said 'That settles it.'"
Likewise, many progressives were taken by surprise at the outcome of the November elections. They hadn't realized the size, power, and devotion of those mobilized on the other side. Yet people on the religious and political right had been building their grassroots power base, becoming noticeable in 1979 when the Reverend Jerry Falwell established the Moral Majority. Soon the days would be gone when Southern Baptists avoided politics because they believed the end of the world was near and they were citizens of an unearthly kingdom. They began rallying in opposition to the progressive social changes of the 1960s and 1970s. Later, after his failed presidential bid in 1988, the Reverend Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition. Soon Ralph Reed became president of that organization and turned it into a formidable political force for evangelical Protestants. In 1995 Catholics were officially courted by the group to unite in a conservative political agenda.
But throughout this time many dismissed religious conservatives as a largely ineffective, fanatical minority. It was often only Humanists and free-thinkers who challenged conservative religious ideas head on. With too few others involved in the effort, perhaps out of a fear of being labeled religion bashers, the religious right received a kind of carte blanche to propagandize and spread the misinformation and disinformation that has now become lodged in the minds of large portions of the electorate.
Thus the November surprise. As Ralph Reed said prophetically in 1991, "You don't know its over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night." And this sums up the reaction of many. After the 2004 election was over and Republicans were effectively in control of all three branches of government, I received at the Pro-Choice League e-mails and calls from those who were so depressed they couldn't sleep or eat. One woman half jokingly asked if the blue states could start their own country. Some lamented, "It's not our country anymore" A November 11 New York Newsday article disclosed therapists' reports that many patients were bypassing personal issues and "seeking professional help for post-election political despair." And normal traffic on Canada's Office of Immigration website increased sixfold.
Large numbers of progressives and liberals have experienced a sickening revelation. Now it's time to take these emotions and do with them what those on the right did when they became overwhelmed by the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s. It's time to move vigorously into action. Being polite and tolerant of right wing character assassinations has gone on long enough. Humanist voices must be louder and clearer. By the same token, liberal Christians, who haven't been vocal enough in opposition to fundamentalist steamrolling over their beliefs, need to be encouraged to stand and fight, publicly exposing the hypocrisy of those who claim to be following the Prince of Peace while promoting military invasions or who avow universal love while bashing gays and opposing stem cell research. We can be heartened by the fact that 48 out of 100 Americans voted for Kerry, negating the mandate allegations claimed by Bush. So we are further along toward a humanized society today than the religious right was toward their fascistic ideals back in the 1970s.
With all this in mind, then, it's time to act on real moral values. Humanist Manifesto III states, "We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society." The operative word here is "work." Talking about issues and analyzing them is much easier than throwing off the shackles of apathetic numbness. The fear of fighting for rights and a better world needs to be overcome. Toward this end I propose the following strategies for the next two years.
1. Attend the counter-inaugural demonstration January 20 in Washington, D.C.
2. Be willing to hold public demonstrations against politicians and policies you oppose.
3. Use the Christian Coalitions "bubble-up" strategy by running for local positions such as on school boards.
4. Become active in the 2006 Senate race, to prevent Republicans from garnering five more seats, and in your local House race as well.
5. Involve eighteen to twenty-nine year olds who should have turned out in larger numbers in November--it's their future.
6. Become Internet savvy; right wing organizations via e-mails urged millions to vote.
7. Donate or raise money for groups that directly confront the opposition. It's not the size of an organization that counts but rather where funds are directed.
8. Invite effective speakers to lecture or debate in your area. Such events can garner media attention to get our views heard by more people.
9. Call into conservative and progressive talk shows and offer your opinions.
The hour is late and there is much to be done. We can't wait for others to act on our behalf or tell us what to do.
Joni Scott is the co-director of the Pro Choice League, Inc., a nonprofit tax exempt organization where she and Bill Baird lecture on these issues. She is also completing Baird's biography. Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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|Date:||Jan 1, 2005|
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