March 07, 2003

Dubya and Religion, Again! O.K.,

Dubya and Religion, Again!

O.K., I'll admit, I winced a bit last night during certain portions of Dubya's press conference. Specifically, when he discussed how much praying he was up to. Not, as the American Scene effectively points out, because he comes off as some crazy Ayatollah hell bent on a Crusade in Mesopotamia. But rather, because so may Euro-observers are persuaded that we have a radical theocrat running amok in the White House. I've tried to debunk this notion repeatedly in this blog from the very beginning (see archives for Jan 27 and subsequently with some frequency). Yet, despite the innate speciousness of that depiction of Dubya's makeup and motivations, perceptions do matter. The President's handlers therefore need to steer him away from the religious theme whenever possible. Too often now, we are treated to analyses like this one in the pages of Le Monde, where Dubya is annointed "God's President on Earth" Matthew Yglesias puts it well when he says Dubya would have been better off saying something like this:

"As you know I'm a man of faith, and in these difficult times prayer and faith help sustain me. If it comes to war I will pray for the lives of America's men and women in uniform as well as for the lives of the Iraqi people. But my decision will be based on the intelligence reports I'm receiving, on the words of my advisors, on the opinions of the other leaders of the democratic world, and of my responsibilities under the US constitution. The people of the world need to understand that this conflict is not about religious disagreement. It's about protecting the people of the world Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist and agnostic; American, Arab, and European from the deadly threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of rogue regimes."

The trouble is, he too often says stuff like this instead, as he did last night:

"One of the things we love in America is freedom. If I may, I'd like to remind you what I said at the State of the Union: liberty is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to each and every person. And that's what I believe. I believe that when we see totalitarianism, that we must deal with it."

Or: "My faith sustains me because I pray daily. I pray for guidance and wisdom and strength. If we were to commit our troops -- if we were to commit our troops -- I would pray for their safety, and I would pray for the safety of innocent Iraqi lives, as well.
One thing that's really great about our country, April, is there are thousands of people who pray for me that I'll never see and be able to thank. But it's a humbling experience to think that people I will never have met have lifted me and my family up in prayer. And for that I'm grateful. That's -- it's been -- it's been a comforting feeling to know that is true. I pray for peace, April. I pray for peace."

Nothing objectionable with the second quote. Many relatively secularist leaders throughout history have prayed for guidance and solace during times of peril. The second quote, which I've already discussed in the context of the State of the Union, I'm a tad more discomforted with this go around. It still runs contra Harold Pinter's mad ravings of an American God hell-bent on bombing innocent Iraqi kids.

And yet, he expanded a bit from his SOTU version, didn't he? Sure, God's gift to each and every person might be construed as liberty (or servitude, for neo-Marxists, who are humans too!). But Dubya goes on to say directly thereafter that "I believe that when we see totalitarianism, that we must deal with it." "We" here, is of course the U.S. And, in his construction, totalitarianism is the opposite of God's gift of freedom. So we, ie. the U.S., must "deal with" the forces of anti-freedom disallowing God's gift from taking root on the Tigris.

Of course, it's really about unseating a neo-Stalinist thug armed with WMD to his teeth who has killed hundreds of thousands. It's not about some religious struggle. But it all sounds a bit too crusade-y, doesn't it?

Let's just focus on the weapons of mass destruction, I say. The religious arguments give too much ammo to the Baudrillard crowd, whom are all too ready, in grotesquely relatavistic fashion, to compare Dubya to Osama.

Posted by Gregory at March 7, 2003 11:16 PM
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