Crestiens ont droit, et paiens ont tort
Fate has landed me, of late, in circumstances where I have to drive around a fair amount. Not my usual way of life, but illuminating in a grisly sort of way -- I'm now full of admiration for ordinary flyover Americans because they're even as sane as they are; a lifetime of driving as much as the average American drives would have had me in a straitjacket decades ago.
Part of the horror of it is... the radio. If you can get one of the real old-fashioned Bible-thumpers, they're terrific and fascinating, but they've actually become pretty scarce. There are a lot of angry bores spouting off, about politics or sports; there are a lot of stations playing slight variations on the same current music, which usually leaves me regrettably cold; there are a few "classical" stations playing, as far as I can tell, mostly Vivaldi (the horror!). And then, of course, there's NPR.
I blush to admit that it's usually NPR I end up listening to. I know, I know, you're going to say I've gone soft in the head, and you're probably right. I guess it's a kind of media lesser-evillism. But when they've got you in the back room, under the bright lights, and they bring out the rubber hoses -- and that's life in Media America, folks -- you can't be blamed too much for seeking out something relatively anodyne. Can you? Can you? Throw me a friggin' bone here, as Dr Evil says.
Anyway. All this by way of prooemium. I was listening to NPR in the car this evening and they were interviewing some suspiciously understated Baptist preacher in Iowa (that is the place where they have the caucuses, right? Or is that Kansas?). The interviewer circled and circled again, in a narrowing gyre, and finally clenched her talons and fell like a bolt upon the all-important, world-historical Fetus Question. "Just how important is that to your congregants, Pastor?"
Pastor: "Well, it's pretty important. It's kind of a make-or-break issue."
Interviewer: "So suppose next fall there's a pro-choice candidate on both tickets. What would those... that is, your... I mean, erm, Christians do?"
Long pause. Long pause.
Interviewer [in tones of horror]: "Would they... just... not vote?"
Pastor: "Well, now, y'know, it's... Some of 'em might not." [Eager, earnest] "I mean, I personally think that's wrong, a serious mistake, and I would never, never advise that... But some of 'em might not."
Interviewer [with the satisfaction of a Dante, having just revealed to us the horrors of the Pit]: "Thank you, Pastor Frammistat."
Pastor: [His fifteen seconds of fame are over; heartfelt] "Thank you!"
Now here's my question. How many pwogs are there out there to whom the Iraq war is as important as the holy fetus is to Pastor Frammistat's fold? How many bold, emancipated, enlightened, highly-educated, deeply-unsuperstitious Darwin admirers are there who are willing to go as far for what they say they believe as Pastor Frammistat's poor benighted God-fearing fetus-worshipping pew-sitters -- so far as to, gasp, stay home on Election Day?
If my own acquaintance is any guide, the answer is, not very many. Pastor F's flock have planted their standard on ground that seems ill-chosen to me -- the sanctity of the fetus, the horror of same-sex sex -- but damn if they haven't planted it. These are the things they really believe in, and if they can't advance their cause at the voting booth, then the hell with the voting booth -- they'll go elsewhere.
They make me rather ashamed of my own supposed fellow-travellers, the good-hearted, peace-loving, high-minded, secular-humanist, children of the Enlightenment, and of the New Deal, and of Marlo Thomas. Where is their standard planted? Alas, I fear if you look at their actions, you will find it is firmly planted in existing institutions -- the voting booth, the two-party system, the electoral college, oh and don't forget... the Supreme Court.
There are a lot of reasons why the flat-earthers and the fetus-worshippers get more respect than the give-peace-a-chance crowd. I don't want to oversimplify here -- or undersimplify either, if it comes to that. But surely one reason that the former swing more weight than the latter is, that they really mean what they say?