Former President Jimmy Carter, himself a famously pious Baptist, lets loose on religious fundamentalists in an interview with Der Spiegel—how they won’t admit mistakes; how they won’t negotiate with people who disagree with them; how they dehumanize people with other beliefs; and how Bush & Co. fit that bill perfectly.
Jimmy Carter in Der Spiegel:
Carter: The fundamentalists believe they have a unique relationship with God, and that they and their ideas are God’s ideas and God’s premises on the particular issue. Therefore, by definition since they are speaking for God anyone who disagrees with them is inherently wrong. And the next step is: Those who disagree with them are inherently inferior, and in extreme cases—as is the case with some fundamentalists around the world—it makes your opponents sub-humans, so that their lives are not significant. Another thing is that a fundamentalist can’t bring himself or herself to negotiate with people who disagree with them because the negotiating process itself is an indication of implied equality. And so this administration, for instance, has a policy of just refusing to talk to someone who is in strong disagreement with them—which is also a radical departure from past history. So these are the kinds of things that cause me concern. And, of course, fundamentalists don’t believe they can make mistakes, so when we permit the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, it’s just impossible for a fundamentalist to admit that a mistake was made.
SPIEGEL: So how does this proximity to Christian fundamentalism manifest itself politically?
Carter: Unfortunately, after Sept., there was an outburst in America of intense suffering and patriotism, and the Bush administration was very shrewd and effective in painting anyone who disagreed with the policies as unpatriotic or even traitorous. For three years, I’d say, the major news media in our country were complicit in this subservience to the Bush administration out of fear that they would be accused of being disloyal. I think in the last six months or so some of the media have now begun to be critical. But it’s a long time coming.
Carter: For a while, yes. As you possibly know, historically, our country has had the capability of self-correcting our own mistakes. This applied to slavery in 1865, it applied to legal racial segregation a hundred years later or so. It applied to the Joe McCarthy era when anti-communism was in a fearsome phase in the country like terrorism now. So we have an ability to correct ourselves and I believe that nowadays there is a self-correction taking place. In my opinion the election results in Connecticut (Eds: The primary loss of war supporter Senator Joseph Lieberman) were an indication that Americans realized very clearly that we made a mistake in going into Iraq and staying there too long.