Mar 10, 2014
The Scorched-Earth Politics of America’s Four Fundamentalisms
Posted on Mar 7, 2012
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout
The second fundamentalism is seen in a religious fervor embraced by a Republican Party that not only serves up creationism instead of science, but substitutes unthinking faith for critical reason and intolerance for a concern with and openness toward others. This is a deeply disturbing trend in which the line between the state and religion is being erased as radical Christians and evangelicals embrace and impose a moralism on Americans that is largely bigoted, patriarchal, uncritical and insensitive to real social problems such as poverty, racism, the crisis in health care and the increasing impoverishment of America’s children. Instead of addressing these problems, a flock of dangerous and powerful religious fanatics, who have enormous political clout, are waging a campaign to ban same-sex marriages, undermine scientific knowledge, eliminate important research initiatives such as those involving embryonic stem cells, deny the human destruction of the ecological system, overturn Roe v. Wade and ban contraceptives for women. This Taliban-like moralism now boldly translates into everyday cultural practices and political policies as right-wing evangelicals live out their messianic view of the world. For instance, in the last decade, conservative pharmacists have refused to fill prescriptions for religious reasons. Mixing medicine, politics and religion means that some women are being denied birth control pills or any other product designed to prevent conception; sex education in some cases has been limited to “abstinence only” programs inspired by faith-based institutions; and scientific research challenging these approaches has disappeared from government web sites. But the much-exalted religious fundamentalism touted by fanatics such as Santorum and many of his Tea Party followers does more than promote a disdain for critical thought and reinforce retrograde forms of homophobia and patriarchy. It also inspires a wave of criticism and censorship against all but the most sanitized facets of popular culture. Remember the moral outrage of the religious right over the allegedly homoerotic representations attributed to the animated cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. There was also the conservative Texas lawmaker who jumped onto the moral bandwagon by introducing a bill that would put an end to “sexually suggestive” performances by cheerleaders at sports events and other extracurricular competitions.
The third, related anti-democratic dogma is a virulent form of anti-intellectualism visible in the relentless attempt on the part of the Obama administration and his Republican Party allies to destroy critical education as a foundation for an engaged citizenry and a vibrant democracy. The attack on all levels of education is evident in the attempts to corporatize education, standardize curricula, privatize public schooling and use the language of business as a model for governance. It is equally evident in the ongoing effort to weaken the autonomy of higher education, undercut the power of faculty and turn full-time academic jobs into contractual labor. Public schools are increasingly reduced to training grounds and modeled after prisons—with an emphasis on criminalizing student behavior and prioritizing security over critical learning. Across the board, educators are now viewed largely as deskilled technicians, depoliticized professionals, paramilitary forces, hawkers for corporate goods or money and grant chasers.
The fourth anti-democratic dogma that is shaping American life and one of the most disturbing, is the ongoing militarization of public life. Americans are not only obsessed with military power, “it has become central to our national identity.” What other explanation can there be for the fact that the United States has over 725 official military bases outside the country and 969 at home? Or that it spends more on “defense” than all the rest of the world put together? As Tony Judt states emphatically, “this country is obsessed with war: rumors of war, images of war, ‘preemptive’ war, ‘preventive’ war, ‘surgical’ war, ‘prophylactic’ war, ‘permanent’ war.” War is no longer a state of exception, but a permanent driving force in American domestic and foreign policy. Cornel West points out that such aggressive militarism is fashioned out of an ideology that supports a foreign policy based on “the cowboy mythology of the American frontier fantasy,” while also producing domestic policy that expands “police power, augments the prison-industrial complex and legitimates unchecked male power (and violence) at home and in the workplace. It views crime as a monstrous enemy to crush (targeting poor people) rather than as an ugly behavior to change (by addressing the conditions that often encourage such behavior).”
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