Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The coming of the American Taliban

I've respected Bernard Weiner's essays for a long time now and his latest has not disappointed me. The Crisis Papers has published his penetrating and incisive piece entitled, "Taking on the American Talaban". Weiner reviews the psychological impact of accelerated change as he explains the soothing appeal of fundamentalism to those who are overwhelmed by a society changing faster than the psyche can keep up. Then he shows how this appeal is exploited politically:

Once you know (or are told) "The Truth" -- believing it to be passed down directly from God/Jehovah/Allah -- many of your anxieties disappear. The container of that Truth provides all the answers you need to know. You need pay little or no attention to the complex, confusing distractions that bedevil the rest of us. God/Allah/whatever (as interpreted by the mullahs, priests, spiritual leaders) has given you all the tools you need, and nothing else needs to enter your safe, secure little world.

So, fundamentalists across the globe denounce science and the arts, for example, because they constantly open up the world -- leading to many confusing questions -- and retreat instead to a quieter, older, psychologically comforting way of examining and thinking about reality.
Our would-be Talaban are the Ashcrofts, Gonzaleses, Rumsfelds, Cheneys, Bushes, Roves, et al. -- along with their fundamentalist backers, the Robertsons and Dobsons and Falwells and Bauers -- and the fawning HardRight pundits in the media who have become prostituted by their proximity to power.

What intrigues me about the article is Weiner's insistence that we recognize natural allies among the traditional - classic - conservatives who also feel that the Republican Party has abandoned them.

Some of those moderate Christians and traditional conservatives -- now known within the GOP as "moderates" or "liberal Republicans" or "RINO" Republicans (Republicans in Name Only) -- have even joined their long-time boogeymen, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, because they see the HardRight future coming down the pike.

More and more these authentic conservatives are alarmed by the extremists who have taken over their political party, and might well be open to alliances with welcoming Democrats and progressives.

He's got a point. Now, I have been truly dismayed by the tendency of the Democratic Party to become "Republican - lite" instead of upholding our traditional values and I don't think we should water down our message. But joining forces with true conservatives who are as alarmed by the erosion of civil liberties as we are seems to be just common sense. Both groups have much to lose due to the administration now in power.

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