The trifecta of conservatism

Evangelical extremists today will nearly say and do anything to foster a “biblical world view.”

Americans with attention spans that permit it might recall a few of the political buzzwords flying around after November’s presidential elections. Terrorism, national security and moral values likely come to mind. Such were the positions upon which President George W. Bush secured his second term. It was a winning trifecta of conservatism: eliminating extremism abroad, patriotically defending the homeland and promoting life, all slathered with a healthy serving of Jesus. Bush-backers might be shocked to discover, then, that one need look no further than our own soil for dangerous zealotry, threats to our democracy and rampant slaughter.

We all know that when the circus comes to town, the freak show is inevitably in tow. The Terri Schiavo arena was no exception. In droves the fanatics came, with posters, holy books, drums and melodic chanting. They spoke of the wishes of God and the wickedness of “secular terrorists.” They took a man (whose pain few of them will ever know) for a Nazi, because he made a promise to his wife to end her life were she to be stuck in the purgatory of the living dead.

Catching the same scene on channel after channel, a strange epiphany struck me. Imagining these folks with a darker skin color, speaking an alien tongue, they bore a striking resemblance to the obligatory radical mosque footage that nearly always accompanied network reports of al-Qaida a few years past. What frightened me more, however, was the realization that these same zealots were the ones who were running my country.

Although irony seems to be lost on most conservative types, that seems to be the only thing that has come out of the current administration as of late. And this hypocrisy has been nothing short of freaky. During the Schiavo fiasco, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, declared that “one thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America.” (If only God gave human vegetables to atheists to exploit for a personal agenda.) All of which begs the question, “What exactly is going on?” Perhaps it’s that dying as Schiavo did occurs on a daily basis in this country.

Indeed, DeLay’s own father, Charles Ray DeLay, faced a similar fate. During that time, it was decided by Tom DeLay’s mother to withhold dialysis and other treatments when it became apparent that Charles Ray DeLay would not recover. Tom DeLay reportedly supported his mother’s decision. Nevertheless, nearly 16 years later, Tom DeLay made veiled threats at an “arrogant and out-of-control judiciary that thumbs its nose at Congress and the president.” Nevermind, of course, that most polls claimed approximately 70 percent of Americans disagreed with the Republican’s attempt to rewrite the constitution in the name of God.

Perhaps what’s becoming more visible is that evangelical extremists today will nearly say and do anything to bring a “biblical world view” to the United States. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., offered his learned medical judgment of Schiavo, saying, based on viewing a few video tapes, that “it doesn’t look like that she is in a persistent vegetative state.” This coming from the same “doctor” who purported that tears and sweat can transmit HIV. As comedic genius Jon Stewart put it, “I’d cry, but I’d have to put a condom on my face.” The mind reels.

And yet the hypocritical spin continues. The right has proven itself adept at exploiting the death of Pope John Paul II to spread its message. However, it continually downplays the pope’s opposition to the war in Iraq and the death penalty, both of which maintain integral roles in Bush’s so-called “culture of life.” If anything, the pope taught us the nobility of suffering and dying with dignity.

In all this mess, Democrats have remained shockingly silent. Maybe it is because sometimes it is better to let your opponent make a fool of himself than allow yourself to be drawn in. I would venture, however, that it is mostly out of fear. Judge Greer of the Schiavo case requires armed bodyguards. Many pharmacists throughout the nation are intimidated by religious radicals to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control. Often public school teachers shirk the subject of evolution, fearing a backlash by conservative parents.

Religion might not be a crutch for the weak minded, but it certainly is a weapon for the radically motivated. It is time to recognize that the rise of theocracy here is just as frightening as it is in Baghdad.

Sean P. Corcoran is a university student and welcomes comments at [email protected]