by Mike Farrell

 

There’s a marvelous movie from the 70s, The Man that Would Be King. Sean Connery and Michael Caine play a couple of English Sergeants in the 1870s or so, who decide to go carve out a kingdom in the vast central Asian interior. They find a true believer in English invincibility, a retired Gurkha, who joins as translator and factotum, and wander into farthest Absurdistan until they find a likely place from which builds his empire from another mass of true believers, who believe he is the second coming of Iskander or Alexander the Great…anyway, everything goes swimingly until Connery decides to marry a gal who isn’t all that keen on the idea, and she bites him drawing blood. The elders realize that he is not whom he said he is. Hilarity ensues, if by hilarity slaughter, crucifixion and retribution are qualified. But, except for the incidental blood, everything would have stayed the same…

These people were not really true believers in the Cult of Danny and Peachy. They see an indicator of a problem and rather than ignore it and do the believer’s chant of “I see nothing…it’s just a test…actually, since he got cut but is still alive and well, he’s really more invulnerable than we thought. It really is…” they chop up the Gurkha, throw Connery into a chasm and crucify Michael Caine. Ah, good times…

The True, True, True Believers are the ones who see the results and yet still want to carry on. Christianity is an eschatological religion; the original Christians and the wave of converts through the next centuries all assumed that one of these days, Jesus was going to show up and man, these Pharasees, Saduchees, Romans, Greeks, Eygptians and so on were going to get really fucked over. Read the Book of Revelation — it’s kind of like some bad Science Fiction on peyote. When Jesus didn’t come back, the religion began to do work arounds. It’s continued to do so…I really don’t think a lot of mainstream Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran or Orthodox thinkers and theologians spend a lot of time worrying about the last Judgement. But, I’m sure that in the hinterlands of grass roots, snake handling, tongure talking, born again, dancing and singing Christianity, they are just dancing around the Oral Roberts Prayer tower, waiting for the word.

One theme I’m noticing with a certain degree of perplexity is the number of nutjob right wing true believers who are either Catholic (the more moderate amongst them) or totally off the reservation former Catholics. Three names come to mind immediately — Glen Beck, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann. Newt Gingrich is now Catholic; Scalia is Catholic; Clarence Thomas was a Catholic and is now some hybrid born-again Evangelical sort of Catholic. Roberts and Alito are Catholics. Boehner is Catholic. Note the trend — the real dipshits are out there types who embrace the snake handling; the really dangerous ones are still going to Mass and listening to the Pope.

It strikes me that the Bachmann-Palin-Beck-Thomas crowd are fascinating studies in the totalitarian approach to life. They left something with nuance, a logical structure, and a conservative Conservatism as well as an emphasis on social justice for something that is…well, none of those. Gingrich’s wife pulled him back from the far nutcase land; but, Gingrich is really an entrepreneur at the moment, not a politician. Bachmann, Beck, Thomas — Catholicism wasn’t restrictive, authoritarian enough for them?

The other thing that amazes me is the nexus of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and born again Christianity. Rand 2010 If you are a sincere follower both of Rand and a follower of Christ, you are operating at a level of cognitive dissonance that transcends hypocrisy and reaches a blissful level of schizophrenia. There have been some great articles on Wonkette, the Exile and other sites on the whole Paul Ryan-Rand Paul cult thing. Because that is what it is – there’s no qualitative difference between Objectivism and planning on riding off on Hale Bop. Shit, her disciples used to sit around and babble nonsense with her, and whomever babbled the most bullshit got to sleep with her. Actually makes Nike-Wearing castration and suicide seem an only slightly less reasonable alternative.

The biblical Christ talks of difficulty of the rich man entering the kingdom of heaven because he is rich; he says the poor are blessed. Rand and her followers say that greed is good. It is an atheistic, dehumanizing and totalitarian approach to the world, to politics to economics. And, it doesn’t fucking work…

Tax cuts for the rich have resulted in lower economic growth, the deficits that have the tea party so incensed, and the destruction of the social safety net. So, they want more, and get more (or less given the lack of accomplishment by the Republican House) and things get no better and slide worse. If the Republicans had the majority and the presidency, there’d be a lot more homeless and unemployed…the stimulus was too small, too dedicated to what didn’t work, and generally poorly executed. It’s that simple — the private sector screwed up the economcy with the blissful ignorance of Bush’s non-regulators and fools. And, to be bi-partisan/post-partisan/whatever, the Democrats in the Executive Branch and the Senate cobbled together compromises that didn’t work as compromises and sure as hell didn’t work as governing. Nancy Pelosi and her crew in the House gritted their teeth and were good soldiers, but the whole conservaDEM/ball-less kum bah ya approach to governance didn’t work from 2009-2011.

And now, we’re entering the election season. We’re more than year away from nominating conventions, and I don’t know what to think except dark thoughts and sharpen the old AXE. Hobbit-Slicer really needs some honing…

The superb Matt Taibbi has a great article in the new issue of Rolling Stone. He discussed it with Obermann the other night, and it is incredible. I happen to think that sane people outnumber nutjobs by about 3:2, and so if Michelle gets all the Republicans and people to the right of the Republicans to vote for her, she probably won’t win the general election. But in the Republican caucuses and primaries, the nutjobs are normally the majority. But his history of her political career and overall critique gives me some pause…

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and, as you consider the career and future presidential prospects of an incredible American phenomenon named Michele Bachmann, do one more thing. Don’t laugh.

It may be the hardest thing you ever do, for Michele Bachmann is almost certainly the funniest thing that has ever happened to American presidential politics…

Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions. She believes that the Chinese are plotting to replace the dollar bill, that light bulbs are killing our dogs and cats, and that God personally chose her to become both an IRS attorney who would spend years hounding taxpayers and a raging anti-tax Tea Party crusader against big government. She kicked off her unofficial presidential campaign in New Hampshire, by mistakenly declaring it the birthplace of the American Revolution. “It’s your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world!” she gushed. “You are the state of Lexington and Concord, you started the battle for liberty right here in your backyard.”…But don’t laugh. Don’t do it. And don’t look her in the eyes; don’t let her smile at you. Michele Bachmann, when she turns her head toward the cameras and brandishes her pearls and her ageless, unblemished neckline and her perfect suburban orthodontics in an attempt to reassure the unbeliever of her non-threateningness, is one of the scariest sights in the entire American cultural tableau. She’s trying to look like June Cleaver, but she actually looks like the T2 skeleton posing for a passport photo. You will want to laugh, but don’t, because the secret of Bachmann’s success is that every time you laugh at her, she gets stronger.

Bachmann is a lawyer. When I think about lawyers sprouting idiocy, I recall Clarence Darrow’s advice to the profession — When the facts favor your case, argue the facts; when the law favors your case, argue the law. When both the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell.

But you see, she believes what she is saying. Whether talking about anti-American congressmen being investigated by the media or babbling about Obama the baby-killer or how fluoride is rotting our brains, she believes this crap. And, that ultimately makes her vulnerable — get the True-True believer out on a limb and they’ll gladly accept the light saber to cut themselves off and down. But, she has a crowd of people who believe not only with her but in her. And, being the True-True believers themselves, Taibbi points out that they not only catch her when she falls, they lift her higher.

Snickering readers in New York or Los Angeles might be tempted by all of this to conclude that Bachmann is uniquely crazy. But in fact, such tales by Bachmann work precisely because there are a great many people in America just like Bachmann, people who believe that God tells them what condiments to put on their hamburgers, who can’t tell the difference between Soviet Communism and a Stafford loan, but can certainly tell the difference between being mocked and being taken seriously. When you laugh at Michele Bachmann for going on MSNBC and blurting out that the moon is made of red communist cheese, these people don’t learn that she is wrong. What they learn is that you’re a dick, that they hate you more than ever, and that they’re even more determined now to support anyone who promises not to laugh at their own visions and fantasies.

Bachmann is the champion of those tens of millions of Americans who have read and enjoyed theLeft Behind books, the apocalyptic works of Christian fiction that posit an elaborate fantasy in which all the true believers are whisked off to heaven with a puff of smoke at the outset of Armageddon.

So, Amen Brother…pass the pillar of salt.