Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Theocrats at the Helm

Several years ago, I read about a huge dam project in China. The project was taking longer than expected because the Buddhist construction workers would drop their shovels every time they encountered an earthworm or bird’s nest or whatever and gently carry the violated animal to safety; such was their devotion to all forms of life. This happened several times a day, but the project foremen could do nothing to convince the workers that this procedure was wrecking the completion schedule. So the dam took much longer than expected to complete. Although this practice must have been irritating to the workers who did not share the Buddhists’ faith, there’s no denying the inherent honor in Buddhists walking it like they talked it. They lived exactly according to the values of their religion, even at the expense of efficiency.

A few weeks ago, President Bush cited his religious convictions when he vetoed the stem cell research bill ratified by congress. There is something truly admirable about someone choosing moral rectitude over popularity—like Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men. According to a USA Today/Gallup poll taken in April, more than two thirds of the nation opposes President Bush’s decision, and yet he stood firm, guided by his faith.

As long as we have religion, we will never truly achieve the Founders’ intent to maintain a wall of separation between church and government. All we can do is try to be as fair and objective as possible, and to apply constant vigilance in our assault on our own hypocrisy. Leaving aside for now the scientific fact that no more embryos would be destroyed with stem cell research than are now being destroyed without it, one must respect a president’s decision that is based on personal convictions rather than economic or political interests, as is so often the case. President Bush made the difficult decision to follow his heart over the fierce opposition of the majority of his countrymen. Is this not precisely the mettle we long for in our leaders?

Well, isn’t it?

The obvious problem with that line of reasoning is that President Bush is cherry picking his religious convictions, which is what always happens in a theocracy. His devotion to embryos is not matched by his devotion to the 250 thousand or so fully gestated human lives his illegal war in Iraq has aborted. Nor was it matched by his devotion to the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) when he ruined the careers and reputations of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame. Nor was it matched by his glaring disregard for the thousands of people killed or displaced by Hurricane Katrina. And on and on and on…you’ve already encountered the long, long list of Bush’s un-christian transgressions.

No, President Bush’s veto had nothing to do with religious conviction; it had to do with pandering to a tiny-but-powerful political bloc whose exit from the American electoral process—not to mention the planet—is long overdue. Like Peter Popoff, President Bush has tapped into the very heart of American ignorance, not to bring enlightenment to the backward and superstitious minority that progress forgot, but to exploit that minority for his own shallow avarice.

And once again, the working poor—in this instance, Buddhist construction workers—have demonstrated that their understanding of personal integrity is broader and deeper than that of the greedy self-absorbed nincompoops we have chosen to lead us.


1 comment:

tuckmac said...


Hope you signed up for the "Blog against Theocracy" thing with this post. 'Cause it's really meant to be there.

-- Tuckmacex