Saturday, January 2, 2010

Starting the Year With A Bloody Muckraking Headache: Taking On The Christofascists

Or, How I Had A Good Time In Spite Of All The Bloodshed

OK, so I didn't have a good time. Not really. I spent New Year's Day revisiting some of my old material, my old gripes, my old passions, my old fears. And you know what?

They're still here.

They haven't changed. Oh, in the last three years the main characters have changed somewhat: they've gone from mostly Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell to a variety of Christofascists: Mike Huckabee, Ann Coulter, Glen Beck (marginal, but nonetheless a presence hard to avoid), Rod Parsley, Rick Warren, Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly, Benedict XVI, etc. But widening the field has only pumped up the volume: there are more people bloviating over social issues and politics than ever before and covering/reading about/expounding on them is very acidic to my brain as well as my stomach. And their venues for screeds and harangues have not really changed either: separation of church and state, same-sex marriage, abortion, politics, war, morality, etc., etc. I'm working on a particularly difficult piece right now, - Islamophobia - and as with other subjects, this one is going to create more muckraking (for me), more rhetorical bile (from Christofascists) and more written displeasure (from everyone). It takes on Anti-Semitism, death tolls,, persecution, and religious history (which my detractors will insist is revisionist). It will definitely get responses of "NO!" "Not True!" "Un-American!" "written by an idiot," "inconsequential bile."

...and their point? They want to make sure that everyone knows that they hate me. They read my articles, spurred on by an insulting or titillating title, then spend their time telling me as well as others how wrong I am. Oh, they've been getting more sophisticated: they use spell check ... sometimes. And they've referred to other articles (usually in the op-ed section of their local paper). But they still write in generalities. I'm waiting for the day someone writes something of substance using concrete evidence. Apparantly I'm worth the effort for general outrage but not for researched, substanciated outrage.

I looked back at one article in particular and want to share it. It was written within several weeks of Katrina and it featured, of course, Robertson and Falwell. Their responses to disasters and acts of terrorism are still mimicked by Christofascists today: God's wrath resulting in nature's destruction, economic crises, hard times.

God's Ambulance Chasers


I've just come from another "beer bust" for Katrina hurricane victims. Given the magnitude of the charity the U.S. has shown for them, this might become a usual pastime for more than several months. The difference with these beer busts is that they are sponsored by gay bars.

What this brings to mind is the point that true compassion knows no "orientation" boundaries, while the doctrines of many churches lead us to believe that food and shelter for the suffering are given a decidedly "Christian" slant. Some fundamentalists, such as Repent America's Michael Marcavage and Fred Phelps (Westboro Baptist Church), are, in fact, enjoying their role as God's Ambulance Chasers: Marcavage offers "prayers" but no help, while Phelps' website has a headline "Thank God For Katrina!"

Other Christian pleas are more indirect in their conditional compassion: Falwell Ministries requests people to "send a special gift to support our volunteer-driven, faith-based response to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina" and touts the work of Southern Baptist Conference, the infamous fundamentalist denomination that reviles homosexuals, feminists and (still) Jews. Pat Robertson's Operation Blessing works in conjunction with FEMA while cloaked with an air of righteousness. It's a sort of poor man's Salvation Army and reminiscent of the lyric from Guys and Dolls: "Halleluiah, place a nickel on the drum, save another drunken bum! Place a nickel on the drum and he'll be saved!"

Even Barbara Bush had an air of sanctimoniousness about Katrina's devastation with her "underprivileged anyway" words of patrician moral wisdom. At another time and place, I believe the quote was actually "Let them eat cake!"

I guess it all comes down to the irony of ironies: legions of queers are much quicker to respond than FEMA or faith-based charities and far less toxic to the conscience.