He Doesn’t Believe In What We Believe In

Among the usual detritus that makes its way into my inbox, an email I got recently made the come-ons for penny stocks, penis enlarging pills and Nigerian lottery windfalls seem downright benign.  

I was forwarded a missive featuring an authentic photo of Barack Obama standing in front of an American flag with his hands at his side while others around him have right hand over heart, just as patriots genuinely qualified to be Commander-in-Chief ought to. A cut-and-pasted paragraph explained that this man on the brink of securing the Democratic Party’s nomination, and with it a real chance for victory in the Presidential election, “refuses to recite the Pledge.” The ominous message appended to this putatively scandalous image said: “What do you think of a man who do [sic] not put his right hand on his heart during flag ceremony?”

The person who wrote this troubled query is a medical doctor, which suggests that at one time in his life he received a thorough education and was made to exercise his above-average intelligence to solve problems and assimilate enormous quantities of information. Why, I wondered, was he unable to perform less than one minute’s worth of research about Obama, less than the time it takes to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, to discover that the claims about the Senator from Illinois are false? [Go to Snopes.com for the straight dope.] Just like the ones that went around the Internet some time ago asserting that Obama is Muslim and took his oath of office on a Koran are false. Just as the ones that link him to Al Qaeda because of his Arabic middle name are false.

By the time the noxious email made it to me, it had been forwarded numerous times, to thousands (millions?) of people. I scrolled down to investigate the letter’s origins. Other correspondents had applied their own sub-literate words of encouragement: “Hey guys….keep circulating these so it [sic] can go around!”

And: “Now we have seen this before, but in light of his recent win in the polls, it deserves to be recirculated to remind those morons who voted for him that he doesn’t believe in what we believe in….”

I was beginning to understand.

The simplest declaration, applied by an enterprising mass-mailer about three generations before the doctor forwarded it to his large mailing list, said: “Jesus, I Trust in You”

Let us ignore, for one fleeting moment, the omnipresent slander of Jesus and his legacy by religious crackpots. The most bigoted, hateful sentiments hardly stink at all when scrubbed with the brush of pious virtue. Institutionalized prejudice, stoked by an innate fear of the Other, occurs constantly, and it’s what keeps the coffers full in temples, churches, mosques, and ashrams around the world. What’s sad, so profoundly sad, is that so many of my fellow citizens have utterly abdicated their ability and privilege to think critically. Historically, nonsensical propaganda worked best on the uneducated, illiterate, and impoverished, the class of people most susceptible to lies and disinformation. Now, even people with advanced degrees and high status fall prey to smear campaigns of the vilest ilk. That’s how powerful religious prejudice is.

Narcotized by popular culture, more concerned with the contestants on “American Idol” than the policy plans of those who would like to lead America, and energized by their collective hatred for those who don’t “believe in what we believe in….” the Christian Right will sink to the most desperate, ill-founded measures when they feel that “their” agenda is not being imposed on every citizen of America. The current crop of Obama emails making their rounds reek of hate and prejudice — which, I suppose, is exactly their point.

Should you be forwarded one of these emails — as the campaign progresses and the Christian camp realizes they’re going to lose, undoubtedly there will be new ones, even more revolting — don’t blindly forward the filth. Instead, reply to whoever sent you the little bundle of malice and encourage him to examine the issues that really matter to the heathens and blasphemers: healthcare, the economy, the environment, the ungodly fiasco in Iraq.

Yes, we can. But only if we awake from our collective stupor.

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3 Responses

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