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The Unholy Trinity
February 24, 2002
By Arendt

"Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty."

- Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism"

The current Republican administration would not be in power without the support of the fundamentalist Christian movement. The administration wears its so-called "morality" and "family values" on its sleeve. They should be profoundly humbled by the facts that George and Jeb Bush and their families have 12 arrests to their name; that their children have serious substance abuse problems; and that both their administrations are implicated in and compromised by influence peddling scandals. But Pharisees, as Jesus noted, can easily "overlook the beam in their own eye".

It is long past time for people outside the fundamentalist religious community to put this administration's claims of virtue to the test. America has been subjected to twenty years of denunciation by a stream of fundamentalist crackpots, from the greed-ridden Jim and Tammy Bakker to the health-challenged Oral Roberts; from the sex-ridden Jimmy Swaggart to the anti-Semitic Pat Robertson. If America's diverse spiritual traditions fail to use our freedom of religion to defend ourselves against these relentless reactionary rantings, we will soon lose those freedoms to theocracy.

This administration prefers to proceed in secrecy, doing its work without public overview or input. It hides behind the most transparently duplicitous and high-handed press secretary since the days of Richard Nixon. Given the effort to prevent the public from seeing the truth, it is inevitable to focus on the few high-profile independent actors in an administration noted for its slavish conformity.

We choose the mystical number of three to study the spiritual message of this administration: George W. Bush - the Dark Son; John Ashcroft - the Dark Father; and Dick Cheney - the Unholy Ghost.

HATING THE HUMAN MIND

George Bush, admitted to Harvard and Yale via alumni preference and God knows what insider connections, revels in his scorn for intellectual achievement. He brags about his C average. He mocked Al Gore's ecological literacy and governmental experience. In fact, he is a virtual poster child for the anti-government, anti-intellectual forces that dominate the radical right-wing.

This government installed itself, in a typical end-justifies-the-means stealth campaign, hiding behind the deceptive slogan of "compassionate conservatism" and invoking "states rights" until it needed to crush those rights in a cynical and unconstitutional ruling from a politicized Supreme Court. But to talk of deception and cynicism is to digress from the main point about George Bush.

The main point is that he has repeatedly expressed contempt for the abilities of the human mind. He has a medieval cast of mind, in which blind faith brings salvation, while thinking and doubt are the snares of the devil. He is an incurious, uncaring man who wouldn't lift a finger to defend the governmental system he finds himself leading, except to help his cronies pocket their share of the take. He follows the ideology of those who installed him, finding the Enlightenment, and the American system of government which it produced, to be part of some anti-religious conspiracy. Meanwhile, his co-conspirators in the reactionary Federalist Society endeavor to rewrite history, freezing the interpretation of the Constitution at the date of its writing, and claiming that the Founding Fathers (Deists and Freemasons, almost to a man) really intended America to be a fundamentalist theocracy.

But, we have seen such anti-intellectualism many times in history. Every authoritarian regime from the Spanish Inquisition to the Nazis to Pol Pot to the Taliban put intellectuals at the top of their hit lists and declared dissent to be a "thought crime". An ignorant population is a controllable population. A government of men instead of laws guarantees that the rich and powerful remain unanswerable to laws and taxes that are applied only to the poor.

George Bush is the personification of the corruption of money, a subject much discussed by Christian theology. His contempt for learning and government is the logical outcome of a life of sweetheart deals and unearned rewards. In some ways, George Bush is as out of it as the Peter Sellers character in "Being There". He says what little is on his mind, and the spin doctors interpret it as wisdom. The man is a dangerous satire perpetrated by the most cynical cabal in our nation's history.

HATING THE HUMAN BODY

What could be more revealing of John Ashcroft's tormented soul than his inability to stand in front of a work of art that depicts the human body? A stylized art deco statue of a woman with a bare breast is too much for one of the most powerful men in our government.

Here is a chief law enforcement officer who staunchly defends the right of citizens to arm themselves to the teeth, without regard for a toll of death and injury of both innocent bystanders and abused family members unmatched in the Western world. He pursues the NRA's agenda with a religious zeal, he blocks the FBI from violating the gun rights of terrorists already detained without habeus corpus; he also blocks the investigation into anti-abortion terrorist cells who have made Anthrax threats and hoaxes. In short, here is a fundamentalist who believes that the other side deserves to die; and he is willing to pervert the law to that end.

Also as Attorney General, he has been complicit in the denial of basic Geneva Convention rights of citizens to captured Taliban sent to Cuba, rights that even Colin Powell understands are in our own best interests to uphold. Pictures of these prisoners' treatment has provoked cries of torture from countries that understand modern psychological coercion. To see men drugged, hooded, and chained in awkward postures is to be reminded of medieval stocks, not to mention the instruments of the Inquisition. Mr. Ashcroft simply passed the bureaucratic buck for this situation to the Pentagon, like a modern-day Adolf Eichmann.

The Dark Ages were full of people like John Ashcroft. Hair-shirt wearing people for whom everything was a symbol of another world. People who believed that cats were witches familiars and that any forceful woman was a witch or a harlot. People for whom the human body and human non-religious artwork was nothing but an occasion of sin. People who would say: "kill them all; God will know his own".

HATING NATURE

It is fitting that Dick Cheney should, as we are constantly told, spend most of his time hiding in a cave underground. When he was above ground, he was making statements like, "conservation is for wimps". Here is a tough guy of the old school, a true troglodyte. You won't find him weeping over environmental destruction.

But what do you expect from an oil man, a group that sees itself as bending nature to its will? This is a man who can't seem to take the hint from four heart attacks that maybe he should change his diet and his lifestyle. He doesn't see it that way. He thinks he can stonewall his body the same way he has been stonewalling the GAO over his Energy Task Force.

The problem is that he has committed our entire country to stonewalling global warming, nuclear power accidents, habitat destruction, oil spills, water pollution, and every other profitable but immoral cost-externalization of the heavy industries of his campaign contributors. It is no wonder that this administration has received a failing grade from environmentalists. It has installed rabid opponents of the environment to lead (read destroy) the EPA. The first undeniably broken promise of the Bush administration was its unilateral withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.

If there is a religion that 20th century science has not undercut, it is environmentalism. But, that gentle religion is no match for the fundamentalist control freaks, from James Watt through Gail Norton, who have carried out the environmental agenda of Dick Cheney and the oil industry. That agenda is nothing but the rape and pillage of our irreplaceable natural heritage at the maximum possible rate.

THE FIRST SACK OF WASHINGTON

We have completed our spiritual inventory, and found our Trinity to be a spiritually bankrupt group of Pharisees. Actually, to be fair to the Pharisees, at least they had some knowledge of the law with which they sanctimoniously berated their social inferiors. The Unholy Trinity currently in control of our government came out of the most lawless, hardscrabble parts of our continental nation. Not to put too fine a point on it, they are both secular barbarians and religious Neanderthals.

They have come to Washington not to serve, but to take. Like the Venetians of the Fourth Crusade, they have come to Constantinople on the Potomac claiming a religious mission; but they really have a secret agenda to sack the town. After all, these Greek Orthodox folks, like Dukakis and Tsongas, aren't really Christians.

Like the Crusaders, whose mention gave George Bush one of his many diplomatic black eyes, this administration will take all the money they can grab, and God help anyone, Christian or not, who gets in their way. So far they have grabbed a $4 Trillion tax cut, and they are demanding more. They have no use for art or real education. What barbarian does? All that want is money and weapons and power. They want women to behave like good barbarian women: submit, bear children, and never talk back. They want men to be tough, not smart, except at making money or killing people cleverly. They want education to be about religion, just like the fundamentalist Islamic madrassas which produced the Taliban. They plan for a theocratic state.

They are a home-grown Inquisition, which has the powerful backing of corporate business. The merchants of the bazaar have always been able to prosper under the Church by paying deference and bribes. Because the corporations have concentrated media ownership, the new American Inquisition has a powerful propaganda arm. And soon, as digital freedoms are rolled back, in the name of both anti-terrorism and the Intellectual Property rights of media corporations, they will have a network of digital spies and stoolpigeons that the Torquemada or Lavrenti Beria would have killed for.

If we do not act soon, our children will be turning us in to whatever we name our digitally-enhanced version of the KGB. There is little time before a spiritual darkness falls upon us. The vast mass of historically unaware people are oblivious to the fact that we are being attacked by cynical charlatans hiding behind the religious freedom that has, until recently, been the genius of our country. In the face of such a gullible population, is it too simple-minded for spiritual people to say that the Bush administration is the work of the devil?

But, even if such a nightmare comes to pass, it is not the end of history. Like the Spanish Inquisition, our new Holy Terror is fueled by a finite stream of raw-material-derived cash. In our case, it is oil money. Like the Roman Empire, we are gutting our democracy, our economy, and our social capital to establish "latifundia" in far off places, for the enrichment of the ruling elite. When the oil loot and the economic tribute we can extract from our IMF control of the world's money runs out, the places to which we have shipped our manufacturing base will have us for lunch. Or, if the latifundia system has been sufficiently compartmentalized to prevent local rebellions, the final collapse could send the entire planet into a new dark age, exacerbated by unprecedented overpopulation, pollution, and resource depletion.

Maybe then there will be a genuine spiritual revival in America - a revival which respects those parts of this material world which spiritual people value, over which spiritual people believe it is our life's work to exercise wise stewardship: the human mind, the human body, and our natural environment.

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