Sunday, November 20, 2005

Moyers on...well, on everything

I miss Bill Moyers. I know he's not dead or anything, but I definitely miss seeing him every week on "NOW." While I'm waiting for him to come out of retirement, I satisfy myself with the odd article or speech. And Moyers has made some absolute barn-burners, lately. You can find most of them here]. In his latest, he tackles journalism, the newest fiery "Christo-crat" and the hostile corporate gutting of America. Although his remarks were composed specifically for the 50th Anniversary of The Texas Observer--an independent, muck-raking paper that brings us Molly Ivins!--some of what he had to say was too gorgeous and perfect not to share. It's really, really long though, so I'll try to provide the best excerpts: Setting The Record Straight, by Bill Moyers {emphasis mine}
... McCarthyism was a raging plague in the 1950s and the virus rampaged across Texas like tumbleweeds in a wind storm. The legendary Maury Maverick Jr. was in the legislature at the time, one of the “Gashouse Gang” that fought bravely against the poison of the era. He said these were “the worst years” in his life. “The lights were going out” and few voices were raised in protest. The low point, said Maverick, came when the state Senate passed a bill to remove all books from public libraries which “adversely” reflected on American and Texas history, the family and religion. Even the state teachers association endorsed the bill, in exchange for a pay raise. Maverick voted against it, but walking back to his apartment that evening he was suddenly overwhelmed by the evil of what was happening, and he “vomited until flecks of blood came up.”
[...] Just sample the legacy [of The Texas Observer]: In these pages 40 years ago, Dugger called on liberals to remember our commitment to personal liberty, personal love, personal joy and pain. He urged us to listen to the critique of big government—“It is big, it is impersonal, it is confused” —and to be vigilant in the name of the lone individual:

“We must test our system, not by whether we get to the moon, but by whether a man [or woman] can freely and fully express himself here on earth; not by whether we are ahead in weapons, but by whether we are ahead in real room to be free and alive…to be ourselves.”
[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]

[...] Consider the scene just a few weeks ago when [Texas] Gov. Perry, surrounded by cheering God-folk, showed up at a pep rally in Fort Worth for yet another cleverly staged bashing of gay people, contrived to keep the pious signed on for the culture war so they won’t know they are losing the class war waged against them in Austin by the governor and his rich corporate patrons. The main speaker was none other than the Rev. Rod Parsley of Ohio. Keep your eyes on Rev. Parsley. He is the new incarnation of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, that devout duo who channeled Elmer Gantry into a new political religion driven by an obsession to punish people on account of sex. Parsley runs a multimillion-dollar-a-year televangelism ministry based in Columbus, Ohio, with access worldwide to 400 TV stations and cable affiliates. He describes himself as neither Republican nor Democrat but a “Christo-crat” —a gladiator for God marching against “the very hordes of hell in our society.” But he shows up with so many Republicans that he has been publicly described as the party’s “spiritual advisor.”

The “advice” he offers is the same old stuff peddled by Robertson and Falwell in their own rise to the top of the dung heap of religious bigotry and bile. Parsley demonizes other faiths (“The god of Islam and the god of Christianity are not the same being”) and rouses the partisan faithful to fever pitch by tossing them the red meat of radical disinformation: “The church in America is under oppression.” “The separation of church and state is a lie perpetrated on Americans—especially on believers in Jesus Christ.” So intense is his scapegoating of gays that one cannot help but think of the 1930s when the powerful and the pious in Germany demonized Jews and homosexuals in order to arouse and manipulate public passions. Watching the two of them together, you have to wonder if Gov. Perry and Rev. Parsley have ever read a history book detailing how Heinrich Himmler organized a special section of the Gestapo to deal with homosexuality and abortion, exhorting his country to remember that “Germany’s forebears knew what to do with homosexuals. They drowned them in bags.” You want to believe the governor and the preacher are surely ignorant of such horrors, horrors you know they would never condone, but
you want to grab them by the lapels and shake them and tell them their loathing of other people is the kindling of evil.

[...] Everything President George W. Bush knows, he learned here, as the product of a system rigged to assure the political progeny needed to perpetuate itself with minimum interference from the nuisances of liberal democracy. You remember liberal democracy: the rule of law, the protection of individual and minority rights, checks and balances against arbitrary power, an independent press, the separation of church and state. As governor, Bush was nurtured by the peculiar Texas blend of piety and privilege that mocks those values.
With the election of 2000, he and his cohorts arrived in Washington like atheists taking over the Vatican; they had come to run a government they don’t believe in.

[...] Much has been made of the president’s inept response to Hurricane Katrina. His early response was to joke the fun he had as a frat boy in now-grieving New Orleans. When a reporter pressed him on what had gone wrong after the hurricane struck, he sarcastically asked: “Who says something went wrong?” His attitude would surprise no one who read the 1999 profile of Bush by a conservative journalist who reported how the then-governor had made fun of Karla Fay Tucker’s appeals to be spared the death penalty. The journalist—a conservative, remember —wrote that Bush mocked and dismissed the woman, like him a born-again Christian, as he depicted her begging him, “Please don’t kill me!” But this is not what she had said. Bush made it up.

Such contempt for other people’s reality is embedded in a philosophy hostile to government except as an instrument of privilege and patronage. [...] Hurricane Katrina uncovered what the progressive advocate Robert Borosage calls the “catastrophic conservatism” of the long right-wing crusade to denigrate government, ‘starve the beast,’ scorn its purposes and malign its officials. We are seeing the results of an economic policy focused on top-end tax cuts and deregulations to reward private investors, as opposed to public investments in the country’s vital infrastructure. [...] We are seeing now the results of systemic and spectacular corruption and cronyism and the triumph of a social ideal—
the “You get yours/I’ll get mine” mentality—that is diametrically opposed to the ethic of shared sacrifice and responsibility.

[...] This is what you get from people who don’t believe in government except to aggrandize their own privilege. It wasn’t the lack of resources that prevented the administration from responding effectively to the [Katrina] disaster. The Washington Post’s Bill Arkin, among others, reminds us that the federal government had water, medicine, food and security at hand, in addition to the transportation needed to get it down to the coast in a hurry. The problem was “leadership, decisiveness, foresight.” And this goes to the core of the radical right’s atheist-in-the-Vatican philosophy:
Denounce the government you now run, defang its powers and dilute its responsibilities, and direct the spoils of victory to your cronies in the private sector.

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