Can America’s political discourse get any cruder? Neil Macdonald

Interesting if uncomfortable parallel Neil Macdonald makes between the religious extremists in the Iranian revolution and the US evangelicals:

In fact, Palin’s speech reminded me of another one I attended, years ago, in Tehran during my time as CBC’s Middle East correspondent.

Mohammed Khatami, the reformer, had been elected president of Iran, and you could taste the craving for change in the city’s mountain air.

On a whim, I decided to attend a Friday sermon by Ayatollah Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, probably the most hardline cleric in the theocracy.

He scorned the reformers and called down divine judgment on them, and exhorted the crowd to go and impose the will of the people.

It was a speech filled with hatred and religious bigotry and nativism, and the crowd absorbed it with the same sort of ecstasy U.S. conservatives evidently experience at Republican rallies nowadays.

I spoke to several people as they exited the sermon; most were rural, uneducated, and were bused in for the event. In cosmopolitan Tehran, Yazdi wouldn’t likely have been able to fill a big classroom, let alone pack in thousands of panting zealots.

‘You’re fired’

Sarah Palin, likewise, feels most comfortable outside America’s big cities, talking to the white evangelical Christians she calls “real Americans,” as opposed to the ethnic stew of the more permissive, homosexual-tolerating, non-God-fearing souls who populate the coastal population centres.

…Watching Palin and Trump, it was impossible not to wonder, once again, how America, a country that has achieved such excellence, and has so often shown the world a better way, descended into a political discourse that demonizes enlightened thought and glamorizes mean-spirited, lowbrow crudeness.

And something else occurred, a notion I’ve always shied away from because I find jingoism distasteful: None of this stuff would go anywhere in Canada. It would draw snickers and derision, not cheers.

The only reason I can cite for this difference in national attitudes is religion. Not the quiet, old-line religiosity whose adherents believe worship is a private matter, best practised in church.

I’m referring to the messianic, aggressive religion of certain evangelical Christian sects, which believe that even other streams of Christianity, never mind other faiths, are false, and that their job is not just to spread the word of God but to impose it, and that the best way to do that is to run the government.

That sort of religion happily ignores inconvenient facts and contradictions, and has always been ripe for the con job pulled by the Republican elite: promise to end atheistic permissiveness, then get into office and implement an economic agenda most friendly to Manhattan billionaires like Trump and multi-millionaires like Palin. (She recently put her 8,000 square-foot Arizona compound up for sale for $2.5 million.)

To be fair, this loopy form of religio-political fantasy is particular to the Republicans, and lots of religious Americans find it offensive to rational thought.

But it should not be dismissed, as clownish as its heroes can seem.

Think about Iran: Yazdi and his fellow hardliners triumphed. The reformers were shut down and jailed. The urban elites were cowed. It can happen.

Source: Can America’s political discourse get any cruder? – World – CBC News

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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