FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Santorum and God’s Will

by HENRY GIROUX

The possibility of an authoritarian and ethically dysfunctional family in the White House in 2013 certainly has caught the attention of a number of liberals and other progressives. After all, what progressive or decent conservative for that matter would support Rick Santorum’s rejection of the separation of church and state or his belief that it is better to live under the rule of a theocratic state rather than in a democracy. Of course, religious fanatics do not ponder these issues seriously because they get their information straight from God.  One example comes from Rick’s wife, Karen who told conservative talk show host Glenn Beck that it was “God’s will” that her husband is running for president and that she felt that “God had big plans for Rick.”[i] And, of course, Santorum has no trouble doubting his wife because he believes that the ultimate confrontation between good and evil is akin to a religious crusade and he is the man to lead it.  After all, Santorum as he has stated publicly many times  is on a moral crusade to snuff out the work of Satan in a variety of areas extending from higher education to health care and women’s reproductive rights.

For many moderate conservatives such as Rudy Giuliani, the likes of Santorum, Gingrich, Perry, and Bachmann represent the flight of the current Republican Party from the real world. For Giuliani, the party has become anti-modernist. For Ed Rollins, a CNN regular and Republican Party strategist, the party has fatally turned itself into the party of Wall Street and country clubber, leading them to eventual extinction. Liberals such as Maureen Dowd and Robert Reich view the Republican leadership as either “barking mad” or simply loony. As Reich points out, this is a party “of birthers, creationists, theocrats, climate-change deniers, nativists, gay-bashers, anti-abortionists, media paranoids, anti-intellectuals, and out of touch country clubbers [who] cannot govern America.”[ii] Of course, there is a semblance of truth in all of these positions, especially in the recognition that politicians such as Rick Santorum represent a clear and present danger to promise of a real democracy in the United States.

At the same time, terms such a loony, out of touch, anti-modernist, and the politicization of religion while offering a categorical referent that highlights the extremism and fundamentalism that drives the ideological views of such candidates run the risk of reinforcing a fatal
psychologizing or a dead-end collapse into narrow definition of religious fanaticism. Something far more serious and dangerous is unfolding in this current presidential election than the politicization of religion, a politics free from doubt,  or the emergence of the loony squad.  As Zygmunt Bauman points out in a different context:

Much too little attention is paid, however, to the parallel tendency of the ‘religionization of politics’, arguably still more dangerous and often much more gory in its consequences. A conflict of interests calling for negotiation and compromise (the daily bread of politics) is then recycled into an ultimate showdown between good and evil that renders any negotiated agreement inconceivable and from which only one of the antagonists can emerge alive (the liminal horizon of monotheistic religions).[iii]

In this apocalyptic view, issues that were often seen as non-religious such as sexual orientation, education, identity, and participation in public life are translated into the language of a religious revival and militant crusade against evil. Under such circumstances, politics becomes an extension of war, reason is trumped by militarized emotions, and dialogue is viewed as the work of Satan. Manichean, absolutist  visions now dominate the language of politics, just as the ‘religionization of politics’ becomes the only legitimate  fortress of …one truth, one way, one life formula – of adamant and pugnacious certainty and self-confidence; the last shelters for the seekers of clarity, purity and freedom from doubt and indecision.”[iv]

Totalitarian temptations now saturate the media and larger culture in the language of religious orthodoxy. A war against reason and the secular state and culture becomes the primary organizing principle of a politics whose ultimate goal is the extermination of dissent, critical thinking, informed judgment, and any vestige of independent agency. What we are witnessing in the United States is the normalization of a politics that exterminates not only the welfare state, and the truth, but all those others who bear the sins of the Enlightenment– that is, those who refuse a life free from doubt. Reason and freedom now becomes the enemy not merely to be mocked but to be destroyed. How else to explain Santorum’s tirade against higher education, his hatred of Muslims, his suggestion that Obama is not a true Christian, and his disdain for the reproductive rights of women. The violence of war in this discourse is sanctioned as a spiritual crusade, or as Santorum once put it “This is not a political war at all. This is not a cultural war at all. This is a spiritual war.” [v] And this is a war whose totalitarian tendencies are evident in the war on science, immigrants, women, people of color, and anyone who does not adhere to Santorum’s religious orthodoxy.  There is more than ignorance at work here, there is also the dangerous demonization of “everybody but white, heterosexual, right-wing Christian males.”[vi] The mainstream media dresses this discursive fascism up as just another opinion, refusing to utilize the civic courage and critical analyses needed to name it for what it is: a form of totalitarian extremism.

Finding our way to a more humane future demands a new politics, a new set of values, and renewed sense of the fragile nature of democracy. In part, this means that militant religious war being waged by conservatives such as Santorum under the guide of a distorted notion of religion must be understood as another facet of contemporary authoritarianism. Not only because, it then becomes possible to recognize the real nurturing and progressive work of many religions, but also because it becomes easier to confront a virulent form of totalitarianism when it speaks through a militant and fundamentalist religious discourse. Santorum and his ilk define themselves as the new warriors attempting to bring morality back to America. In actuality, they are right-wing revolutionaries who want to replace democratic principles with autocratic ones, critical thought with unconditional obedience to a spiritual leader, and justice with a notion of faith rooted in a dangerous notion of exclusion, disposability, and extermination.  These tendencies have a long legacy in American history, but what we see that is new in the current historical moment  is that the totalitarian nature and social costs of that legacy are being erased in a commodified, celebrity-based, market-driven culture in which thinking is considered an act of stupidity and resistance something akin to a declaration of war.

Henry A. Giroux holds the Global TV Network chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada. His most recent books include: “Take Back Higher Education” (co-authored with Susan Searls Giroux, 2006), “The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex” (2007) and “Against the Terror of Neoliberalism: Politics Beyond the Age of Greed” (2008). His latest book, Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability,” will be published by Paradigm Publishers in 2011. He is a contributor to is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. 

Notes.


[i]. Sandhy a Somashekhar, “Karen Santorum: Rick’s Presdential Run Is ‘God’s Will’,” The Washington Post (February 26, 2012). Online:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/post/karen-santorum-husbands-presidential-run-is-gods-will/2012/02/23/gIQAhCkdWR_blog.html

[ii]. Robert Reich, “The Sad Race for Bottom on the Loony Right,” AlterNet (February 28, 2012). Online: http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/154321/the_sad_race_for_bottom_on_the_loony_right_/

[iii].Zygmunt Bauman, Living on Borrowed Time: Conversations with Citlali Rovirosa-Madrazo, (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2010), p. 132.

[iv]. Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Fear (London: Polity Press, (2006), p. 113.

[v].Adele, M. Stan, “Agenda for the Dark Ages: GOP Frontrnner Rick Santorum’s 5 Most Extremist Themes,” AlterNet (February 28, 2012). Online: http://www.alternet.org/news/154242/agenda_for_the_dark_ages%3A_gop_frontrunner_rick_santorum’s_5_most_extremist_themes_

[vi]. Ibid. Adele, M. Stan, “Agenda for the Dark Ages: GOP Frontrnner Rick Santorum’s 5 Most Extremist Themes.”

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and a Distinguished Visiting Professorship at Ryerson University. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). His web site is www.henryagiroux.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail