Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Sound and fury signifying whack job

Paddy Chayefsky saw Glenn Beck coming.

And he left us with the film Network in 1976. Paddy Chayefsky may have been the last of the Hebrew prophets of God.

It's eerie, actually. Now that the Fox News Channel has its own Howard Beale -- really, just replace the fainting spells with crying jags, and you have Glenn Beale . . . or Howard Beck -- there's only one place for it to go.

If I were Glenn Beck, I wouldn't be worried that it's the Obama lovers lurking in the shadows, assembling a hit squad. I'd be worried about keeping my ratings high.

THEN AGAIN, if the flat-topped demagogue keeps up his Mormon incarnation of Father Charles Coughlin, we all may have bigger problems than FNC turning into UBS. See, Beck's problem -- and ours -- is that he's doing the shtick of another spiritual predecessor, Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and turning the volume up to 11.

McCarthy saw communists behind every bush and in every nook of the U.S. government, then set out to use legislative mechanisms to effect an internal purge. Beck, on the other hand, is telling us that the president is a communist -- that the Reds have taken over the whole government -- then says we have to do something about it.

And his followers are left to fill in the blank. It sounds to me like a chickens*** call to revolution -- ginning up the mob, then maintaining plausible deniability with a wink and a nudge.

THE LATEST "commie" Beck sees lurking in the Obama administration is Van Jones, the new special adviser on "green" jobs.

Beck thinks Jones is a commie. Beck thinks Jones poses a threat to the republic -- a threat to constitutional democracy.

A transcript
from tonight's TV show:

A new system of what? Is he talking about more than just solar panels? Let's look again at the entire context of this statement — he's saying that this can't be only about new forms of energy:


If all we do is take out the dirty power system, the dirty power generation in a system, and just replace it with some clean stuff, put a solar panel on top of this system. When we don't deal with how we are consuming water. We don't deal with how we're treating our other sister and brother species. We don't deal with toxins. We don't deal with the way we treat each other. If that's not a part of this movement, let me tell you what you'll have: You'll have solar-powered bulldozers, solar-powered buzz saws, and biofuel bombers, and we'll be fighting wars over lithium for the batteries instead of oil for the engines and we'll still have a dead planet. This movement is deeper than a solar panel! Deeper than a solar panel! Don't stop there! Don't stop there! We're gonna change the whole system! We're gonna change the whole thing!


This is social justice.

Can we stop claiming that this man is just an average, everyday, capitalist American? Can we at least start having the necessary discussion of whether we want communists in the United States government as "special advisers" to the president? Do we even want communists to have lunch with our president?

Barack Obama did not campaign openly on "changing the whole system." He did, however, five days before Election Day, tell us this much:


We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.


Very few Americans paid attention then. Are you paying attention now?

If our founding principles are no longer relevant — if the system with which this country was founded is somehow unjust or unworkable now — and communism, Marxism or socialism is the right and relevant path, then let's have that discussion in America. But to subversively bring in a "new system" through the back door, in the middle of the night — no, that's unacceptable.

But this goes further than whether Van Jones is a capitalist or a communist. Look at what else Jones said at this conference:


And our Native American sisters and brothers who were pushed and bullied and mistreated and shoved into all the land we didn't want, where it was all hot and windy. Well, guess what? Renewable energy? Guess what, solar industry? Guess what wind industry? They now own and control 80 percent of the renewable energy resources. No more broken treaties. No more broken treaties. Give them the wealth! Give them the wealth! Give them the dignity. Give them the respect that they deserve. No justice on stolen land. We owe them a debt.


Give them the wealth? Is that what you voted for?

Does that sound familiar at all?


We believe God sanctioned the rape and robbery of an entire continent. We believe God ordained African slavery. We believe God makes Europeans superior to Africans and superior to everybody else too.


It may also bring to mind the man who gave the prayer at President Obama's inauguration ceremony, the man on whom President Obama just bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Reverend Joseph Lowry:


And in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back; when brown can stick around; when yellow will be mellow; when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right.


No? Let's try it again. Here's more from Van Jones — again, to be fair, this is from his "ancient history catalogue" — this past March:


What about our immigrant sisters and brothers? What about our immigrant sisters and brothers? What about people who come here from all around the world who we're willing to have out in the field, with poison being sprayed on them, poison being sprayed on them because we have the wrong agricultural system. And we're willing to poison them and poison the earth to put food on our table, but we don't want to give them rights and we don't want to give them dignity and we don't want to give them respect?


WHAT WE HAVE HERE is a delusional, paranoid "political commentator" -- or perhaps just a cynic for the ages -- who not only sees unfiltered social-justice rhetoric and thinks it's Marxist, but who also thinks the entire concept of social justice is a communist plot.

And on top of that, he has the gall to single out a living hero of the civil-rights movement -- Lowery -- and cite his inauguration benediction as further evidence of the "red menace" descending upon us.

Yes, there is a menace afoot that threatens our civil society and American democracy. It's not Van Jones . . . or Joseph Lowery . . . or even Barack Obama.

It's Glenn Beck and the right-wing, tinfoil-hat masses who take him seriously.

If what Van Jones said is evidence of communist intent, then color me red. (And can you believe Beck's disputing settled history that Native Americans were horribly mistreated amid an avalanche of treaties broken by the U.S. government?)

IF WHAT Beck excerpted of Jones' remarks is proof-positive that the man is a Marxist, then so am I. And so is the pope, and all the Catholic bishops of the world.

And so is every American Catholic who believes what the church proclaims . . . what Jesus Christ proclaimed.

Here is a lengthy except from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on (gasp!) social justice:

I. Respect for the Human Person

Social justice can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him:

What is at stake is the dignity of the human person, whose defense and promotion have been entrusted to us by the Creator, and to whom the men and women at every moment of history are strictly and responsibly in debt.

Respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature. These rights are prior to society and must be recognized by it. They are the basis of the moral legitimacy of every authority: by flouting them, or refusing to recognize them in its positive legislation, a society undermines its own moral legitimacy. If it does not respect them, authority can rely only on force or violence to obtain obedience from its subjects. It is the Church's role to remind men of good will of these rights and to distinguish them from unwarranted or false claims.

Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that "everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as ‘another self,' above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity." No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a "neighbor," a brother.

The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."

This same duty extends to those who think or act differently from us. The teaching of Christ goes so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of the New Law, to all enemies. Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is incompatible with hatred of one's enemy as a person, but not with hatred of the evil that he does as an enemy.

II. Equality and Differences Among Men

Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity.

The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it:

Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design.

On coming into the world, man is not equipped with everything he needs for developing his bodily and spiritual life. He needs others. Differences appear tied to age, physical abilities, intellectual or moral aptitudes, the benefits derived from social commerce, and the distribution of wealth. The "talents" are not distributed equally.

These differences belong to God's plan, who wills that each receive what he needs from others, and that those endowed with particular "talents" share the benefits with those who need them. These differences encourage and often oblige persons to practice generosity, kindness, and sharing of goods; they foster the mutual enrichment of cultures:

I distribute the virtues quite diversely; I do not give all of them to each person, but some to one, some to others. . . . I shall give principally charity to one; justice to another; humility to this one, a living faith to that one. . . . And so I have given many gifts and graces, both spiritual and temporal, with such diversity that I have not given everything to one single person, so that you may be constrained to practice charity towards one another. . . . I have willed that one should need another and that all should be my ministers in distributing the graces and gifts they have received from me.

There exist also sinful inequalities that affect millions of men and women. These are in open contradiction of the Gospel:

Their equal dignity as persons demands that we strive for fairer and more humane conditions. Excessive economic and social disparity between individuals and peoples of the one human race is a source of scandal and militates against social justice, equity, human dignity, as well as social and international peace.

III. Human Solidarity

The principle of solidarity, also articulated in terms of "friendship" or "social charity," is a direct demand of human and Christian brotherhood.

An error, "today abundantly widespread, is disregard for the law of human solidarity and charity, dictated and imposed both by our common origin and by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity."

Solidarity is manifested in the first place by the distribution of goods and remuneration for work. It also presupposes the effort for a more just social order where tensions are better able to be reduced and conflicts more readily settled by negotiation.

Socio-economic problems can be resolved only with the help of all the forms of solidarity: solidarity of the poor among themselves, between rich and poor, of workers among themselves, between employers and employees in a business, solidarity among nations and peoples. International solidarity is a requirement of the moral order; world peace depends in part upon this.

The virtue of solidarity goes beyond material goods. In spreading the spiritual goods of the faith, the Church has promoted, and often opened new paths for, the development of temporal goods as well. And so throughout the centuries has the Lord's saying been verified: "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well":

For two thousand years this sentiment has lived and endured in the soul of the Church, impelling souls then and now to the heroic charity of monastic farmers, liberators of slaves, healers of the sick, and messengers of faith, civilization, and science to all generations and all peoples for the sake of creating the social conditions capable of offering to everyone possible a life worthy of man and of a Christian.

IF YOU'RE GLENN BECK, the compiled doctrine of Christendom's most ancient religion is just as good -- or bad -- as the Communist Manifesto. And
67,515,016 American Catholics apparently must be poised to reprise Mao's Long March -- this time straight through the U.S. Constitution, all the nation's running-dog capitalists and right into the Fox News Channel studios.

Beck passed from the realm of broadcast buffoonery long ago. Now he apparently fancies himself the leader of an all-American, pro-capitalist "counterrevolutionary" army.

Well, maybe he doesn't. The dangerous thing, though, is that he wants his audience to think he is.

IF AMERICA is indeed still possible, Americans will consign this present-day leader of postmodern Know-Nothings to the ratings cellar and the ash bin of history.

And if we don't . . . Jesus, mercy. Mary, pray.

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