Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Honor



The "Restoring Honor" rally was deliberately paired with the Great March of the Civil Rights movement. In both a vision of Christianity are evoked.

Robert Patterson wrote about Saturday's "Restoring Honor"rally:
What is happening today at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Dr. King’s I Have A Dream Speech is nothing short of pornography. Public pornography based on a collection of lies.

But we have a public that has lost the ability to discern the truth for itself.

This is how it starts.

And if you know anything about history, you already know how it finishes.

But alas, most people don’t even know that.

But they will. Sadly.
Patterson used a photograph: Hitler arrives at Nuremberg for rally 1933. He notes about the photo, "another very popular orator." Patterson sees Glenn Beck as a demagogue. No doubt Beck does manipulate popular prejudices. The really scary part is how his television and public appearances exposes our popular prejudices.

Pictures of the Klan or Hitler draw analogy to past events. The general drift of American politics is quite frightening, but these sorts of analogies to the past can obscure a clear view of the present.

Right wing terrorism is no stranger to American history, indeed it's a thread running through it. The explicit threat of vigilante violence give the Tea Party potency.

Patterson's sees Beck's "Restoring Honor" as a milestone along the way to a Fascist dictatorship. Patterson is far better read on matters of war than I, in particular Patterson has given a great deal of attention to 4th Generation Warfare (4GW). Predicting the future is always a stab in the dark. When I try to imagine a coming dictatorship in the USA a figurehead like Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin is difficult to imagine. Indeed a "populist" figure doesn't really seem in the cards. More credibly is a military coupe d'etat, or a perhaps the election of a military officer.

The Tea Party seems to follow the 4GW model, and the rich interests who sponsor so much of their activities can hardly be unaware of 4GW. The broader strategy of the right and the modern Republican Party in the USA appears to be to use violence and threats of violence, to increase divisions between groups, and to undermine economic activity, all in an effort to destroy the moral bonds of society. There seems an almost religious faith among the powerful in what Naomi Klein has dubbed Disaster Capitalism, a faith that at least something good for someone grows out of disaster.

The trouble is more than one can play, indeed is the lesson brought forth by the successful attacks on 9/11. One view of success in an environment of empowered networks of 4G-warriors is to become more horrid than the others. A military leader especially one who's served in the chaos of Iraq and Afghanistan seems far more likely a dictator of the USA than Beck or Palin.

I've written before about how I was desperate to make sense of my brother's murder at the hand of a group of adolescents. I'm more or less resigned now that it's impossible to really make sense of a senseless act. But along my way to make some sense of David's death I read about the Southern culture of honor. We moved South in the summer before I entered fourth grade. It was the summer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" address. Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally was on the same date, August 28.

Part of being a kid in a new place was learning about the particular ways that Southerners think of honor. I thought of "honor" as a boy as pretty much being good; that is, not to lie, be polite, pitch in and help even when you don't feel like it, and stuff like that. What I found over and over in the South was "honor" often meant a readiness to use violence against any perceived slight against one's reputation.

Among the books I read in the weeks after my brother's death was Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South. I tend to read social science research with some skepticism, but the connection between a view of honor as protecting against disgrace by violence instead of a view of honor as doing good, did seem to fit the circumstances of my brother's murder. At least it made much more sense to me than the book I read that had "evil spawn" in the title. From what I can tell from the accounts of his murder is that when my brother was confronted at his front door by the gun wielding youth's he responded something to the effect: "F$ck off!" Being "dissed" lead to a hail of bullets in his back.

Southern history and culture are nuanced topics and I'm by no means expert. Honor and chivalry are closely related notions where violence is paired with deference. In a more general way the construct of culture of honor is a complicated subject in anthropology and sociology. In talking with friends in Africa or who have experience in Africa the differences in temperament between herder and farmer cultures seems easy to point to in a not academic way. It seems almost impossible to connect "honor" to "honor killings," for example stoning a woman who was raped. And yet, the logic that violence "saves" never really seems so foreign to us, it's prevalent across cultures in great diversity.

Many of my online friends in Africa are quite religious, but by no means all. There's a club in Free Thought Club in Kampala and the blog Freethought Kampala. Obviously the diverse cultures in Uganda and their history is not American history. Seeing discussions of ideas there also being discussed here seems to provide some perspective.

In October of last year an anti-homosexuality bill was introduced and debated in Uganda. There was a great hue and cry in the American blogosphere about it. But the very first I heard about the bill was from a friend in Kampala who sent along a link to a report by the Reverend Kapya Kaoma, The U.S. Christian Right and the Attack on Gays in Africa.

I heard about the Bahati bill in Uganda from a patriotic Ugandan sending me a report written by an Evangelical Christian priest from Zambia studying in the USA. When I read Kapya Kaoma's report my reaction was he has a better grip on American politics than I!

What's at stake with the rise of the far-right in USA politics is of great significance to me as an American and important for others around the globe too. There's much that is quite specific to USA culture and history to understand "honor" in the Tea Party context, nonetheless, honor is an idea across cultures with many permutations. Honor seems a key construct.

The sincerity of the Tea Party folks is obvious. "Restoring honor" is clearly a purpose on the moral plane. The connection between honor and violence needs addressing. Regardless of ones own religion or non-religion it doesn't seem possible to understand without a view towards global Christianity.

Photo credit: A cool page at the Kansas State Historical Society Web site.

4 comments:

The 27th Comrade said...

This is obviously a turning point in your country’s political history. Political changes are not without violence—let the African talk, okay?—or they are not changes at all.

About honour, the finest observation on that violence issue remains Mark Twain’s scenes in Huckleberry Finn.

The 27th Comrade said...

This is obviously a turning point in your country’s political history. Political changes are not without violence—let the African talk, okay?—or they are not changes at all.

About honour, the finest observation on that violence issue remains Mark Twain’s scenes in Huckleberry Finn.

DaisyDeadhead said...

This is a very, very serious political moment right now. Fascism is the bull at the gate, stomping and snorting to be let out for the FUN RODEO. (You know, where somebody gets stomped to death?) Nuremberg = Glenn Beck is 100% correct.

At this point, we need to take down these people. No other options that I can see.

Finding out that someone ghost-writes Sarah Palin's Tweets (see recent Vanity Fair article, no joke about that) is not enough to alienate her followers. It ain't about brains, but about her being "one of them"... and she is from ALASKA, so it is NOT a southern thing this time. Beck is a MORMON, again, not a southern thing. (It is far scarier this time; alas, it is nationwide.)

We need to find the scandal, the crime, whatever they have done, and take these two out of the game. NOW. I hope some intrepid reporter is on the case. We need something PROSECUTABLE at this point. We must destroy them beyond any rehab-possibilities, TOTAL Nixonian destruction necessary. They are very dangerous, as dangerous as Hitler and Mussolini were.

We have to get them out of the public eye as soon as possible. Belittling them seems to just make them stronger and stronger.

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