Sunday, December 9, 2007

Hey, Mitt "Religion in America" Romney

Let me tell you something, you pompous double-dealing cult-addled bigot: I don't need faith to be an American, to be moral, or to be damned well free, and that means I don't need you. You will never be my president, that I guarantee. I heard everything you said, especially the parts that were unspoken, and you damned well will not get away with it, you son of a bitch.

Let's go over a few key points of Mr. Romney's fine address, shall we?

"Today, I wish to address a topic which I believe is fundamental to America's greatness: our religious liberty."

You'll come to see, soon enough, that by "religious liberty," Mitt doesn't mean "freedom of religion." He means "our liberty, which is religious in nature." It sounds like semantics, but it's a damned important distinction, and one that I don't think he made accidentally.

"There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us."

Romney makes frequent use of this device in his speech; he refers repeatedly to an unspecified "some" or "people" who, it seems, are naysayers. He never clarifies who these people supposedly are, nor why they take such conveniently pessimistic viewpoints. It's almost as if he's - *gasp* - setting up a series of straw men to attack in order to make himself look proactive and strong.

"In John Adams' words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. ... Our Constitution,' he said, 'was made for a moral and religious people.'"

This is, I'll admit, a clever non sequitur. Like Einstein's famous and oft-misquoted lines about "the mind of God" or how God does or does not gamble, Adams' reference to "religion" is significantly more complex than its literal meaning. Einstein was partial to using "God" as a poetic means of referring to the workings of the universe, an interpretation verified quite clearly by his open and quite plain disavowal of any actual belief in a "personal God." In a similar manner, I think that Adams' association with the other Founders, and his participation in the founding of the American republic - a secular republic inspired by the thinkers of the Enlightenment - demonstrates quite clearly that when he refers here to "religion" he's using it in the parlance of his time to indicate ethics, decency, and civilization. It's disingenuous to assume that because of this casual statement, Adams would agree with Romney's implicit assertion that without religion, one can be neither American or moral.

"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

This follows on the heels of Romney's Adams quote, and continues to draw on that as a referent. Regarding that: it's particularly reprehensible to cast backwards to long-outdated modes of speech and thought and then use them out of context to frame modern debate. In the first half of the 20th century, "white" was a complimentary adjective indicating decency, generosity, and thoughtfulness. I would not, however, expect to hear Mr. Romney say that "morality requires whiteness just as whiteness requires morality," as racism is rather less popular in today's political discourse than is crass manipulation of voters' religious belief.

"Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate's religion that are appropriate."

There's that mysterious and pinch-mouthed "some" again. Where do they get off being so negative, anyway?

"Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions."

Okay, this one's just an out-and-out lie. Romney gave this speech to and for the benefit of conservative Christians, for the express purpose of letting them know that he's their man. Pundits know this. His political advisers admit this. That is the known context of this speech. Romney's entire purpose in this address was to let the conservative Christian lobby know in no uncertain terms that they would, in fact, "exert influence on presidential decisions." This is the subtext of the entire address, and to say it's not is just sickeningly dishonest.

"When I place my hand on the Bible and take the oath of office, that oath becomes my highest promise to God. If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest."

This is really the one bright spot in the speech. I'll be the first to say that if Romney were elected, and he did keep this promise, he'd be entirely worthy of praise for it and probably a fine President. Unfortunately, the context leaves me rather pessimistic about that coming to pass. He says here that he won't serve interest groups, and yet he's running on a Republican ticket, which is at this point no more than a forced welding together of five different powerful coalitions of interest groups. Forgive me if I remain skeptical.

"There are some for whom these commitments are not enough. They would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it's more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. ... Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy."

Boy, those "some" just won't leave this guy alone, huh? Wait... who were "some" again? Oh, that's right. Some straw men.

"Americans tire of those who would jettison their beliefs, even to gain the world."

Then why have they elected them over and over again for the last forty or fifty years at least? Ba-dum tsch!

"What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind. ... There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution."

So, let me see if I'm straight on what just happened here: first, he described and explained his church's distinctive doctrine on Jesus. Then, he insisted that in spite of what "some" straw men wanted, he would not describe and explain his distinctive doctrines.

Right. And let's not forget that in spite of his protestations against a "religious test," he's giving a speech for the sole purpose of reassuring voters about his religion.

"...No movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people."

Indeed, Mr. Romney. Indeed. And this is why our nation is pitiably backwards in "movements of conscience" regarding things like sex education, stem cell research, gay marriage, and the right to die. These movements of conscience, movements intended to better the world for everyone, do not in fact speak to religious conviction, and religious conviction would rather have a backwards, suffering world in line with its own dogma than give one inch of ground to humanism and conscience. So, in fact, you are correct in this, but not, I do not think, in the way you meant.

"...[I]n recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It's as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America - the religion of secularism. They are wrong."

Hoo boy. This one's a doozy.

Okay. First off, we have those ubiquitous secular straw men, here seen attacking the very right to virtuous faith of the simple, forthright American people. "Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life"? Well, actually... yes. That's exactly correct, Mr. Romney. That's what the separation of church and state means, so long as you're using "public" to mean "governmental." Wait, what's that? You're deliberately confusing two meanings of "public," pulling a bait-and-switch between "in sight of or in community with other people" and "affecting the affairs of all the people"? Oh. I see. That's not very honest of you, Mr. Romney.

And come on. Intent on establishing a religion of secularism? What does that even mean? Might as well accuse "some" of being intent on establishing "the government of anarchy" or "the education of ignorance" or "the up of down."

Let go of the bogeyman of the secular "war on faith," Mr. Romney. It's simply not there. Those of us in this nation who aren't religious want people's personal beliefs to stay personal, yes, but that's a damned far cry from illegalizing God or establishing a "religion of secularism."

"The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'under God' and in God, we do indeed trust."

Note carefully the non sequitur in the middle of this quip. Romney goes from the assertion that religion can't be "eliminated" from American life - which is true, and which is yet another straw man, since I doubt you'll find many Americans who want to forbid the public practice of religion, and since that's most definitely not the stance of any of Romney's immediate opponents - to the idea that we are a nation under God. He jumps from one idea to the other as if they were logically connected, but they are, in fact, nothing of the sort. It's a false equivalence: the logical structure of this statement implies that to disagree that we are "under God" - a Christian nation - is to attempt to ban religion.

"Non sequitur" means "does not follow." I think that adequately covers it.

"We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places."

I don't know about you, but to me, what he just said was, "The Judeo-Christian God should be established in all facets of American public life." I'm fairly sure that violates the... what was it? Oh, yes: the ESTABLISHMENT CLAUSE.

No one really wants to remove creches and menorahs from public places, Mitt. From courthouses, sure; religious paraphernalia have no place in the law. But from "public places"? Like, what, streetcorners? Yards? Who is it, exactly, that wants that, Mitt? Is it your straw men?

"No people in the history of the world have sacrificed as much for liberty."

I'm thinking Mitt failed History class in high school; or maybe he's just using a bit of hyperbole because he doesn't really care what, say, colonialized Africa and India, or the people of China, have suffered? Surely he wouldn't be saying something this offensively false and jingoistic for cynical political gain, would he?

"America took nothing from that century's terrible wars - no land from Germany or Japan or Korea, no treasure, no oath of fealty."

He's referring here to the 20th century, and I just have to ask: America may not have been in the Triple Entente, but do you really think that we had nothing to do with the crippling reparations that were forced on Germany and, in fact, drove them into the economic desperation that led to World War II? I know that's a nitpicky point, but once again I'm just pointing out that I think he may be engaging in a bit of liberty with the truth for his own gain, and I can't really stomach that.

"Because of their diverse beliefs, Ann Hutchinson was exiled from Massachusetts Bay, Roger Williams founded Rhode Island, and two centuries later, Brigham Young set out for the West. Americans were unable to accommodate their commitment to their own faith with an appreciation for the convictions of others to different faiths. In this, they were very much like those of the European nations they had left.
It was in Philadelphia that our founding fathers defined a revolutionary vision of liberty, grounded on self evident truths about the equality of all, and the inalienable rights with which each is endowed by his Creator."

Pardon me, Mitt, but I think you may have your timeline a little off-kilter there. I'm pretty sure the Bill of Rights predated Brigham Young.

"You can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me."

Once again, a false equivalence, this time an implication that a "believer in religious freedom" is equivalent to a "person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty." That's not just a false equivalence, it's actually pretty close to the opposite of the truth. Why are you so damn dishonest, Romney?

"We do not insist on a single strain of religion - rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith."

Just so long as you have it. And it involves praying to a single god. And its morals align with ours. And you believe in small government with a powerful executive, outlawing abortion, and a young earth created by divine intervention.


"And so together they prayed, and together they fought, and together, by the grace of God, they founded this great nation."

...So that they, wealthy white elitist landowners, might lower their tax burden. Amen.

Now, don't get me wrong: I respect the Founders. They really were brilliant men, blessed with both insight and foresight. They just weren't who Romney is implying they were.


So that's it. That's the "Symphony of Religion" speech of 2007. That's the address where Mitt Romney made it quite clear that he is, in fact, a party-line conservative Christian, who's willing to distort facts and prey on the faith of Americans to win office; where he made it clear that anyone not of the Judeo-Christian tradition is not American and not entitled to liberty; where he employed more logical fallacies than I could conveniently count, including a veritable army of straw men.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I feel sick.

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