Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A European Reader's Thoughts on McCain/Palin

In response to my earlier post today about the importance of the U.S. presidential election, I received an e-mail from a reader in Europe who is aghast that there is even a possibility of someone like Sarah Palin being elected as Vice President of this nation. I agree with him - it is VERY, VERY frightening and says nothing good about America. Here's a portion of his message to me:
I'm one of your European readers (living in Germany and Denmark) and I want to tell you, that I'm particularly interested in your political commentary, the way you put gay politics into the frame of party politics and church politics and make it to the crucial point of liberal and humanistic politics in both areas.
It is so difficult not only for me to understand what is happening in the USA. Take for example Charlie Gibson's interview of Sarah Palin, about which I was really shocked. One of Scandinavia's leading newspapers, Politiken in Copenhagen, characterized her answers as those of a poor student who is falling through the exam, but it is still possible, that she will be elected! And it is not only her cranky Christianity, but her shocking incompetence, which I fear. Do the American electors have sense for their world-wide responsibility?
It is very hard to explain to residents of other advanced nations how it can be that the USA is both a country of great knowledge and power and yet also a nation inhabited by many ignorant - often by their own choice - people who are utterly clueless on a host of issues and areas of knowledge. Part of the phenomenon may be due to the USA's great size - Texas is a large as France - and it's lack of proximity to other nations other than Canada (which in many ways is similar to the USA) and Mexico. Unlike Europe which has been much more outward looking for centuries and had much more movement between countries, too many within the USA look inward and really have no interest in the concept that there ARE other legitimate perspectives on issues.
I hate to say it, but I also believe that religion is also an insidious cause for the ignorance and/or lack of curiosity on the part of many Americans. Europe for the most part has never had the fundamentalist and evangelical religious traditions that grew up out of the uneducated masses and often times self-styled "preachers" who had questionable levels of education themselves. For all its huge faults, at least the Roman Catholic Church historically had a somewhat educated clergy. It is no coincidence that today fundamentalists and evangelicals are most populous in the states that have the lowest levels of overall education and the poorest public education systems. In my view, it is difficult to believe in the literal interpretation/application of the Bible and the teaching of creationism if one has a modicum of quality education.
The public education system in the USA is also woefully lacking when it comes to educating young people about (1) accurate history so that they cannot be duped by Christianist demagogues, (2) how government works and the interactions between the branches of government, and (3) patriotism not being an excuse to not question one's government. I was first drawn into politics due to my frustrations with public education which offered far too little for my intellectually gifted children. While myself and like minded people did force through some improvements in the Virginia Beach school system, so much more is need across the country. With the GOP and the Christianist depending upon the ignorance of voters, it is a constant battle to stem efforts to "dumb down" the system even more.
Will McCain and Palin be elected? I truly hope not. If they are, I foresee further declines in the USA both in terms of knowledge and personal freedoms and liberty. I believe that gay rights are intertwined with both religion and politics in this country because anti-gay legislation and homophobia have one root cause: the desire to punish those who do not conform to the Christianist religious beliefs. But gays are not the only targets of these folks. Jews, Muslims, Hindu's and non-believers all are at risk if someone like Sarah Palin, an obvious religious fanatic is elected to high office. I hope and pray that Obama/Biden is victorious on November 4, 2008.

1 comment:

Ramesh said...


In response to your European reader's comments, he makes some very valid points. Religion in virtually all Western European politcs is never an issue. This may be a result of hundreds of years of religious-based warfare among European nations, but it seems that they, unlike many folks here in the US, understand the dangers of injecting religious issues into politics. They have learned some hard lessons that it seems we may have yet to learn.

Also, he is correct in his assessment of our public education system. Children today in the US have no education in "civics" and are woefully ignorant about the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and how our government actually works (or is designed to work). I wonder how many young people could define what a "representative democrary" is? Our world today is so different than even 20 years ago. And the products of our public education system just don't seem to know much about the world we live in now.

In my recent travels to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, I can tell you that your reader's veiws about Obama and the presidential election are right on. Barak Obama is seen as an intelligent, thoughtful, charismatic, honest politician who is the rightful interitor of the Kennedy legacy.