Is America on the Verge of Theocracy? 4 Fundamentalist Ideologies Threatening U.S. Liberty
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The rise of the national security state is no longer an abstraction and can also be seen in the collapse of the traditional distinction between the military and the police, as weapons move freely from the military to local police forces and contribute to the rise of pervasive police abuse against students, African-Americans and immigrants. We also have to include in this list a growing culture of manufactured indifference and cruelty, intensified through a commercially driven spectacle of violence that saturates every element of American society. The latter intensified daily by a language of hate aimed indiscriminately by the right-wing media, many conservative politicians and an army of anti-public pundits against those who suffer from a number of misfortunes including unemployment, inadequate health care, poverty and homelessness. Think of Rush Limbaugh's cruel and hateful attack on Sandra Fluke, insisting that she was a prostitute because she believed that contraception was a women's right and should be covered by insurance companies as part of her health coverage. Or for that matter, think about the ongoing attempts on the part of Republican politicians to cut food stamp programs that benefit over 45 million people. Another would be the call to eliminate child labor laws. Jonathan Schell highlights how this culture of cruelty manifests itself in "a steadily growing faith in force as the solution to almost any problem, whether at home or abroad." The governing-through-crime model that now imposes violence on school children all across the country is a particularly egregious example. How else to explain that in 2010 "the police gave close to 300,000 'Class C misdemeanor' tickets to children as young as six in Texas for offences in and out of school, which result in fines, community service and even prison time"? Behavior as trivial as a dress violation or being late for class now translates into a criminal act and is symptomatic of what attorney Kady Simpkins insists is a growing trend in which "we have taken childhood behaviour and made it criminal." All of these violations point to the ongoing and growing fundamentalisms and "rule of exceptions" in the American polity that bear witness to the growing authoritarianism in American life.
Those governing the United States no longer have a moral compass or a democratic vision, nor do they have a hold on the social values that would engage modes of governance beneficial to the broader public. Governance is now in the hands of corporate power and the United States increasingly exhibits all the characteristics of a failed state. As many notable and courageous critics ranging from Sheldon Wolin to Chris Hedges have pointed out, American politics is being shaped by extremists who have shredded civil liberties, lied to the public to legitimate sending young American troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, alienated most of the international community with a blatant exercise of arrogant power and investment in a permanent warfare state, tarnished the highest offices of government with unsavory corporate alliances, used political power to unabashedly pursue legislative policies that favor the rich and punish the poor and perhaps irreparably damaged any remaining public spheres not governed by the logic of the market. They have waged a covert war against poor young people and people of color who are being either warehoused in substandard schools or incarcerated at alarming rates. Academic freedom is increasingly under attack by extremists such as Rick Santorum; homophobia and racism have become the poster ideologies of the Republican Party; war and warriors have become the most endearing models of national greatness; and a full-fledged assault on women's reproductive rights is being championed by the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls and a not insignificant number of Republican governors. While people of color, the poor, youth, the middle class, the elderly, LGBT communities and women are being attacked, the Republican Party is supporting a campaign to collapse the boundaries between the church and state, and even liberal critics such as Frank Rich believe that the United States is on the verge of becoming a fundamentalist theocracy. Let me develop this further by examining four of the most serious fundamentalisms that now constitute the new authoritarianism in the United States.