Ayn Rand or Jesus Christ? Conservatives Can't Have It Both Ways
Photo Credit: pursuethepassion
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Last week Paul Ryan said that his fondness for the philosophy of Ayn Rand is an "urban legend.” You have to give these wild and crazy Republicans credit for at least one thing: they have cojones the size of the elephants which are the mascots for the party.
The urban myth quote came after a career of Ayn Rand idolatry special even for right-wing Republicans: giving the book to his interns, speaking at Ayn Rand tributes, doing videos about her, saying her philosophy inspired him to get involved in politics. This was no youthful fling, but a lifelong love affair -- until last week , apparently. I've always wondered what politicians are thinking when they say something like this that is so obviously easy to check and refute. Do they really think people are that stupid? Maybe they just think that with the kind of money they can raise, and the Fox News-style, right-wing media to help support them, they can just obliterate the truth with bluster and deafening bombast.
So why is Ryan, who is on the short list for Romney’s VP candidate, so eager to erase his (very recent) past obsession with Ayn Rand, whom so many other right wingers adore as well? Because her writing really is so blatantly offensive to anyone not besotted with her. She preached not only the virtue of selfishness, but that any compassion and generosity was a moral wrong because it helped those who were weakening society. She despised not only the poor but even people with disabilities as leeches draining strength from society. She actually hated the Christianity Ryan and every other Republican is obligated by their base to claim they believe in because Jesus taught that the poor were to be cared for, making her views dangerous for Republican politicians to adhere to as much as they love all that pro-selfishness talk.
Ayn Rand vs. Jesus Christ: Choose only one
This is the ultimate irony in American political life right now, the conservatives who swear on a stack of Bibles that they worship Jesus Christ when they really bow down to the philosophy of Ayn Rand and the golden idol of the free market to be placed at the center of all other things. They preach of an American exceptionalism blessed by a Christian God, and call for America to be a shining city on a hill which can be an example to the entire world. Yet their exceptionalism isn't based on our country being moral the way Jesus would have understood it, but moral the way Rand and the Social Darwinists of the 1880s and '90s would have understood it: whoever gets rich deserves to be, and whoever is poor is a leech on society. Their vision of America is shining because of the gold the wealthy among us possess, not because our society as a whole is built on morality.
John Winthrop, the Puritan leader whose "city on a hill" quote inspired generations of Americans ever since to see our country as a model for other nations, did not understand America as a place built on greed and individualism, but a place built on community and looking out for each other. His other most famous quote went like this:
For this end, we must be knit together in this work as one man, we must entertain each other in brotherly affection, we must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities for the supply of others' necessities. We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other, make others' conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, the Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us, as His own people and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness, and truth then formerly we have been acquainted with.