Sunday, March 19, 2006

American Theocracy

Senator Bill Frist, Senate majority leader and presidential hopeful,
addressing an evangelical Christian rally via teleconference, April 24, 2005.

Kevin Phillips, one time key Republican strategist, has a new book out American Theocracy, which argues that the future of America is endangered by the converging threats of oil dependency, theocracy and financial collapse.

Nothing tremendously new to anyone who has been paying much attention. However, coming from one of the architects of the current Republican majority, it may have an impact out of proportion to its originality. In fact the very use of the term theocracy in the title is significant, legitimizing discussion of a very real danger far too many still dismiss as paranoid fantasy.

The New York Times review is fairly positive but crippled by the need to appear to give a balanced view about things that are just plain obvious but might offend the right wing. Salon has a far more thoughtful review, which makes a key point in passing which is really critical to understanding just how serious the current crisis is.
It's not just that America is being ruled by small and venal men, or that its reputation has been demolished, its army overstretched, its finances a mess. All of that, after all, was true toward the end of Vietnam as well. Now, though, there are all kinds of other lurking catastrophes, a whole armory of swords of Damocles dangling over a bloated, dispirited and anxious country...

Obviously, things in America have been bad before...Yet just because America has endured in the past does not mean it will in the future. Thus figuring out exactly how much danger we're in is difficult. Are things really as dire as they seem, or are anxiety and despair just part of the cultural moment...? It's human nature to believe that things will continue as they usually have, and that we'll once again somehow stumble intact through our looming crises. At the same time, it's hard to imagine a plausible scenario in which the country regains its equilibrium without first going through major convulsions.

Exactly. The road to doom is now so causally overdetermined that its arrival is far more likely than not. And Phillips even leaves out a couple of the most urgent crises that are breathing down our necks: catastrophic climate change and nuclear war.


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