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Friday, November 5, 2004
Jane Smiley and Liberal Tolerance

By Steven Taylor @ 6:40 am

Writes Jane Smiley of Slate:

The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. I suppose the good news is that 55 million Americans have evaded the ignorance-inducing machine. But 58 million have not. (Well, almost 58 million-my relatives are not ignorant, they are just greedy and full of classic Republican feelings of superiority.)

One has to love the broad brushstrokes with which Ms. Smiley “analyzes". Further, one has to admire the way she can boil down support in an election to the rather impressive heights of “the people who voted for the guy I didn’t want are a bunch of poopie-headed dummies, except for my family, who are bunch of greedy people” (but, of course, I paraphrase…slightly).

It would appear that her thesis rests on the well thought out analysis that because Bush went to Iraq, and a lot of Republicans supported that effort, that those who vote for the GOP are infused with “bloodlust". Of course, the possibility that a legitimate foreign policy and national security argument can be made for the policy, even if one disagrees with it, is clearly considered to be an impossibility by the obviously smarter-than-me (and 58 million other people, give or take) Ms. Smiley.

And if one has the audacity to subscribe to Christianity, one is steeped in ignorance. Never mind that of those who profess to be Christians do not hold a uniform view of the Bible or of their faith, it is apparently the open-minded thing to do to lump all of us into the Hellfire and Brimstone camp who probably can’t read anyway because we are all a bunch of backwater hicks who just ain’t none been learned up good yet.

As she writes:

Here is how ignorance works: First, they put the fear of God into you—if you don’t believe in the literal word of the Bible, you will burn in hell. Of course, the literal word of the Bible is tremendously contradictory, and so you must abdicate all critical thinking, and accept a simple but logical system of belief that is dangerous to question. A corollary to this point is that they make sure you understand that Satan resides in the toils and snares of complex thought and so it is best not try it.

And lest I betray my obvious ignorance: I don’t recall issues of eternal security being at the center (or even periphery) of the campaign. Indeed, as I recall, President Bush has made statement on multiple occasions that Christians and Muslims worship the same God-which doesn’t exactly define him as a hardcore conservative evangelical.

Obviously (I think), the issue that troubles Ms. Smiley is the Gay Marriage question. However, since in national surveys and in many of the elections held on Tuesday, the percentage of persons opposed to Gay Marriage is often higher the percentage of professed evangelicals-so perhaps something else is going on here than just the attack of the ignorant Red Staters?

Further, there are evangelicals who may well oppose Gay Marriage and/or its imposition on states by the Supreme Court of other states who nonetheless support civil unions.

And, might I note, that we all operate under systems of thought: philosophies, ideologies, religions and typically they aren’t as neat and tidy as we ourselves think they are, nor as those who demonize others pretend.

Of course, Ms. Smiley is a novelist, so perhaps this piece is cleverly disguised fiction. However, I would suggest that she is hardly showing any sign of classic liberal tolerance (and I don’t mean liberal in the American political sense, but in the sense that we are all liberals).

Of course, clearly Ms. Smiley has some anger to deal with:

, we have to remember that threats to democracy from the right always collapse. Whatever their short-term appeal, they are borne of hubris and hatred, and will destroy their purveyors in the end.

When it comes to hubris and hatred, I think Ms. Smiley need look no further than the nearest mirror. And part of democracy is having an election and then accepting defeat. Demonizing half the voting population because they didn’t vote for your side is hardly an example of upholding the ideals of democracy.

I don’t want to overly generalize, but some on the left side of our political spectrum are sounding as crazy, if not crazier, than many on the right during the Clinton era.

Hat tip: Betsy Newmark..

Update: Glenn Reynolds notes some other responses to Ms. Smiley (Hat Tip: Jeff Quinton).

Update 2: This post is waiting in traffic at the OTB Traffic Jam.

Click here to go to the main page.

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