One thing you can say for the rootin’ tootin’ radio-vangelists of Jesus H. Christ’s good ol’ USA - they don’t miss a trick. Every time a mass killing or natural disaster occurs in America (as they now seem to at least once a year) these men switch up the volume on their bigoted patter - blah, blah, gays, blah, blah, sin - and direct it towards the nearest blog, local radio station, podcast or TV. In place, they unzip and unload; self-appointed representatives of America’s fast-disappearing soul. They say things that make most listeners blink a couple times, then fight a feeling of blackness, then snort. Virginia Tech? Caused by “teaching evolution”. Hurricane Sandy? “Gay marriage”. The Dark Night Shooting? “Liberals”.
Now the response to Sandy Hook's been delivered. James Dobson, a member of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, said in his Monday morning radio show that this massacre of 20 elementary school children was the logical conclusion of America having “killed 54 million babies” (read: legalised abortion) and extended marriage rights to gay couples. The only person with less sensitivity in the whole country, it seems, is The American Family Association’s Bryan Fisher, who claimed that God didn’t protect the children of Sandy Hook because public schools no longer promote prayer.
Probably the best response to arguments of this level of wilful and caustic blindness is parade them on the modern day stocks of Facebook and enjoy a bitter snarkfest. But that’s not so satisfying on the umpteenth repeat. I’ve heard it said (and 100 per cent agree) that the best way to deal with bad speech and bad ideas is to offer better speech and better ideas in return. But at the same, when it comes to facing the Dobsons of this world, all the minds at the New York Times, with all the lacerating arguments they could muster, aren’t going to make a shred of difference. There is no debate. Only the Almighty Himself, or maybe the KFC Colonel, could divert these people from their course.
At its core, the message never varies. In Dobson's words: “Something has gone wrong with America”. That "something" - to most people - might be called progress, though Dobson would likely call it sin. It’s something to do with people of different sexualities, colours and creeds living together a little easier. It’s something to do with women having rights over their own bodies. It’s something to do with tolerance. If you really want to look at “something” wrong with America, you might in fact point the finger at these self-promoting evangelists – who tip ever closer in spirit to the maniacs at the Westboro Baptist Church.
The bad news for these people, however, is that more change is coming. As Romney found out, kowtowing to America’s extreme right no longer pays such dividends for politicians. It drags them away from that vote-winning centre ground. The Economist’s superb Lexington columnist put it most clearly, “Democracy is self-correcting"; over-reach too far to one extreme and the population will punish you for it come election day. So perhaps we can look forward to a time, in say thirty years, when the volume of these extremist preachers is inaudible. When the voices of a new and newly diverse of America have drowned them out. That's something that would be worth an "amen".
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