Not long ago, I wrote a column that reminded readers of the Taliban's infamous 2001 destruction of the world's tallest standing statues of Buddha, which were then1700 years old and carved into a cliff in the Bamiyan Valley in the Hindu Kush Mountains of central Afghanistan. Conspiracy theorists may, in fact, recall that the world, outside of Kabul anyway, recoiled in horror in early March of 2001 as footage of the serial dynamiting flashed on screens from Al Jazeera to MTV. Later that year, when the Bush administration pointed to Afghanistan as harborers of those bastards who flew their planes into our towers, we Americans were quick to call for blood.
And blood we got, though we have spent mountains worth of blood-money to get it. So far, since 2001 (as of April 14, 2010, 10:42 and 43 seconds PM AZ time), the war against Afghanistan has cost taxpayers two hundred and sixty-five billion, five hundred and eight million, three hundred and twenty nine thousand and a steadily mounting mound of change. The lives destroyed and innocence lost has been incalculable.
But it seems when people have a strong religious faith and political power to wreak their will, they are capable of terrible things. The Taliban claimed the statues, not just the ideas they represented, but the very stone itself, which was the cultural icon for hundreds of millions, if not billions, around the world, that the images themselves on that sacred mountain were no longer tolerable to their particular vision of god and had to be eradicated before they could further infect the public.
Despite an outcry from voices around the globe, there was no dissent allowed. The country had become a theocracy, designed to honor what its practitioners believed to be the only true religion. It was as god intended it--the one true church worked hand in hand with the state to destroy all opposing ideas. As one cleric explained, the symbols once revered in that part of the world now "contradict our Islamic beliefs, we would not like to have them any more."
As elaborate of a setup as that was to introduce this week"s column, I have not come to pillory the Taliban, nor to raze them about some long ago treachery of the past; but to warn of a possible parallel future. Once again strictly religious zealots, socially conservative to an extreme, madly wielding near blasphemous political power are threatening the very symbols of a society, nay, its very way of life. Once again, the stone images of that vision of a better world for mankind, the bedrock of a society, have been carved into a mountainside. Once again the world watches in impotent horror as fanatics attempt to destroy a country's massive monuments to its sacred ideals.
By now I am sure you've realized I am talking about the Tea Party's relentless efforts to demolish the images on Mount Rushmore--Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington, the top dogs, the final four, the veritable crÃ¨me-de-la-crÃ¨me super-duper stars of American presidents. Since they started keeping tabs on this kind of stuff back in 1948, none of these guys have been ranked below 7th place in any major public opinion poll. But so far, three of the four have had their faces blasted off by the Tea Party as being not true enough to the America the Tea Party claims the founding fathers intended. Of course, two of these guys were the founding fathers, but who has time to quibble over details when one has a vision to protect " and another one to destroy.
At this point in history, the Tea Party believe they are poised to rightfully reclaim America for all their supposedly grateful worshippers so long oppressed by the twin evils of government social services and freedom of, and/or from, religion. They may not believe it, but it doesn't look like they're right about the rest of us waiting with bouquets. In fact a New York Times/CBS poll released 4/14/10 reveals that though 84 percent of Tea Partiers believe that "the views of the people involved in the Tea Party movement generally reflect the views of most Americans," as you may have guessed however the reality is actually that "only 25 percent of the general public, however, believe that the Tea Party reflects their views."
Some polls are claiming that perhaps as many as 28% of Americans are currently claiming Tea Party affiliation, hardly a majority, and definitely not a large enough percentage of the public to insist that their will be law. I know. I was once a member of a group that included 35% American public and even though we protested round the clock and, at times, in groups of millions, the government and the media ignored us. It was March of 2003 and we were protesting that Bush's claim of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" was a lie; and America should not attack Iraq, lest we find ourselves mired in a quagmire of Vietnamese proportions and you can see how well that went.
(BTW, as of 4/15/10, 9:23 and 44 seconds AM, AZ time, that war has cost the American public $717,523,330,929 and counting. And, by the time you finish this article, the combined total of moneys spent will have topped a trillion dollars, with trillions yet untold yet to come.)
Meanwhile the Tea Party is preparing an assault of their own, and on April 19, a date non-coincidentally chosen to commemorate the first time Americans took up weapons against their government (the "Shot Heard Around the World!" fired at Lexington and Concord in 1775), to honor or possibly replicate the day. While may claim such talk is empty hyperbole, their vendors were selling pins calling for armed revolution at the Phoenix Glen Beck rally April 10 (more on that next week). So, on the 15th anniversary of Timothy McVeigh's attack on the national government in Oklahoma City (also times to commemorate Lexington and Concord, also styled as a legitimate revolt of right wing anger) after 15 months of grumbling, the Tea Partiers will take the ultimate plunge and launch an armed march on DC " well, the outskirts, to show America they have the right own guns, an assertion none but their own media arm actually question. Unfortunately for them and fortunately for the rest of us, the weapons carrying contingent of the Tea Party has hold their rally outside the city limits of DC, since the city has a ban on handguns.
We will observe a five second pause for those who must choke on this irony.
And now back to our regularly scheduled satire:
Meanwhile inside the Beltway, supposedly over one million right-wingers will rant and rave on the National Mall about how their federal government has no idea of their idea of the Constitution regarding gun rights. Just to be sure, the supposedly embattled Second Amendment reads, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." To some the "not be infringed part" means any American four-year old (physically or mentally) should be allowed to possess a gosh-darned bazooka if they flippin' want one and just see what happens if you try to stop "em! To others "the well-regulated" part means that gun owners can and should strictly policed. The vast majority of Americans fall somewhere in the middle, so for most it is not an issue.
Lord knows guns are everywhere. Though gun fans forever fear that the American government is forever trying to strip them of their weaponry and their fears aren't reflected by a terribly sparsity of firearms available in America, currently estimated to be about 350,000,000 weapons overall. As a result about 35% of the Americans are ever-ready to kill their neighbors and next of kin at a moment's notice. And, in fact, those are the very people they most often murder. Of course, since gun owners are the good Americans with a healthy sense of patriotism (as reflected in the respect they give their duly elected president and the taxes which support the country they claim to love) and a strong sense of high moral values, the rest of us have nothing to fear of a gathering of thousands of angry armed people advancing on our nation's capital.
But before we let these supposedly religious people (who routinely omit the "thou shall not kill," "steal," "lie," "covet thy neighbor's wife," or "take the lord's name in vain" from their personal interpretation of the strict orthodoxy they insist that others follow) treat our nation's capital the same way they have been treating our national heroes, we should review their cases against our most popular ex-presidents and the majority of Americans for that matter, in order to figure why they hate the faces on Mt. Rushmore so much.
Of course if you talk directly to rank and file Tea Party members they will promise you, they are the true believers. They love their country more than any of the rest of us could even imagine possible and they are not simply about destruction, hatred, violence, cruelty or unfairness. Which is why their various members so frequently call for all liberals, all foreigners, all minorities and all Democrats to be rounded up and exterminated "like vermin" [hyperbole theirs]. That is, in deed, one way to make peace, to kill all your opposition. As biologist and philosopher Jean Rostand (1894-1977) once noted, "Kill a man, and you are an assassin. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill everyone, and you are a god." And if you are god, you get to set the rules and no dissent is possible: the people can't argue with god. They can only be sacrificed for his will, or, if heretics, sacrificed to his wrath.