Sunday, June 17, 2012

Maybe You Need a License to Read Philosophy

We've already seen the picture in black and white--the one where someone with glaring psychological problems inflicts his anger and hostility on the world. His name was Adolf Hitler. Well, that's one of his names--the story's so ancient you can read it over and over again, in all the languages of humanity living and dead, if you've got the time and inclination.

The great New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer has found the new archetype of this tragedy, or one of them. Looking at it through the glasses of Joseph Campbell, I mean. The guy's name is Bryan Fischer. These days he resides in Tupelo, MS, ancestral home of Elvis, the beating heart of Southern Culture you might therefore surmise. Fischer has a radio show with a million listeners scattered around the small angry towns of the rural South and Red State Murica. As Mayer points out, that's more ears than either Rachel Maddow or Chis Matthews achieve. And that equation is why one solution to the problem of destroying America as we've known it and replacing it with an authoritarian theocracy which keeps working people hard at the wheel just like Marx said it did (Marx being a reporter, in that instance, or a reader of Dickens)is to simply ignore Maddow and her audience altogether. So what if they keep shouting from the cheap seats. It's a big brass band. You can't hear them over the trumpets.

Here's the link to Mayer's piece, which appears in the most recent issue of the New Yorker:

If you can't access it from here, go buy a copy, or go to your library (before they close it down as a socialist institution). I'm not sure how long the link stays hot, and I'm also not sure if the fact that I subscribe to the print version allows me access. But whatever you do, do read this.

Mr. Fischer was damaged by his childhood. He admits it, although he refuses to actually understand the damage, or what it has done to his humanity. He's a reasonably sharp person, and received degrees from Stanford (in philosophy no less) and from a theological seminary. He's apparently a good speaker--he's been a preacher, and now he rants daily on his own radio show, run by one of those pretty much pure evil institutions that has appropriated the formerly friendly word "family" and turned it into a kind of Confederate Battle Flag. (Have you noticed how the right does this, over and over. Best example is "Take Our Country Back." Sounds good. From who?)

Mr. Fischer blames his mother for all his angst. She left his probably authoritarian preacher father when Mr. Fischer was 20 or so. He all but calls her a slut (in the New Yorker!) for leaving. And he blames his father for being weak enough to "let" her leave. Fischer yearns for a "masculine" Christianity, and hates teh gay with a burning passion. His organization pumped good money into NC's recent tragic constitutional amendment. Fischer spouts made up statistics aiming to prove this and that about teh gays, and sponsors haters on his radio show who spew fantastical nonsense about Nazism and homosexuality. He also believes women have no leadership role in a Christian church, and he's left a trail of ex-friends in his wake--other conservative Christians who eventually decided he was too ruthless for their tastes. Fischer's most noteworthy "triumph" so far is probably his role in forcing Richard Grenell from a Romney advisory post. For the handful of folks who listen to Rachel Maddow, this might be viewed as a helpful action, since Romney's craven silence in this bit of nastiness confirms once again how deeply weak and unsuited to the Presidency Mr. Romney actually is. For the rest of 'em, the "win" is but a small blow in the war against the hope of a minority of our fellow citizens to be treated as equally Americans. But then, Mr. Fischer also believes Native Americans are "unsuited" to govern. (Kinda makes it tough for Elizabeth Warren, don'tcha know.)

I could speculate that what's at the psychological root of Mr. Fischer's problem is a misplaced blame, which he has transformed into an authoritarian vision--put all of gay humanity back in the closet and somehow a mighty father, a "real man," can emerge to rescue all of us confused, muddled sheeple from the melting fantasy that was an authoritarian childhood. His mom left his dad. It happens in one out of two marriages. It's a hard thing, but it's not Auschwitz (Fischer's comparison notwithstanding). We don't know why she left his dad. She might well have had good reasons.

Mr. Fischer is having a life-long tantrum instead of growing up. He wants to make everybody pay. As a trained philosopher and preacher, he's turned out to be an effective rhetorician. Probably the first person he convinced of his distorted way of looking at life was himself, followed by his sadly dutiful wife. Now he's hard at work on the world at large, with much of the eager GOP nodding in agreement, feigned or otherwise. Who knows what Mr. Romney thinks. He has his own childish, authoritarian streak, a mile-wide. There's the dog on the roof, and now there's Mr. Grenell.

There had to be a group of poor souls in early '30s Germany called something on the order of "Jews for Hitler." These days it's the Log Cabin Republicans. But none of them are as unself-aware as Mr. Bryan Fischer. As he toils to destroy tolerance and understanding, he has no idea that waiting in the wings of his so-called "winnable war" are harder, far more authoritarian men. This too we've seen time and again in the march of history. Stalin didn't mind shooting his entire officer corps behind the ear one night. Fischer might not make the final cut. But what's sad right now is his tragic certainty, a life toiling in the service of pain, misfortune, unkindness, cruelty, and worse, and in the name of a false Christianity Jesus would never have recognized or supported. In North Carolina today, families are having to sue the state to remain families in the wake of a misguided constitutional amendment which Mr. Fischer did a great deal to get approved.

Way to go, asshole.

[photo from the great movie "Elmer Gantry," circa 1960]

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