July 6, 2004
The Religious Left and Kayaking in the Fog
BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
Itís 11:30 p.m. and my carís horn is honking downstairs in the garage. I sat up in my chair a few moments ago to reach for the remote to turn off the TV and go to bed, and a key or pen in my pocket inadvertently poked the red button on my key fob to start the honking. I hate this feature on my car, and my neighbors hate me because of it.
You see, a TV commercial that aired incessantly a few years ago showed that if a macho man got lost while kayaking offshore in the fog, he could just press the red button on his key fob and his big, manly SUV would start honking and flashing its lights to guide him back to shore.
If you repeat something often enough, it becomes a "fact" in your listenersí minds. Hundreds of thousands of men who will never step within 20 feet of a kayak -- let alone paddle one offshore in the fog -- became convinced that they had to have a red button on their key fob to make their horns honk. They could be just as macho as the guy on TV. The red button on the key fob is now a standard factory-installed feature, and my mechanics tell me they cannot disable it no matter how much I offer in bribes. So I have to tolerate the honking in the middle of the night.
This principle of establishing a new "fact" by simply repeating an assertion over and over again comes to mind every time I hear the expression, "the Religious Right." Political pundits and seemingly objective newscasters have been repeating the assertion for years that people of faith are, by definition, conservatives.
We hear it every night on the six oíclock news: The Religious Right opposes a womanís right to choose. The Religious Right supports the presidentís tax cuts. The Religious Right, though it opposes war in general, supports the presidentís drive to bring freedom and liberty to Iraq at the point of a bayonet.
Religion and conservatism do not always a close partnership make. For instance, the ostensibly up-by-the-bootstraps right wing seldom identifies with efforts to provide food and shelter to the homeless and working poor, even though the theme echoes often in the New Testament. Here in San Francisco, when people find themselves in dire need, they turn to places with names like Martin de Porres, St. Anthonyís, Metropolitan Community Church, Glide Memorial Church, the Night Ministry, Episcopal Sanctuary and Catholic Charities, to name just a few. They donít line up at the GOPís headquarters.
For decades here in San Francisco, when the weather turns especially cold during winter, the mayor does not ask compassionate conservatives to find shelter for the homeless. No, whoever occupies Room 200 at City Hall issues an annual appeal to the churches, synagogues and temples to open their doors at night to allow the homeless to sleep in their places of worship.
President George W. Bush has filled the airwaves for more than three years with proposals for "faith-based" social services, though there seems to be debate about which faiths and which services he is discussing. Here in San Francisco, people of all faiths have for many decades been providing humanitarian assistance that the government cannot or will not provide. And liberal ideals guide most of these assistance programs.
So whence comes this notion that the right wing alone wears the religious mantle in America? It comes from constant repetition of the term, Religious Right. It comes from crude manipulation of public thought by political planners seeking to control the halls of power. And it has as much validity as that obnoxious red button on my key fob.
Next time you hear any sort of decree from the Religious Right, stop to consider before accepting what they say. Is it a valid point, or is it kayaking in the fog?
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
Patrick Andersen is a San Francisco writer and editor.
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