"Kerry has said that he personally opposes abortion but believes the
decision should be the woman's. (He is therefore 'pro-choice',
not 'pro-abortion' - though that defining nuance would probably be
beyond the grasp of barbarian minds.) And last week, the New York
Times reported that a group of American Roman Catholic bishops
were 'blanketing' their flock with the news that if they voted for
Kerry they would be committing a sin; and that they would have to
confess and repent their vote before they would be permitted to
receive holy communion again.
Again - let the reader pause and take that in.
The likeliest response, I imagine, will be incredulity. But
incredulity can be as reactionary as comedy. So pause for a moment
and really take that in.
And understand the danger in which the Republic - a nation founded
on the seminal principle of the separation of Church and State -
These bishops, let it be remembered, had nothing to say a year ago
when it was revealed that, for many years, large numbers of American
Roman Catholic bishops and priests had been exuberantly buggering
little boys. (To the contrary, their response had been to cover up
those crimes - not just 'sins', but crimes - quickly and quietly
transferring the criminals to other dioceses, where they were free
to start again from scratch, preying on the children of a new flock.)
Nor has it occurred to these bishops that it might be a sin to vote
for the man who unleashed unwarranted death and destruction upon
Iraq: an overwhelming military attack, with a bogus rationale,
resulting in the killing and maiming of tens of thousands of
innocent men, women and children. To the contrary: these Men of the
Cloth are avidly engaged in organisational work intended to deliver
the Catholic vote to the man who launched that gratuitous, and
ongoing, death and destruction. (Meanwhile, Catholics who vote for
Mr Kerry can go straight from the polling booth to the confessional
booth and repent their 'sin'.)
It's hard to imagine the shame and suffering of real Catholics faced
with such a debasement of their titular spiritual guides.
Dan Chaon again: 'I find myself particularly repelled by Bush's
professed 'Christianity', even as his Administration repudiates
every value that Christ represents.'
But that is G W Bush's real country, a country of churches and guns:
a place awash with Larkin's doctors and priests, and quite devoid of
newspapers, the 'Net - or, presumably, any scientist not actively
engaged in designing either bigger and better oil-drilling platforms
or the next generation of nuclear bombs.
For there are, in fact, today two Americas; and for more than a year
now - because that is how long this dangerously exacerbating
presidential campaign has been going on - one of them has, like a
black hole, been feeding itself by drawing all the forces of
darkness unto itself: the unreconstructed, and no longer so
covert, 'southern' racism; the mindless American bellicosity (surf
the US TV channels some idle evening and count: you'll find that at
least half of them are airing programmes or films featuring guns);
the isolationism, hubris and ignorance of the world; the lobotomised
and intolerant religiosity; and the age-old American paranoia - the
ineluctable product of metaphysical guilt - that produced 'Salem'
and, in our time, McCarthyism.
These are the Bush legions in the coming election: the National
Rifle Association; the evangelical and fundamental Christian
Churches (among which must be numbered, these days, American Roman
Catholicism); the impoverished and semi-literate descendants of the
Daughters of the American Revolution, from whose consciousness - as
they drive around swigging beer with shotguns clipped to the rear
windshields of their pick-ups, in a thousand two-mule southern
towns - the hope of spotting some innocent deer or beautiful buck to
kill is never very far; and, of course, big business - very big
business - those 'leaders of American industry and commerce' who
know that the current president's first order of business is to
license their looting of the US environment, Treasury and citizenry,
and who have no other interests.
These are Bush's People, and they are in fact the mirror image of
militant Islam: a fervid competing presence in the same jostling
And so Samuel Huntington was wrong: the real 'clash of
civilisations' in our time is not between cultures in discrete parts
of the world but, first and foremost, between civilisations within
the United States itself."