Sunday, August 28, 2011


A friend who's been visiting from NYC for the last two weeks missed the earthquake, but then had to rebook her flight back because of the hurricane. Since she was here on vacation, and her vacation's over, she's needing to work remotely for the next week (return flights now being like hen's teeth). She's happy to know the hurricane wasn't as severe as it could have been, and that her cats are safe. As any sane person would be. I really don't get the folks (George Will, for one) who are yammering about "over-reaction." Seems to me the preparations were just as they should have been.

More outrageous-- but all too typical of right-wing insanity-- are the remarks of Republican ideologues who were in full swing beforehand. First there was Pat Robertson on the earthquake-caused cracks in the Washington Monument:
“Ladies and gentlemen I don’t want to get weird on this so please take it for what it’s worth,” [television evangelist Pat Robertson] said. “But it seems to me the Washington Monument is a symbol of America’s power, it has been the symbol of our great nation, we look at that monument and say this is one nation under God. Now there’s a crack in it, there’s a crack in it and it’s closed up. Is that a sign from the Lord?”

“You judge, but I just want to bring that to your attention. It seems to me symbolic.”
Don't want to get weird on this? Take it for what it's worth? Interesting qualifiers. But his reasoning, not his declaration, is what really grabs my attention: the Washington Monument-- that great big phallus thrusting up into the DC landscape-- is "a symbol of America's power"-- and "a symbol of our great nation"-- he says, and then goes on to assert "this is one nation under God." (Hmmm.) And so: if there's a crack in it, it must be from God! In other words, God sent the earthquake in order to introduce fractures into the stone tower built to honor the first POTUS! (How did I not figure that out for myself?) And if God took that much trouble to cause fractures in a symbol of our "great nation," it must mean something BIG.

These guys, I guess, really do beleive that, as Israelis were the chosen people of Yaweh, the US is the chosen "nation" of the Christian fundamentalist version of God. All these different Gods. All this magical thinking. It's not only enough to make my head swim, it gives me a vision of historians in the future reading such tripe and deciding that 21st-century North Americans had a mythopoetic view of the world (as I wrote in a paper back in the mid-1970s that Columbus and Cortez held a mythopoetic view of the world, based on their interpretation of what they saw and experienced in the "New World.")

And then there was Glenn Beck. Hurricane Irene, he tells us, is a "blessing." Actually, it turns out he has a financial interest in the nature of this "blessing."
“Warning! Warning! We are headed for global disruption in food,” Beck proclaimed on Friday. “I asked you two weeks ago, how many warnings do you think you’re going to get, and how many warnings do you deserve? … This hurricane’s that is coming through [is a warning] … for anyone who’s in the East Coast and has been listening to me say, ‘Food storage! Be prepared!’”

As Mediaite explains, “Beck has been talking up the need to stockpile supplies due to what he sees as a coming ‘global disruption in food.’”

Last October, however, Business Insider commented on the commercial relationship which appears to be behind Beck’s crusade for food preparedness. “You may have heard about Beck’s relationship with Goldline International, which urges people to buy gold and stay safe from the supposed inevitable devaluing of the dollar,” the website noted. “Now meet Food Insurance, which sells survival kits of freeze-dried food and other items to help people live from two weeks to 12 months, depending on the plan purchased (and post-apocalyptic conditions). Beck has promoted the company’s products, is featured prominently on the company’s website, and a banner ad for the company, bearing Beck’s image, was spotted on his website Monday.”

Beck is no longer with Fox News, but his passion for food preparedness appears to be as strong as ever. “You’ve heard me say this for years. People have made fun of me,” he concluded on Friday. “If you’ve waited, this hurricane is a blessing. It is God reminding you — as was the earthquake last week — it’s God reminding you, you’re not in control. Things can happen. Be prepared!”
And then there was Ron Paul, who thinks we'd all be better off without FEMA and, like Eric Cantor, is calling for additional spending cuts before allocating so much as a dime on hurricane relief.

Seems to me, also, that they ought to change Grand Old Party to Party of Lunatics. It really is time.

To get us back to reality, consider this: recently large blooms of crude oil have been seen swelling up to the surface above the Deepwater Horizon drilling site. A few people are concerned that it could "indicate the formation of fissures on the seabed" of the plugged oil well that's already done so much damage. Not a sign from God, perhaps, which means it won't cut any ice with the POLs. But I hope someone's looking into it.

ETA: I didn't actually mean to slight Michelle Bachmann. She, too, has been telling folks that God sent the hurricane (as well as the earthquake) in support of the Tea Party's message. But it seems that there must be a sane person on her staff: according to the Washington Post blog, Bachmann's press secretary has since been spinning this pronouncement, saying that Bachmann was "saying it in jest to prove a point."

Unfortunately, that same blog cites a Public Religion Research Institute/ Religion News Service poll from earlier this year reporting that nearly 40% of USians “believe that earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters are a sign from God.” I'm beginning to feel like an inmate in one gigantic asylum. I can't help wondering if these same people also believe the earth is flat. In Europe, in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, they blamed earthquakes on "sodomites" (and, sometimes, Jews). I guess we can just be thankful that notion got lost somewhere along the way.


Nancy Jane Moore said...

Beck is probably right about global disruption in food, though he's got both the cause and the solution wrong and he's aiming his words at people least likely to be at risk. Sitting here in Austin in the midst of a bad drought that is likely to be a precursor of much worse droughts and hearing reports about farmers and ranchers going out of business, it's not hard to comprehend that increased famine will be one of the results of climate change. Add in the results of too much water (like the floods caused by Irene) -- another likely outcome of climate change -- and you've got a different cause of food shortages.

The best protection against the disasters we face is not hoarding but rather cooperation among family, friends, neighbors, and so forth. Working together can blunt some of the problems we face. Not that I intend to argue that with the likes of Beck.

I don't have the energy to discuss the insane magical thinking by people like Robertson. But Krugman brings up the point that, given the current Republican presidential possibilities, we could easily end up with a government full of people who think like that. That's so depressing I'm tempted to decide those people are a figment of my imagination ;-)

Josh said...

"In Europe, in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, they blamed earthquakes on 'sodomites' (and, sometimes, Jews). I guess we can just be thankful that notion got lost somewhere along the way." Yeah, there's been a schism: now we get Jews blaming sodomites for the earthquake.