I haven’t given much thought to Sally Quinn for several years, since I last read dead tree newspapers regularly, in the hoary pre-internet days of college. Now what the hell is this thing?
When Mitt Romney mentioned the “Creator” in the debate Wednesday, he owned it. “We’re all children of the same God,” he said.That’s about 85 percent of the country he was talking to. That should have been President Obama’s constituency but he let Romney have it as he let Romney have the debate.
Edit: Based on Jamesbman’s comment drawing my attention to Sally Quinn’s other recent columns, I think it’s likely that this one was an intentional troll. If so, my opinion stands that it was a bad one.
Yeah, to whom will this be news? Republicans pander to people who wish the government enforced Christianity every year. If Romney hadn’t been trying hard not to talk about being a Mormon, he would have spoken out a lot more stridently and “owned” this topic months ago. There’s been a lot to hate about the 2012 election season, but I will say that until now, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how little talk there was of either candidate being “chosen by God” or “called to serve” or other such meaningless noise. But Sally’s got the religion beat at the Washington Post, so obviously she’s excited for it to come back front and center.
Citing the Declaration of Independence, Romney said: “Second, is that line that says we are endowed by our Creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’t care for themselves are cared by — by one another.” This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian.. We’ve got the Creator in our Declaration of Independence. We’ve got “In God We Trust” on our coins. We’ve got “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. And we say prayers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to God. An atheist could never get elected dog catcher, much less president. (Democratic Rep. Pete Stark of California is a nontheist but doesn’t talk much about it). Up until now, the idea of being American and believing in God were synonymous.
Pure, uncut, weapon-grade revisionist history bollocks, thanks very much.
While watching the debate with my sister Keryn, I had an open thread on Facebook where several friends and I posted our real-time reactions in comments. When Romney say “Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian” my precise remark was, “Mitt: ‘Suck it, atheists.’”
No, Sally, the idea of being American and believing in God have never been synonymous. To say so is an insult to the founding fathers who did, in fact, seriously debate the question of how much of a role religion should have in public life, and came to the conclusion: pretty much none. As Farrell Till pointed out in his essay on “The Christian Nation Myth,”
Such a view of American history is completely contrary to known facts. The primary leaders of the so-called founding fathers of our nation were not Bible-believing Christians; they were deists. Deism was a philosophical belief that was widely accepted by the colonial intelligentsia at the time of the American Revolution. Its major tenets included belief in human reason as a reliable means of solving social and political problems and belief in a supreme deity who created the universe to operate solely by natural laws. The supreme God of the Deists removed himself entirely from the universe after creating it.
Thomas Jefferson said, “It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest.”
Saying that real Americans have to believe in God is more than just showing respect for the majority religion in the country; it is a common tactic that is deliberately exclusionary to people of no faith, trying to carve off a minority block from having a voice in the political process. I’ve come to expect this sort of thing from Republicans, but concern trolls like Sally Quinn regularly try to solidify this framing by actively taunting Democrats to participate. And sometimes, unfortunately, it works.
Back to the article:
When the Republicans tried to take away the flag it took a long time for the Democrats to realize they had been hijacked. For years, Democrats were wary of wearing flag pins for fear of seeming to pander. They finally got the message.
What message would that be, exactly? That pandering works? That it is admirable and should be imitated?
Sidebar: wearing a flag pin does not make you patriotic, especially when you are the sort of person who tells blatant lies about the country’s history. Such as, for example, “Up until now, the idea of being American and believing in God were synonymous.” Wearing a flag pin doesn’t make a defender of the country. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it doesn’t make you a good person. But it has the impact of making certain gullible types assume that you are a patriot, in exactly the same way that declaring yourself to be running a “Christian business” makes some people assume that you will never cheat them. Hence, it is a favored technique of con men. Neither wearing a flag pin nor advertising yourself as a Christian automatically makes you a con man, but both are common crutches to bypass critical evaluation.
Now it’s God. The Republicans have claimed God as their own this entire campaign, each candidate trying to out-Christian the other. Even Obama, though 17 percent of registered voters think he is a Muslim, has talked about being a Christian as often as he can.Still, none of Obama’s references have been in a debate. And there was Obama– grim faced, nervous, fumbling his words and wearing his American flag pin — letting Romney, confident and aggressive and in control, roll right over him at every turn.
And here’s my tip for Barack Obama. Every time you might feel tempted to follow Sally Quinn’s terrible advice, and try to do the sort of empty pandering that Republicans do, the preceding paragraphs should make it clear that it won’t work.
Look at what she just said again: “And there was Obama– grim faced, nervous, fumbling his words and wearing his American flag pin.” She acknowledged the fact that he was wearing a flag pin, and then she used it as a point of ridicule. She smoothly transitioned from implying that only unpatriotic people are seen in public without a pin, to implying that the use of the pin was insincere. Can there be a more tacit acknowledgement that people who equate flag pins with patriotism are being fake and disingenuous?
People think Obama is Muslim despite the fact that it’s patently, obviously false, and despite lots of occasions when Obama has talked up his Christianity in public. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is actually not a standard Christian, and if you hunt around you can easily find loads of evangelical sermons earnestly putting forth the idea that Mormons aren’t Christian at all. But it doesn’t matter, because Quinn considers Mitt to be on the team. The use of religious language to imbue yourself with fake virtue, and the use of a flag pin to imbue yourself with fake pride, doesn’t actually conjure up the real thing in either case.
But what people like Quinn would like to accomplish is, they want to make sure to peel off support for real non-believing Americans, who care just as much about what happens on the political scene; and who want very much to be recognized as full-fledged citizens with an equal say in society. Neither party does a great job of upholding these values, but only one party (so far) directly codifies divisive nonsense in their platform. No, it’s not a good idea to make it both. Don’t listen.
But the God thing clinched it. If Obama wants to win the next debate, he needs to wear God, as much as it offends him to do so, the same way he captured the flag for this one.
Okay, I have nothing left to say. That’s just stupid.
This column is actually so over the top that I haven’t entirely ruled out that it might be a “modest proposal” style prank. If it is, it’s poorly done, and too easily subject to Poe’s Law. If it’s satire, it is indistinguishable from lots of stuff that people regularly say.