Sunday, December 03, 2006

Conservatives Yearning for Another Country

Last night, the RSI family had a Superman Returns festival. Watching the most current version of the Superman story almost three times, we decided that it wasn't a bad movie at all. Brandon Routh also was a pretty good Superman for our Rwanda/Darfur/Katrina times. When Routh was standing above the world listening to the cries of millions of people as he was deciding who to help, he was representing the best of the American Way.

At the same time, watching Superman made me wonder about the extent to which our conservative friends still believe in the American Way.

Exampls of conservative disaffection with the United States are readily at hand. Yesterday, it was reported that the conservative San Joaquin diocese is fed up with American Episcopals consecrating female priests, appointing gay bishops, and making women into national leaders. Indeed, San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield has accused national Episcopal leaders of heresy and the Fresno-based diocese has endoresed a direct affiliation with the worldwide Anglican community rather than the U. S. Episcopals. Bishop Schofield has also explored the possibility of affiliating his diocese with the Argentinian Anglican Church.

That's right, Argentina.

It is important to understand the significance of the disaffection of Bishop Schofield and much of his diocese. Their objection to Episcopal policy is that the national church has made women and gays into full participants in the Anglican communion, with the assumption that women and gays have the ability to lead and religious integrity as heterosexual men. Given the traditional exclusion of women from priestly functions and higher administration within all Christian denominations, American episcopals were taking a tremendous step. The same was the case with their election of a gay man as a bishop.

In manuevering its way toward disaffiliation, much of the San Joaquin diocese is expressing its wish to disaffiliate from female priests and gay bishops. At the same time, conservatives want to end their religious association with those who would make women and gays full religious citizens. They want to disaffiliate so much with religious liberals that they're willing to look a continent away for like-minded conservatives.

The idea of equal rights for women is now intellectually dominant in American society even if male supremacy still has an enormous impact. Likewise, the idea that gays and lesbians should be able to live as full citizens is gaining enough ground that homophobes feel that the only way to preserve exclusions is to write them into constitutions.

To the extent that full citizenship for women and gays has become the American Way (for Anglicans), the conservatives in the San Joaquin diocese are looking to disaffiliate from the United States.

This yearning for other countries characterizes many other conservatives as well. Anybody familiar with the Confederate flag phenomenon--and Confederate flags, bumper stickers, shirts, and scarves are very popular in this part of Kentucky--knows that a lot of racists would rather live in the Confederacy. To give an example from public life, Republican Senate whip Trent Lott of Mississippi is on record as saying that “Sometimes I feel closer to Jefferson Davis [leader of the Confederacy] than any other man in America.”

Likewise, many neo-conservatives and other conservatives yearn to live in a country that's more like Israel than the United States. Admiring Israeli aggressiveness against the Arabs and the long Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, American conservatives view the Israelis as an "ideal imperialist"and are fervent in their desire that U. S. foreign policy become more like Israel's. Defense Department conservatives like Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith were so strongly identified with Israel that some of their critics began to wonder about their loyalties to the U. S. For ardent neo-cons, however, there is no problem because they hope to see a successful Israeli state serving as a role model or father figure to the more aggressive, more dominant U. S. they wish for.

One of the odd things about conservatives is that they see themselves as the "real Americans," but often have very tenuous cultural and ideological attachments to American society. Knowing that they are at best underdogs in the cultural warfare in American society, conservatives are beginning to cast about for places and times that their right-wing hearts can call home.

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