Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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NeoCons and the gulf regions


I picked this up in the [info]neworleans community, and I thought it deserved a reading over here.

Off the Eric Alterman blog on MSNBC

Name: Nicholas Pisano
Hometown: Destin, Florida

Hello Eric,
Old Navy guy here writing from Michael Savage's "heartland of Christianity" to offer some local observations on things both religious and secular. On the secular front is the controversy regarding the "rebuilding" of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. As many folks outside of the region may not know (or perhaps just fear) neo-conservatives are trying to use the rebuilding as a beachhead for the widest application of their most radical theories on U.S. soil. Conspiracy theories abound because of the unlikeliest of coincidences, but I think it is simply cynical opportunism in the face of human tragedy. Analogues exist for what is happening here (capably documented in David Harvey's History of Neoliberalism): in the neo-conservative experiments in Chile under Pinoche and the most recent four decrees under Bremer's Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority that violated both Hague and Geneva Conventions through his imposition of a flat tax, the privatization of public enterprises and restrictions on workers' rights to organize, bargain collectively and strike.

The rebuilding of NOLA was the topic of conversation this week during Diane Rehm's usually excellent talk show on NPR. Of note was the reaction to one participant's assertion about the rampant racism which is part and parcel of the city's and region's distant and recent history and how that racism is being reflected in the plans for the city's recovery. From the reaction of the panel you would have thought that the author of the statement had made a ridiculous assertion: an artifact from a bygone era; or perhaps was just a conspiracy nut from an important and sensitive interest group, the response requiring the most diplomatic ju-jitsu to both placate and dismiss the assertions of the poor misguided wretch. That the racial divide in this country has become so ingrained to the point where there is a collective hardening of the arteries of racial awareness should be cause for much concern. It is true that we do not (yet) have 21st century equivalents of Bull Connor mowing people down in the streets with fire hoses. But that is just the point: racism has become subtly intertwined with the fabric of our lives and racists of all stripes have likewise become smarter in their subtlety. But it makes one wonder how anyone could question the charge of racism when the evidence is all around. After all, a pre-Katrina 2005 New Orleans study conducted as a result of the wrongful death of a black college student on Bourbon Street showed that African-Americans were either charged significantly more for an alcoholic beverage or required to buy a minimum number of drinks in the city's various establishments. And there were and are more palpable symbols of putting people in their places: the continued use of the so-called confederate flag of Beauregard on official state ensigns, patches and stationary: an overt symbol of the Klan, the Black Codes and Jim Crow; the public use of the euphemism "ethnic" as a substitute for those who in previous times would have used the "n" word with impunity; and the continued "red-lining" in housing by the real estate crowd. So can there be any question as to why people in this region-both black and white-discern a pattern in the various proposals that simultaneously depopulate the city of most of its citizens of color? But that is not the only pattern emerging here. For the New Orleans tragedy was one not only of race but also of class and it is class that is first and foremost on the mind and in the heart of every neo-conservative. The plans for the city and the region-and the actions in particular of the Bush Administration through the various federal agencies-are to subject it to the most brutal sort of Social Darwinist experimentation in which the most favored classes-especially real estate developers-may prey on those who have lost their homes and livelihoods-forced to either abandon completely their land rights or to sell them at fire sale prices: denied flood insurance claims because of the hurricane and hurricane insurance claims because of the flood. For those with mortgages in this position they are the happy recipients of a system that will require them to hold a mortgage to something that cannot be rebuilt while denied the remedy of bankruptcy. With this unhappy state of affairs all around our citizens lurched toward winter and the holiday season. Anyone wishing the escapism offered by Halloween here could be treated to the "controversy" over the godless devil worship surrounding the tradition (a regional precursor to "Bull" O'Reilly's high profile War on Christmas) or wind up in one of the many ostensibly identified "Haunted Fun Houses" which turned out to be fronts for certain local churches where funhouse goers were subjected to fire and brimstone proselytizing by crazy-eyed fanatics asserting that Katrina was God's judgment.

Thus I am led to the religious topic. Over and over in this region we are treated to assertions of a "Christian" nation (though the plethora of warring denominations ostensibly labeled "Christian" should be enough to undermine it) and the rise of blatant anti-Semitism and general religious intolerance. These two currents: the rise of American religious extremism and neo-conservatism, I think, are inextricably married in an unholy alliance-the intellectual foundations of both having been discredited long ago individually; they can only survive through the co-dependent relationship that has grown between them. The first was borne of a Know-Nothingist reaction to modernity and the second a product of high finance married to Nixon's Southern Strategy. It is an alignment that is by definition intolerant, anti-democratic and, in its implementation, racist. It is the moral imperative of our time to do everything we can to oppose it.

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