Yesterday, in accordance with American tradition, the president pardoned a turkey. It was probably a useful warmup for the pardons he will ultimately grant to the criminals in his administration. Look at the pictures. At first glance, the turkey even looks something like Scooter Libby, but by no stretch of the imagination does Bush look like a president. He does seem to be having a good time, though, in one of his few encounters with an intellectual equal. So let's leave Bush with Marshmallow the Turkey, for the time being, and focus today on Senator Rick Santorum and his inability to defend his views without maligning America's greatest neighborhood.
Attytood points us toward an interview Santorum gave in March to the magazine Christianity Today.
|"The book by Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas?, says that many people vote against their own economic interests when they vote for Republicans on the basis of social issues.|
"That's just the kind derogatory, elitist pablum that you get when people don't realize that there's a lot of people who don't put their treasure in this world and look for something more than just 'how much more money I can make.' They understand that life is more than a bank account. That's the postmodern view of the world, which is it's all about me; it's all about how much I can get now for me. There are a lot of people who worry about, not just their economic well being, but they worry about their kids, they worry about the culture their children are going to be raised in, they worry about the pervasive incivility that we see in this country. They worry about national security issues. They worry about a lot more things than just me and how much money I'm making. It's certainly important, and I would say that's one of the factors people should consider. But there are a lot of folks who have not bought into the Greenwich Village view of the world. Thank God for Kansas."
Nobody in the world can take Santorum seriously when he suggests that his views run counter to the selfish accumulation of wealth; as Attytood puts it, "all the hype about the Republican's social views on gays and abortion masks what essentially is a corporatist agenda." If Santorum meant what he said about this subject, he would support the estate tax, oppose Bush's narrow tax cuts, and question the wisdom of spending $200 billion to ensure a terrorist theocracy in Iraq.
I don't question Santorum's sincerity when it comes to religion. I think he honestly believes, deep in his heart, that religion is important. It is, to him, a vital means of controlling people, crushing their will, deadening their minds, stifling their curiosity, and collecting their votes.
But what's this about Greenwich Village?
Santorum, of course, doesn't know a goddamn thing about Greenwich Village; he's dropping the name of what he perceives as a bastion of liberalism. He wants his constituents to hear "Greenwich Village" and think of godless hedonism. So he's equating America's first great bohemian outpost with the culture of economic elitism -- a culture made possible by the economic policies of people who believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for Donald Trump and Paris Hilton.
Greenwich Village, Senator, was settled in the closing moments of the eighteenth century. Until that time, the city on the island of Manhattan was confined to what we now consider the Financial District, at the southern extreme. But a series of deadly epidemics (mostly smallpox and yellow fever) led small groups of survivors north to the lush, green valley where the Minetta Brook flowed. The Minetta Brook flows to this day, underground, on the approximate line indicated on the surface by Minetta Lane.
Almost immediately, Greenwich Village distinguished itself as the literary capital of the new world. The arrival of Thomas Paine on Grove Street was the beginning. Ultimately, more great American literature would emerge from the Village than from any other neighborhood in the country. A complete list is nearly impossible, but among the writers who lived and worked there were Washington Irving, Mark Twain, O. Henry, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eugene O'Neill, John Reed, D.H. Lawrence, e.e. cummings, Dorothy Parker, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Keruouac, William S. Burroughs, and Theodore Dreiser.
During the era of slavery, Greenwich Village was a hub on the abolitionist express while Wall Street was still flourishing based on the sale of African flesh. In a similarly enlightened manner, the Village has long been a place of tolerance toward gay men and women, and a keystone in their own civil rights efforts.
To this day, neighborhoods all over America remain homogeneous -- inhabited by people of one color, one class, and one religion -- and therefore distinctly contrary to America's most important ideal, pluralism. Greenwich Village, like the rest of Manhattan, has become an expensive place to live. But walk through it sometime, and you'll see the vision of the Constitution's framers in its most glorious form. In the Village, there are human beings from every culture of the world, representing every extreme our race can muster, coexisting in relative harmony.
It's a place where ideas walk the streets. Whatever your ideas are, you can express them comfortably in Greenwich Village, and in the company of others who feel the same way. However, the Village will also see that your ideas are challenged, because of the proximity to other ideas, expressed just as forcefully. The Village invites you to dismiss the ideas that the mind and the heart are two different realms, that the role of humans is to submit to other humans, and that each head has enough space in it for only one idea.
No wonder Santorum feels threatened by it.
"Thank God for Kansas," Santorum says. Thank God, he's saying, there are still places where a majority of people are willing to vote against their own economic interests -- because they don't realize they're also voting against all their other interests, too. Of course, to him, voting for one's economic interests is apparently a sin. He actually expects us to believe that those who oppose Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest few are obsessed with "how much more money I can make...it's all about me; it's all about how much I can get now for me!" When in reality, it's the fiscal policy of Santorum's crowd which seeks to reward the already-wealthy and punish the struggling poor.
And remember, Santorum is a guy who thinks a family with two working parents is betraying its duty to God; he also thinks birth control is a sin. What Santorum wants, according to his own endlessly repeated statements, is for us to have a child every time we have sex, and to limit the number of wage-earners in each household to one. He wants us to have the largest and poorest families possible.
Of course he does. Those are precisely the ingredients necessary for a recipe of theocratic control. People who are poor, tired, and hungry tend to accept what you say and not ask questions. It is on this basis that organized religion has been used to stifle human freedom for thousands of years.
At its inception, the United States of America was to be an antidote to that problem. Thomas Paine was the author of Common Sense (which catalyzed America's birth as an independent nation), but he was also the author of The Age of Reason, which set down for all time the clear truth of religious establishment, and how its power had no place in a true democracy. Paine understood America, and tellingly made Greenwich Village his home.
I'd like to see Rick Santorum show his face on Grove Street.