Over the weekend we went to see the Iranian movie that won the Oscar for the best foreign film. It’s called “A Separation,” but unfortunately it turned out to be a highly disappointing 2 hours of constant bickering and fighting with no point to be made and no real ending. (One wonders what the Academy was thinking in giving this film the Oscar.) But there was one scene that appeared relevant to the topic at hand. A pregnant woman working to take care of her employer’s father, (who suffered from dementia,) has a miscarriage, and puts the blame on her employer for shoving her. The case goes to court, but the employer finally agrees to pay the woman a large sum of money if she will swear on the Koran that it was he, the employer, that truly caused the miscarriage. The woman’s husband is deeply in debt (in Iran they throw your ass into jail for that) and begs his wife to accept the offer. But she is not sure it’s the employer’s fault, and she feels that to swear falsely will bring the wrath of God down upon her family, and thus refuses the offer, much to her husband’s dismay. I think psychologically most people feel this way and that this causes many of society’s ills. I call it the God thing.
Even during my own upbringing, if we experienced any bit of good fortune or luck (which wasn’t very often) and I mentioned it out loud, my mother would give me a scornful rebuke, since she was positive that any boastful sounding remark would incur God’s anger. Since religion seems to play a huge role in our society”s actions and politics, I feel it’s useful to understand its psychological underpinnings. For example, many people, and especially tea party members are upset with our large deficit spending and feel this will lead to God’s punishment. After all, the bible says: be neither a borrower or a lender, or words to that effect. ( Actually, I think that phrase got inserted in the bible by figure known at the time, as Manny the Sheepherder, who warned that people would risk everything if they loaned out money. Instead he counseled that the way to accumulate wealth was to put one’s money in cotton futures.) We can joke about it but the psychological fear of incurring God’s anger can have deadly consequences.
The Republican Party is today dominated by so-called born again Christians, or evangelicals, who feel that if we continue going down the road of legal abortion, gay rights, easily obtainable contraception, and various other cultural issues, God will certainly wreck His vengeance on the U.S. Psychologically, people thinking along those lines have been taught this from childhood so that it’s strongly embedded in their mindsets. That, along with a healthy dose of paranoia, also probably taught to them since childhood, and you have the makings of religious fanaticism. If the GOP takes control of the Presidency and Congress in November, you can look forward to this type of agenda taking hold on our society. The God thing.
A lot of this right-wing religious fanaticism is also fostered by what is called Talk Radio. We saw an example of that this past week when right-wing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh got in this kerfuffle (still liking that word) with a 23 year-old Georgetown student because she advocated before a Congressional committee for birth control. I consider Limbaugh probably the most despicable figure in U.S. public life, but after more than 20 years of spewing out hate and venom against Bill Clinton and now Barak Obama, as well as Democrats in general, he finally got in trouble for calling a college student a slut and prostitute. Some advertisers on his show finally showed a little moral conviction and cancelled their business causing him to issue some half-assed apology. In the meantime he’s become a billionaire over the years because millions of listeners tune in to his show every day. And he certainly isn’t the only right-wing lunatic on the radio.
There is another right-wing fanatic on the air who was born Michael Wiener, but calls himself Michael Savage and his program the Savage Nation. (After all, how would the Wiener Nation sound.) If anything he spews forth even more vicious hate and bile than Rush Limbaugh. It’s so despicable that England has banned him from entering Great Britain. England considers his hate-mongering so vile that he is on a list of of banned individuals that includes known terrorists, serial killers and other assorted scum. Yet we accept it in this country without any qualms. And this type of right-wing filth isn’t limited to men. A person named Laura Ingraham has her own radio show and constantly rails about the evils of abortion, contraception, or acceptance of a gay life-style. And of course, there are many other Rush and Laura wannabes scattered in individual cities throughout the U.S.
Now there are some interesting aspects to all of this from a psychological perspective. The first is that there are apparently millions of people out there (Limbaugh claims a listenership of 20 million) that apparently can’t get thru the day without hearing 3 hours of Obama or liberal bashing. You have to wonder who these people are and what kind of of lives they have, if they have to listen to hours of pure, distilled hate and venom directed against their supposed political enemies, in order to get themselves thru the day. I would presume that most of these listeners consider themselves the God- fearing evangelical type. You also have to ask these people how it personally affects them, if for example, Jack and John, or Jill and Jane decide to marry, or if some woman that they don’t know, decides to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. How could it possibly have any effect on their personal lives. The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t, except psychologically, they believe that God will vent his wrath on our country if such practices are allowed to continue. The God thing again.
Meanwhile right-wing radio and TV commentators have for the large part become extremely wealthy. Hate and paranoia sell big time, and purveyors of such, including advertisers and corporate execs have no reason not to go on peddling this type of obscenity.