I was once lucky enough to share a lunch table with the elegant Eugenie Scott and the very cuddly P. Z. Myers. We were talking about science and religion, you know, as you do, and I asked Paul why his anti-religion rhetoric was quite so strident. His answer was salutary – in the good ol’ U. S. and A., he said (though not in so many words), one’s admission of atheism effectively rules you out as a candidate for any elected office whatsoever. This, I have to say, was a surprise, especially given that in the U. S. and A., church and state are formally separate. (Here in the U. of K., Her Majesty the Queen, Lor’ bless ‘er and all who sail in her, is the Head of the Church as well as the State, but these days, nobody could give a tinker’s cuss whether one’s elected representative believes in anything or nothing.) I could at once understand why Paul was so very cross about everything, but I remained ignorant about just how – there’s no easy way to say this – Right Wing politics is in the Land of the Free (For A Small Fee).
Until the day before yesterday, when I saw, on the news, how vocal and militant was the opposition to President Obama’s healthcare bill – quite revolting in many cases, even nakedly racist. Which isn’t nice. That’s when I posted an innocent update on Facebook expressing my pleasure at the safe passage of the said bill and the declaration that its opponents were simply wrong.
Whereupon I was deluged by trenchant commentary from Carl F. Hofstetter, a citizen of the U. S. and A., who opposed the bill on moral, social, philosophical and constitutional grounds. Mr Hofstetter says that it is the right of every human being (not just every American) to bear arms, and believes passionately in self-determination as opposed to statist intervention. Now, I know Mr Hofstetter is no redneck – he is a noted Tolkienist who’s probably forgotten more about The Lord Of The Rings than anyone will ever know. He even said, somewhere in the long comments thread, that he was a Democrat. But what surprised me most – and this is the reason why I am posting this – is his view that anyone who supports the funding of health care from taxation was ipso facto a socialist.
This engendered in my soul an aggressive disconnect. Newspapers in the U. of K. such as the Economist (whose line is pro-free-market) and the Spectator (which makes most Tories look like commies) have given Obamacare a qualified welcome. Many members of the Tory party, including Boris Johnson, whom posterity will mark as the greatest statesman of this or any other age, went on record as welcoming the Obama presidency (well, anyone but Mr Obama’s predecessor would have done, but still).
And as for me? I am a card-carrying Tory. I am working actively to promote our local Tory candidate, as I feel that everyone should do their bit to displace the current dreadful statist government. I believe in sound money, self-determination and small government. I am opposed to Britain’s membership of the European Union. I practically worship at the shrine of Margaret Thatcher, arguably the greatest Prime Minister Britain has had since Disraeli. And yet when President Obama was inaugurated, Mrs Crox and I sat the younger Croxii down in front of the TV to ensure they witnessed this great, historic occasion in which America might have the opportunity to witness the light of justice and civilization. To us, the National Health Service is not a political issue – it is a mark of civilization that a society forks out to ensure the health and well-being of all, irrespective of their ability to pay.
Most of my friends in the U. of K. and elsewhere think of me as pretty right wing. Against most Tory policy, I guess I am. I think taxation and government should be cut, not extended. (On the other hand, I also believe in fairly unrestricted immigration, which most Tories wouldn’t). But a socialist?
If I am a socialist, then Hitler is a campaigner for equal opportunities; Stalin spends most of his time in peace camps; Saddam Hussein works in child protection; Genghis Khan is a Transgender and Ethnic Diversity Compliance Officer for the Borough of Islington, and Mahmoud Ahmedinajad works for CND, and all of them meet regularly in a trendy vegan brasserie to eat organic tofu (hand-knitted in a lesbian commune in Nicaragua), and discuss the Guardian society supplement.
Now, if people such as Mr Hofstetter can think of me as a socialist and yet declare himself a Democrat, where does it leave the rest of the Democrats and the entire edifice of the GOP? Are they fascists? No, they’re not. Their mindset, is, however, something alien to me, but is of a flavor that has been cropping up in Europe a lot lately. I’d class them as ‘nationalists’, a grouping that holds to religion, the family, and concepts such as ‘manifest destiny’. This nationalism is, in its way, much more respectable than the kinds of ‘nationalism’ we see in Europe, but perhaps that’s because the U. S. of A. is a prosperous and still a relatively new nation, and has hardly been scarred by the wounds that nationalism can cause. Yes, they might have their Valley Forges and their Gettysburgs, but these bear little comparison with – oh, just to choose a couple – Guernica, or Srebrenica. Were I to stand for office in the U. S. and A. (which, being an atheist, albeit of the Jewish wing, I wouldn’t stand a globule of superfluid Helium-3′s chance in a stellar interior), I’d find myself not just a Democrat, but a fairly left-wing one at that. Weird. Weird weird weird. As one of my FB friends put it - you are the worst. Socialist. EVAH. Guilty as charged. Would anyone like a watercress sandwich?