God and Campaign 2012


Cover of "God and Politics"

Cover of God and Politics




10-0: the number of times Republicans mentioned God in their platform versus Democrats’ references to the Deity—until Fox News noticed the discrepancy. Which means Republicans are faithful to God, while the Democrats are guided by—Satan, I guess. Republicans, of course, know who God is and exactly what God wants us all to believe: that stewardship of the environment is unrelated to faith, that women lack the moral fiber to make decisions about their own bodies, that homosexuality is a sin. Since Republicans know with certainty what God wants, they’d surely govern according to God’s rules. Therefore, God-fearing people should vote Republican.


It’s name dropping, so many references to God, not all that different from my trying to gain your confidence by frequently mentioning my close friendship with Laura Bush or Oprah (neither of whom I, in fact, have ever met).


Nowadays people with money contribute a lot to political campaigns. Anonymously. Of course their wealth is the result of having worked hard, very hard. (Apparently the mechanic who’s been fixing cars for decades, older waitresses in our local restaurants, and nurses’ aides in their fifties haven’t worked hard enough. Or they’d be rich too.)


We admire the wealthy. On TV we look enviously at their houses. We want the kinds of cars they drive, the clothes they wear. Trying to be like them we give them power to influence us. We come to believe their words that what’s good for them is also good for us and that they know what’s best for the country.


To gain our confidence they rely heavily on name dropping: God this and God that. TV commercials costing PACS millions of dollars affirm our core values, tying God to patriotism and freedom. Wealthy supporters pay consultants big bucks to manipulate us into liking what they want us to like, hating what they want us to hate. We’re against welfare queens though we have no first-hand knowledge of them. Though few cases have been documented, we’re upset about voter fraud and support a candidate favoring rules to make voting more difficult. We don’t pause to ask who really benefits from such positions. Who is harmed?


May we not someday wake up to discover we’ve been hoodwinked and that our country has paid a great price. Because we believed them when powerful people said God this and God that.


When Michelle Obama speaks

President Barack Obama and the First Lady Mich...

President Barack Obama and the First Lady Michelle Obama dancing at the “Obama Home States Inaugural Gala.” The event took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I grew up in the South. Folks who say Orlando doesn’t qualify as a Southern town didn’t know it before Disney. I attended Robert E. Lee Jr. High, where we flew a Confederate flag under the U.S. flag. I was accustomed to spoken English drenched in y’alls and dropped syllables. I knew no African Americans other than the maids of two of my friends.

When my husband and I left the South for Chicago, I tended to base my impression of people on how they talked. I judged anyone who pronounced every syllable clearly and said ing instead of ‘in at the end of a word to be a snob. I took an immediate dislike to a young neighbor my age, obviously more intelligent than I, who enunciated her words clearly.

So today when an acquaintance said, “I don’t know why, but I can’t stand Michelle Obama,” even though I didn’t agree, I sort of knew where she was coming from. Now, I know my acquaintance to be a warm-hearted woman. I’ve witnessed the respect she shows children, frail elderly women, everyone she comes in contact with. So why would she, like many people, say she can’t stand Michelle Obama? To conclude she’s a racist is to oversimplify the matter.

As I said, growing up in the South, daughter of a construction worker and a secretary, I didn’t often hear clearly pronounced English. Neither was I accustomed to complex ideas and demonstrations of intellect. Especially if spoken by a woman. (Nearly all of my college professors were men.) Apparently I wasn’t alone. Twenty years ago people hated—yes, hated—Hillary Clinton. Not because of her ideas, I believe, but because we weren’t accustomed to hearing women with her intellect speak. Certainly not publicly. Today she’s one of the most admired women in America.

Then onto the scene came Michelle Obama, not just an intelligent woman but an African-American. Now my intent here is not to sway anyone’s political stance, but to make the case that our feelings of less than (less articulate, less intelligent, less sophisticated) often lead us to make negative judgments about people. Especially when they are different from us in gender, skin color, or education.

My Chicago neighbor? Yes, she had a Yankee accent. Certainly in terms of intellect, I was less than. But neither quality ended up standing in the way of our friendship.