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A pregnant African woman with AIDS must die... to satisfy the ego of overfed American fundamentalists.

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Madonna and Bush

United States

Bush: Civility, Suckers, and American Saviors

by Kelly Cogswell

FEBRUARY 5, 2001. In his inaugural manifesto, the heir to the American presidency, George W. Bush proclaimed "...some needs and hurts are so deep they will only respond to a mentor's touch or a pastor's prayer. Church and charity, synagogue and mosque, lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and in our laws."

In less than fifty words, Bush established his belief in the inhumanity and ineffectiveness of the non-religious, and his intention to install his fundamentalist, Christian beliefs in U.S. law. Perhaps he was talking about Church and State when he called himself a uniter and not a divider.

The Theocracy
Bush literally began turning words into flesh last week, by winning the 58-42 Senate confirmation of the anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-minority, religious fundamentalist activist John Ashcroft as attorney general of the United States.

His first action as President had been to announce his intention to ban all U.S. aid to any family-planning group overseas that as much as whispers to women the word "abortion," even if they do so in their own time and with their own (non-U.S.) money. The favorite mainstream media phrase "defunding family-planning groups" does not begin to capture the truth. This is what it means:

You're a family-planning nurse in a remote, desperately poor African village. A pregnant woman with AIDS comes to you. She's very ill. You have no expensive retroviral cocktails to offer her, no sophisticated post-natal care to offer her newborn. You know she will probably die in childbirth or shortly thereafter, leaving a possibly HIV-positive newborn and 5 other orphans (the father having already died of AIDS).

AIDS funeral UgandaYou know your ethical and humanitarian duty is to tell this woman that abortion, which is legal in her country for someone as sick as her, is an option. However, if you do so, you'll loose the U.S. funding that keeps your clinic afloat. In other words, a pregnant African woman with AIDS must die, and condemn her children to poverty and possibly illness, to satisfy the ego of overfed American fundamentalists.

In the Field
This is not a far-fetched scenario: it's daily life for those who are trying to save real human lives in the field, instead of fiddling with human souls from their cushiony Oval Office. Bush is not just restricting women's control over the number and timing of their children, without which, even the U.N. now agrees, their countries are doomed to remain the poorest of the poor, but undermining health care in general, in particular AIDS prevention.

AIDS is the millennial Black Plague to the global poor, the grim reaper of emerging economies, and, according to the CIA, a national security risk. No doubt, funding for AIDS and related services, especially those managed by godless gay groups, will feel the axe next.

Stephen GoldsmithWhich is right in line with Bush's determination to lavish federal funding on sectarian charity organizations. One of the supposed moderates heading up Bush's plan to bankroll religion with taxpayers' money is former Mayor Stephen Goldsmith of Indianapolis, who has argued that homeless shelters should be allowed to ask recipients to pray.

Immoral Dissent
While the implementation of theocratic policy is bad enough, worse for U.S. democracy is how Bush and his speech writers have made dissent immoral. They've carefully established that our appointed Bush not only has a divine right to rule by virtue of genes and fortune, but that he is acting on God's orders. "We are not this story's author, who fills time and eternity with His purpose. Yet His purpose is achieved in our duty..."

The way Bush protects his position that there is no morality outside his particular fundamentalist mania—which even seems to exclude moderate pro-life Christians, and fundamentalist African Americans with more than one issue on their plate—is by pairing his divine purpose with a mandate of civility for dissenters.

In our age, as much as in Edith Wharton's or Emily Post's, civility is just code for sit down and shut up. But this charming, charmed gentleman, applauded even by Democrats, has made it a religious imperative, tying obedience to God and goodness, and painting the opposition, not only as rude and uncouth, but frankly, in league with the devil.

Innocent Americans
His pitch is effective because our national character is sharply defined by a narcissistic love of our own innocent goodness, our respectable modesty, our niceness. We are do-gooders and self-improvers. We believe in appearances, which is why so many voted for Bush and can still be wowed by him. And why, when the votes were not counted in Florida, most of us didn't take to the streets, but sent circumspect letters and emails, made sedate phone calls, thinking it couldn't happen here.

In fact, American democracy has always been more and less imperfect, fragile, and corrupt. We've made some strides, but equality is still a pipe dream for many of us. And we won't get it unless we yank the sheets off of our greed for skin-deep goodness, innocence, and civility, and show the rot underneath.

James BaldwinAs the one-time preacher, and black, gay, American James Baldwin wrote in The Fire Next Time, "...this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it. One can be, indeed one must strive to become, tough and philosophical concerning destruction and death, for this is what most of mankind has been best at since we have heard of man. (But remember: most of mankind is not all of mankind.) But it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime."

Related links:

For Americans United for Separation of Church and State which works to protect the constitutional principle of church-state separation, vital to religious liberty.

For People for the American Way which organizes Americans to fight for fairness, justice, civil rights and Constitutional freedoms.

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