Struggling in polls, Rick Perry turns to religious right
Entitled “Strong,” Rick Perry’s latest 30-second spot makes us face a very tough question: is he just woefully ignorant or incredibly dishonest? The video can be taken as amusing or horrifying (depending on your mood) and brings the standards of America’s religious right-wing propaganda to a whole new low. Perry manages to make or imply so many absurd statements that it begs the imagination to think how he could have thought that these tactics would bring positive results to his campaign. I invite you to share in my ire, as we examine each proposition uttered by Perry in this ad.
“I am not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian.” Perry opens with this remark, surely hoping that we will be astounded by his bravery in making such a controversial proclamation. Honestly though, the inanity of this line should resonate in the minds of anyone with even an elementary knowledge of American history. Nearly every single U.S. president has thus far professed a belief in some denomination of Christianity, with sparse examples of unitarianism, deism and general apathy or irreverence towards religion. Amusingly, the aforementioned deist or agnostic presidents often represent those recognized as “founding fathers” (such as Thomas Jefferson) or even famed “Republican heroes” (such as Lincoln). What definitely has not occurred yet, is a president that has represented Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other non-Christian religion. So, from the very beginning Perry is framing Christians as a minority in American politics, when this blatantly contradicts the true state of affairs, presently and historically.
“But you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military.” Woah. To be frank, I almost could not believe my ears when I first heard such a proud declaration of someone’s bigotry and intolerance, let alone coming from a potential presidential candidate. It seems that this remark was made to gain favour with the most homophobic of Perry’s supporters, in lieu of the recent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). Perhaps then, this could be seen as a good move for Perry, if he wants to retain that kind of voter base. Yet I despair at having to respond to his statement, mostly since it begs more questions than it can answer; questions like: what is so wrong about gay men and women serving their country and making the same sacrifices as heterosexuals? How is their contribution worth any less merit?
“But our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas, or pray in school.” Here we come back to familiar “war on Christmas/Christianity” territory that seems omnipresent this time of year. The religious right loves to raise a fuss about this “issue” when it is simply untrue. Public schools have never barred children from practising their religion in the United States. The only thing that has not been allowed is state-led prayer, as the government has no place in forcing children to comply with mandatory rituals that they might not believe in. This amounts to a protection of their religious rights and freedoms, to be free to participate in their own beliefs and to be free from the imposition of a state-endorsed religious message that could very well conflict with their own convictions.
“As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion, and I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.” Once again, this remark from Perry makes sense in light of DADT being repealed and Obama’s recent efforts to (finally) stand up against what amounts to unconstitutional bullying from right-wing legislators. Apparently defending principles of equality, constitutional rights and repealing unjust laws amounts to an attack on Perry’s religion. Well, I personally think that if your religion insists on injustice and cruelty toward others, then maybe we liberals should truly strive to fight the passing of such legislation at every turn. Let us remember that Obama is also the same president who contributed to things like George W. Bush’s faith-based initiatives, arguably a huge support for the funding of religious institutions that contradicts the establishment clause of the Constitution.
“Faith made America strong, it can make her strong again.” To be fair, we cannot expect Perry to be able to back up this bald assertion in a 30-second clip, but as his conclusion it warrants analysis. The idea of faith being a force for strengthening American resolve is laughable; if anything this ad from Perry should bear testament to how divisive and poisonous faith continues to be in America’s political discourse. From a historical perspective, the idea of America being a “Christian Nation” founded upon Judeo-Christian values is false. The 1797 Treaty of Tripoli (which passed unanimously through the Senate under President John Adams) tells us what the founding fathers thought of this: “… the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” (Article 11).
With this last proposition, Perry’s “Strong” ad is thankfully over. So where does that leave us; those who would be the judge of his motivations? Well, this analysis has been my own take on the absurdity I perceive in Perry’s remarks, but the facts of their delivery should make the decision between ignorance and dishonesty easier: his video was released on YouTube with comments already disabled. Ratings on the video were not disabled, however. Thus far it has gained hundreds of thousands of “dislikes” in comparison to just over 20,000 “likes.” Several days later, Perry has released a longer ad entitled “A President of Honour” in which both comments and ratings are disabled. A president of honour to be sure, as long as you don’t care about honouring freedom of speech? I think the more likely adjective to apply to Mr. Perry should be obvious at this point.