Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Democratic Faith Show

Edwards, Clinton and Obama Describe Journeys of Faith - New York Times
Intimate discussions of politics and religion have long been the province of Republican candidates for public office. But on Monday night, the three leading Democratic presidential hopefuls — former Senator John Edwards and Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton — opened up at an unusual televised forum about their faiths, the role of prayer in their public and private lives and the ways that religion informs their views on policy and government.

This is sickening. If these candidates have any serious religious convictions--which I doubt--being trotted out to make noises about their "faith" and the role of prayer in their lives by their groomers and handlers, suitably packaged in folksy evangelical terms, must have set their teeth on edge. Edwards and Clinton of course have an advantage, being Southerners who presumably grew up speaking the language.

I flashed back to a TV documentary on the American health care system, showing a fundraiser for a kid with leukemia who needed a bone marrow transplant. It was a jolly fun fair, with rides and entertainment. The boy with leukemia was riding around on a miniature train wearing an engineer's cap on his bald head, displaying a forced smile, waving to the audience, looking very, very sick. He died a few days later.

This is how you appeal to the American public, by these degrading sentimentalities--dying children performing at carnivals, like medieval beggars displaying their deformities, to get treatment that anywhere else in the civilized world would be a public service, a candidate for high political office giving testimony about how his "faith" helped him deal with the death of his teenage son and his wife's cancer.

The public was grossed out by a Dutch reality TV show in which a terminally ill woman was to select one of three patients to receive her kidneys. It turned out to be a hoax intended to call attention to the shortage of donated organs. I suppose the Dutch got it: if you don't do the reasonable thing and sign those donar cards you're doing to have patients displaying their deformities on TV for entertainment. I wonder if Americans got it--or if we can expect TV shows like this that aren't hoaxes. We used to have them when I was a child. I remember two: Queen for a Day and It Could Be You. Bedraggled, whining housewives competed, telling their tales of woe, and the most miserable won money and kitchen appliances.

I hope the Faith Show works for the Democrats. I have nothing against it in principle since, of course, I have no principles--other than the Principle of Utility. It seems a shame though that to achieve ends that every reasonable person should support, political candidates and leukemia patients should have to put on these humiliating displays and, even worse, that this is what moves the American public. Here we have the dictatorship of the proletariat--demanding soap operas, circuses and tent revivals. Where else would a candidate for head of government ingratiate herself to voters by claiming--truly or falsely--that she prayed to lose weight?

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