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The (Debatable) Republican Imagination 3 of 4

September 25, 2015

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On this page I focus on Domestic Affairs, about which I think the Republican pattern of imagination can be named “Mine!”

Image: Money

If you were talking about the economy, you could be Thoreauvian about the word’s root imagery of house-keeping, managing the home (the “common home” that Pope Francis reminds us of); you could observe that “the cost of a thing is measured by the amount of life that must be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run”—and of course you would mean the life of the soul, the life of the imagination. Economics would be about preserving and enhancing lives.

Or you could go with FDR and his image of “a chicken in every pot”: it seems a bit goofy today, but it’s homely and wholesome, a nourishing vision for that time of hunger, an economics of hope.

In this debate the main image of the economy was money, in the form of personal wealth, handled wisely, according to the values of the wealthy individual, and disciplined to his service, or handled foolishly by profligate governmental spending and debt, producing undeserved, self-defeating taxation of the wealthy. Stop taking money away from people, get the money economy booming again. (A few candidates showed fleeting awareness of the middle class and poor, but those people are not their audience.)

Good governance, like good business, is “the art of the deal.”

[But Dear Reader, if you can tolerate a whisper of commentary on my own interpretation of the play:   in Western history we have 2500 or so years of written, prophetic, wisdom literature about the corruption brought to humanity by accumulation of money, as over against the poor. It’s immoral; it’s bad for personal character—hypocrisy in God’s eyes, for instance; and it’s deeply unhealthy. Within my lifetime, Republicans at least “paid” lip service to that wisdom. Now, not so much.

But note well: the Dread Dem Socialist, Sanders, is birth-heir to that Old Testament, prophetic tradition.)

Image: Black v. White (or, Outsider-insiders v. Insider-outsiders)

The current outside-inner (hint: black man who lives in the White House), the possibly illegal nonAmerican nonChristian Obama, and his constituency that includes various kinds of illegals, actually are pretenders who came in from the outside and took control of government. They will take control of all of America, if the real Insiders, whom they have pushed to the outside—the American people, and the Rightful insiders, the Republican reformers—do not stop them.

But there’s some confusion here, because Republicans hold a majority inside Congress, and haven’t stopped them, so they need to be replaced by Rightful insiders from outside DC.

Image: “Law and Order”

This has been a very powerful image in the Republican imagination during Presidential campaigns since FDR, with recent emphasis on the disorder of demonstrators and widespread crime and criminals, including drug users. Basically it was a code term for how to bring black people back under racist Republican control.

It seems to me that it was potent in this debate, but in more diffused and subtle ways. We have to seal our borders so that the illegal population of Mexicans doesn’t increase. We need to re-interpret or amend the Constitution so that Mexicans born on United States soil are not automatically legal (with the result that the rest of us take care of their needs for life). We need to put in place a method of guaranteeing that Supreme Court Justices will uphold the Constitution, i.e. interpret it in the Right way. We need to be able to use the Constitution to restrain liberal initiatives.

When read Rightly, the Constitution is a document of the Republican world view, second to the Bible as Holy Word, and is seen to be consistent with God’s Law. Standing among us are Defenders of the Word, against Democrats and against the world of nations united to take away our national sovereignty.

And today, the image of the most outrageous violation of God’s law is:

Image: The Fetus

I was tempted to name this image The Unborn, because the Republicans turn genuine life and death of individual fetuses (and their mothers’ bodies and minds and souls that are nurturing their lives, or sometimes suffering their deaths, and their fathers who helped bring them into life and now watch and listen and feel their growth toward birth as their daughter or son) into pawns, a political sideshow, an insult to caring people, a bell with which to get Republicans salivating (sorry, I guess that’s at their worst; I know that there are individual pro-lifers who truly are pro-life; and I, too, regret that women find themselves in circumstances in which they have to make that decision).

But I thought the insensitivity of Fiorina—and of Cruz and Christie, whose comments built up to her request to speak, was appalling. When I was teaching lit in college, sometimes it was relevant to the interpretation of the literary work, to address painful aspects of life that are experienced by many women. What if I had been oblivious to the fact that it was entirely likely some of my students had suffered in those ways. What if, in my lecture or discussion I had shown as little respect and compassion for both living and dead persons, as little respect for life, as Fiorina the and others showed? My teaching would have been characterized by the hubris (or the denial) of their callous righteousness, like the desert dust that drifts from the mouths of warmongers.

Image:  Woman

As one of humanity’s most powerful, deep images, it came from outside politics into this debate, beginning with the somewhat surprising late addition of a woman candidate. In the male candidates’ introductions of themselves, woman was omnipresent as beloved helpmate and mother of their children.

Yet there was darkness and confusion. The most likely Democratic candidate for the Presidency is a woman. A leading Republican candidate’s wife is from Mexico and speaks Spanish; and perhaps, although she is a wonderful person and loves America, she influences her husband into error. Mexican (and some Chinese) women, late in their pregnancies, violate our border in order to give birth to legal-illegal wards of the state. Women (apparently a fair number of them) violate God’s law by having abortions, and even allowing tissue of their aborted fetuses to be sold for profit by the woman’s health organization that arranges the abortions.

Women can have faces, and/or personas, that are so ugly that not even their momma could stand to vote for them.

And indeed, as much as I am repelled by Carly Fiorina’s persona, I want to say this for her: She stood in that line-up, the only “lady” in a Republican, Man’s World, already condemned for ugly by the current leader of the pack, and with her silence, then her words, she called that leader out of his name.

Now, the other day I had a conversation with two of my daughters about use of the “b” word (see context if you want), which they both condemned, in the strongest terms. My oldest told us this story: Early in her career, she was CFO of a Real Estate Development Company in the Dallas area.   The owner of the company was working on a very big deal, so he took her to dinner with the client. My daughter was fairly quiet during the meal, while her boss negotiated. At the end the client said, “I like this. Let’s get together next week. Bring your man with the papers and we’ll sign.” Boss: “That would be W, here.” Client: “Oh! Boobs and brains!”

Nuff said?]

Image: Money Again (thanks to CNN). What woman’s face on the $10 bill? Answers ranged from Rosa Parks through a family member to Margaret Thatcher. That one came close. They could have rounded the debate nicely with the unanimous nomination of Nancy Reagan.

[On page 4 I’ll offer some interpretive reflection onwhat these stories and images suggest, about what Republicans imagine life to be like.]

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