The other day, pondering the slickness of the Obama presidential campaigns and the lousy job Americans have done in their interview/hiring process in recent elections, I joked:
If America were an office, and its citizens were its manager…It [has hired] dazzling bullshitters over the doggedly competent, and now wonders why there appears to be no one trustworthy in charge of the goods.
Reading the collection of headlines over on Drudge or at Instapundit, seems to bear it out. The President of the United States only knows what he sees on television, but seeing the chilling stuff the overseas press is covering, listening to Jay Carney (who seems puzzled to be asked real questions by the press) spinning on Benghazi, and the IRS, and hearing Eric Holder’s discomfiting uncertainty about how often the DOJ has seized reporters communications records (which seems to indicate he’s done it before, and if they’re doing it to the press, they’re doing it to anyone they want), it’s easy to understand why even some Dem politicians are getting confused.
And it’s easy to understand how some can miss the fourth scandalous story that has also erupted — the one where HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is strongarming healthcare industry executives to “donate” money to promote Obamacare. Clear conflict of interest, but Sebelius may benefit from the sheer multitude of scandalous stories before us.
So, how did we get here? How did America get to this place where the government seems to be lying to us incessantly and intruding upon us and our privacies? Okay, blame 9/11 and the Bush administration for some of it. In response to that event, government and executive powers were broadened and Obama has expanded them some more.
Blame the press for some of it, too, because once Bush left office, they seemed to forget all of their heavy, useful indignations about these powers and intrusions and expansions. The mainstream media fell in love with Obama, and like any starry-eyed adolescent, they eschewed questioning him beyond “how’d you get to be so great?” because the answers might not fit the illusions. So adoring of him were they that when the 2008 Obama campaign suggested that Bill and Hillary Clinton were racists, the press didn’t even scoff at it. They wanted to waltz with the inexperienced sweet-talker, and they tripped up anyone else who dared to ask him a question, in order to do so. More fools, they.
Blame the voting citizenry for most of it. Lazy, incurious voters content to glean their information from mere headlines, 30-second soundbites, and stand-up routines made it easy for the press to not do their jobs. And — not to harp on the theme — an element of idolatry has been running through our politics, for too long. In the intro to my book, Strange Gods, I recall a conservative woman being pushed out of a conservative political forum for questioning whether the Patriot Act Bush proposed was wise and warning that politicians never aim to decrease governmental power, no matter what they say:
Had [the forum members who ostracized the woman] made an idol of Bush, himself? I don’t think so, and I am certain he would be horrified to think that might be the case, but I had read enough comments suggesting that Bush was “God’s servant on earth” to make it a near thing — near enough, in any case — to justify chasing off a woman for asking perfectly legitimate questions.
Idols demand worshipers comfortable with illusions, and around them questions become dangerous things. Idols are formed by an idea people take into their heads and then polish with soft cloths and protect from hard questions until it reflects what they really want to see shining back at them — which is themselves. A majority of us gave the government its entry into over-reach, and then a majority of us willfully bought into an inane, idol-affirming sentiment (“we are the ones we’ve been waiting for!”) mouthed by a man who admitted that he was a “blank screen” upon which people projected their best ideas about themselves.
Idolatry has played a big part in bringing us to this place. The adoring press; the fawning parents and teachers; the fainting crowds offering adulation. Whatever Barack Obama’s natural propensities, it may well have helped him believe he is entitled to do anything he wants, and we ought thank him for it.
But idolatry could not have moved so powerfully within us, had are society not already lost its bearings about God. Ed Driscoll discusses exactly this with the great Mary Eberstadt:
MR. DRISCOLL: Mary, over the last few years, there have been several books exploring the demographic decline that the west is undergoing, including those from authors such as Mark Steyn, Charles Murray, Jonathan Last and others. What role does the decline in religion or how our religious beliefs have changed in the last century, play in this demographic decline?
MS. EBERSTADT: Great question. Well, let’s look at the big picture, for starters, of what’s been going on. We know that over the past several decades, there’s been a decline of religious belief and church attendance across the western world, most markedly in Western Europe, but also in the United States.
And up until now, there’s been one prevailing explanation for this. And the explanation comes down from the Enlightenment, and you heard it from the new atheists most recently. The idea is that religion is a superstitious thing that will eventually die out as people become sufficiently educated and rational and enlightened. And this is what a lot of sophisticated people believe, obviously.
The purpose of my book is first of all, to hold that explanation up to the light and to ask whether it’s true. And I argue that it’s not true and it’s not true for several reasons, any one of which would deep six the prevailing explanation. But just to focus on one. That explanation would suggest that religion is a function of the lower classes, that belief in God is something that poor people do. Or if you remember that famous quote from the Washington Post, it was just about ten years ago, that a reporter wrote that the followers of evangelicals were, let’s see, uneducated and easy to command. Do you remember that?
MR. DRISCOLL: Yes, easy to command, easily led, yeah.
MS. EBERSTADT: Easily led. Yeah. That beautifully summarizes the stereotype of religious believers as being people who just haven’t gotten the word yet, you know, just haven’t gotten sophisticated enough to get rid of God.
Eberstadt, of course, goes on to explain how the stereotype is untrue. Easily led? Hello, MSM; hello secularists.
You’ll want to read the whole interview. I’m already trying to get my hands on Eberstadt’s new book, How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization.
Because it’s all of-a-piece. Once the secular dominated the sacred it was only a matter of time where the void left by ousting God would be filled by idols. As Chesterton said, “Once abolish the God and the government becomes the god.”
As a nation, spun, attacked, frightened and distracted, we aided and abetted in all of this. We contributed to the painless coup when we started making idols of our ideas.
O IRONY: Bush, dealing with a leak, chose not to go after press records. But the press hated him. They guy they loved didn’t respect them at all.
IRS faces lawsuit over theft of 60 million patient health records:
According to a report by Courthousenews.com, an unnamed HIPAA-covered entity in California is suing the IRS, alleging that some 60 million medical records from 10 million patients were stolen by 15 IRS agents. The personal health information seized on March 11, 2011, included psychological counseling, gynecological counseling, sexual/drug treatment and other medical treatment data.