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Wednesday, 23 May 2012 06:45

Money, Religion and American Exceptionalism

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It has been said that "money isn't everything, but it's way ahead of whatever's in second place." There's just nothing like a healthy stash to carry one's message to an electorate. But insisting that candidates sign on to the concept of American "exceptionalism" defies logic and is a ludicrous political rallying cry that depends on an ability to pour enormous sums of money into campaigns as if it were just the free-enterprise system at work.

What exactly does this mean anyway? Is it like so many other slogans basically meaningless, a nonsensical diversion that negates the elements of rational discourse and allows proponents of political gibberish to take center stage? Pundits on Fox News for example attack anyone who falls outside the ideological confines that animate the political right and the network's iteration of what they like to call American exceptionalism. How does one define that term in a way that makes sense? In the end it turns our to be an attempt by candidates to make something out of nothing and pummel opponents if they fail to sign on to one more preposterous talking point.

Once money begins to define a political process it effectively cripples anything resembling democratic institutions. By what template do we model our governing principles? What kind of supreme ruling entity establishes money as the primary standard by which our laws and behavior are to be fashioned? Come to find out that the most exceptional characteristic of our political process these days involves the corruption of our principles and the pretense that free markets and cold hard cash are the best of what we as a people have to offer. Anything else is seen as political heresy by some.

Into the money wars we have allowed a stressful relationship to develop between religion and government and there are those in our legislatures who would lead the country away from our constitutional directive that religion not to be used as a requisite for holding office. Instead we see prayer vigils held to prevent the passage of health-care legislation and discussions about how the use of contraception is antithetical to religious observance. Now money can turn elections and impose religious sanctions on the conduct of government - a deadly combination.

If abortion is a cause celebre for some it is nevertheless legal. Still its proponents want to impose such draconian impediments to a woman's right to choose that they have all but nullified that right in many places. In the District of Columbia because it is not actually a state the rights of its citizens are being trampled by legislators from outside the district who have silenced Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district's elected representative - not allowing her to address Congress and represent her constituents in a meaningful way. When did it become acceptable for religious zealots to rescind freedom of speech because of their particular beliefs? Religious freedom should ensure the exercise of free will not be used as a way to impose religion through governmental strictures.

In fact what may be considered the earliest expression of a separation between religion and the state a passage in the Bible has Jesus telling his followers to "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and that which is God's unto God." Whatever the reason for that biblical distinction, it remains an early indication that such matters as taxation, for example, were deemed to fall into a category separate from religious observance.

Today money has begun to circumscribe our better selves while we continue to pretend that we still occupy the moral high ground - a twisted form of American exceptionalism.

Read 787 times Last modified on Wednesday, 23 May 2012 06:55