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The Battle Between Good And Medieval
Gary Younge writes in the Guardian that presidential elections in America are largely culture wars; this election, in particular; with reason and religion duking it out for the top job:

In many ways, the two presidential candidates present a distinct cultural choice. True, both Bush and Democrat John Kerry are privileged, white, male, blue-blooded Ivy League graduates with roots in old money. But Bush is a former frat boy who wears cowboy boots and whose favourite philosopher is Jesus; Kerry has wavy hair, a foreign wife and enjoys reading and writing poetry.

All of this is as trite as it is significant. Presidential elections are not just determined by who has the best policies but which candidate the American people feel most comfortable with as a person. The Republicans are trying to brand Kerry a Massachusetts liberal, while the Democrats are keen to depict Bush as a rightwing, Texan cowboy - such insults are as cultural as they are political.

At the core of this struggle lies longstanding tension between religiosity and modernity that makes the US exceptional among western nations. In no other country with America's wealth and constitutional guarantees of individual liberty and regional autonomy does religion play such a central role, with 86% of people believing in miracles, 89% believing in heaven and 73% believing in the devil and hell.

Wonderful. How about, if you believe in the devil, hell, and the stuff the newspaper prints every day for Sagittarius, you stay home and burn incense and speak in tongues on November 4 -- while those of us whose views are shaped by science and reason go to the polls and vote for the lesser of two sleazebags?

Posted by aalkon at April 5, 2004 8:26 AM


"Kerry has wavy hair, a foreign wife and enjoys reading and writing poetry."

Amy -- Sounds like it's time to take out that protest sign from your closet -- the one that says "Will Walk to End Poetry" -- Leener Weener

Posted by: Lena at April 5, 2004 6:44 AM

yes, because that's exactly what we do amy. you got us pegged, man you know so much about religion!

Posted by: Lauren at April 5, 2004 7:31 AM

Translation, Lauren: joke, joke. I'll explain: humor uses exaggeration, blah blah blah. Anyway, the point is, I want people voting who use their minds to weigh evidence, not who consult a really old book of stern stories; not really all that different, proof-wise, from voting according to what you read in Brothers Grimm. (I was going to use the word "empirical" -- but I hate to go over anyone's head!)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 5, 2004 7:48 AM

The one people find more attractive generally has the edge. People thought Nixon won the debates if they listened on the radio, but Kennedy won hands-down to those who watched on TV. That's not rational, but it's a common characteristic of human nature, regardless of any religious affiliation. So whoever wants to beat George W needs to figure out a way to be more appealing to the masses than a guy with a cowboy image.

It's the people that surround and advise the president that we should also be concerned about. The promises made by the candidates during campaigning are completely empty. Instead, look at their past history, make an educated assessment of where they are likely to head in their policies and what kind of people they will surround themselves with, and vote based on that.

Posted by: Peggy C at April 5, 2004 8:59 AM

Peggy's right about the Nixon/Kennedy debate, but I thought one of the reasons was that Nixon was also sweating terribly under the lights and hadn't shaven for a while. Even at his best, I doubt many would have found him more physically attractive than Kennedy, but it sure didn't help.

Posted by: M at April 5, 2004 11:47 AM

I knew that about the sweating/shaving thing, too. That's kind of my point--people believe what they see, whatever is more appealing to them. And the cowboy myth is a popular bit of Americana. That doesn't mean W actually was a cowboy or could ever live that kind of a rough-and-tumble life. But the image of it connects to what we believe about cowboys, so his opponent will have to take that into account and come up with imagery that is at least as powerful in the American psyche. Soldier, firefighter, something with a heroic, noble image.

Posted by: Peggy C at April 5, 2004 1:56 PM

This is why I was hoping Kerry would pick Edwards as his running mate. He's as cute and vanilla as Quayle, but seems to actually have some brains.

Posted by: Lena at April 5, 2004 2:09 PM

Regarding the looks thing, also, I heard one of the Gore-Bush debates on radio, and Gore sounded better, then I saw it later on TV and Bush came off better.

I believe 2000 was the first U.S. presidential election in which the taller man did not win. Of course, some would say he actually did.

Posted by: LYT at April 5, 2004 4:50 PM

Religious folks live by short, published lists of principles, or at least claim to. This makes it easy to check their math. Ironically, those who claim to be "rational" often forsake reason for impulse, disguising it in a thin beard of quibbling wordplay.

Posted by: Crid at April 5, 2004 8:28 PM

Just to show both sides of the coin: you point out The President answered the question "who is your favorite philosopher?", with the answer: Jesus.
Are you aware Senator Kerry, when answering the same question replied Louis (just a gigalo) Prima?
No Joke or pun intended, check the facts if you do not believe me.

Posted by: Jeep Crew at April 6, 2004 9:10 AM

Also, Laura's seriously into smoking cigarettes and reading poetry.

Posted by: Crid at April 6, 2004 3:30 PM

again, maybe you should read your own definition of humor, because that was a joke. my goodness, getting your panties in a wad for nothing.
and yeah, i weigh the evidence, is he okay with the slaughter of innocent children or not, that's the only scale i need. does trying to piss me off really make you that happy? what a sad life you must lead... okay, i really don't want to read the stories about how you really are "happy", so please don't waste your time writting them. happiness you and me are two different things.

and crid, you think you know, but you really have no idea. how can you know the inner workings of every religios person, you have never met me and yet you claim to know me better than i do. you should try to sell that talent, you could be a millionare! but you have to share some of the profits with me, cause it was my idea, k?

Posted by: lauren at April 7, 2004 8:14 AM

Gitannes and Rimbaud, in fact.

Posted by: Lena at April 7, 2004 8:14 AM


You may need to work on your 'delivery'.

Posted by: A.Ho at April 7, 2004 8:02 PM