Ideas and Forces that Shape Us

As Americans we fail to understand the impact of ideas and the forces behind them, whether they originate in domestic or foreign contexts.  But the contexts merge into global in our contemporary world.

Islam is a monotheistic religion articulated by the Quran (Koran), the Islamic Bible. Islamism, also known as political Islam, believes that Sharia, or Islamic, law should guide social and political life. Jihadists like the Islamic State functioning as strict purists take Islamism to a deadly and abhorrent extreme, bringing death and enslavement to non-believers, even near-believers.

unnamedAmericans also fail to actually note the ideas or forces behind the conservative movement. Conservative does not describe a religion but an ideology. However, conservatism in America has the same religious zeal as Islamism, but with crony capitalism as its secular Bible. Since the time of Ronald Reagan, it has reflected a common determinism to redefine the American government, culture and economy. Conservatism, however, does not have the deadly extremism of the Islamic State.

Political leanings in the US, shown in the first pie chart, bears some comparative interest to the second chart that categorizes a very rough estimate of the makeup of Islamic populations.

While conservatism in the US has managed to draw American population to the right, it has also created a divisive gap between liberal and conservative political leanings. In 2014, the 14% gap between professed conservatives and liberals is the smallest in a decade. The 1.6 billion Muslims in the world have a religious conservative majority while the jihadists, though a miniscule minority, dominate the discourse because they are the most organized and the most violent.

In the same manner, conservatism dominates the discourse in America because they are the most organized, best funded, most unified in message and the most callous in tactics.

Like Islamism, conservatism, more and more, guided by radicals like the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives, wants purity in what they see as maintaining a group identity. Such purity even seeks to destroy financial systems and government institutions to attain that so-called purity – witness Ted Cruz’s push to take down the government and our financial institution to rip out “Obamacare” in 2013.

Beyond that, perhaps you have not noticed the consequences of the relentless conservative campaign to take over our country. Like Islamism, conservatism is characterized by a relentless push toward a conservative ideology that guides social and political life – even personal life.

How extreme and far-reaching is this effort? For conservatism in America, Instead of Sharia, it is a corporate law, one that governs everything, and it is oppressive, if not deadly.

For example, conservatism has destroyed humanitarian groups that aid the poor like ACORN; wants to dismantle Planned Parenthood, which provides vital health care services for women; enlists the conservative Supreme Court to elevate religion over sound health care with the Hobby Lobby decision. It has restricted the right to vote for minorities.

Keep in mind, we are not speaking of beheading extremes, or a conflagration you might see in an action flick. It has been so gradual over the last several decades, you may not have noticed. Gradual is the key in a democracy. Several decades of conditioning is time enough for memories of much better times to die out. We can first push the consequences off to the “other,” those who don’t matter as much, in the equation of the mogul masters.

In effect, life and death has been marshaled, impacted, in terms of poverty, racism, imprisonment, restrictions on rights and freedom, even periodic mass killings, due in part to lax gun laws.

The conditions: polarization of populations, income redistribution from the bottom 80% to the top 20%, thought modification, and a bunker mentality. The results: a country with no common goals, people turning against one another, and little or no common investment in people or coherent ideas.

Serious consequences are seen each and every day. Never before has the NRA been more powerful, what with conservative ideals regarding guns and the Second Amendment, supported by the conservative Supreme Court, cemented by compromised politicians against majority opinion for regulation, and empowered with corporate money. We have some thirty-thousand victims every year, including suicides, while, ironically, billions are spent to fight terrorism, a plague mostly outside our shores, with a comparatively miniscule toll within our borders. In addition, little is spent for prevention of violence in poor urban areas where most prevalent.

As for investment in America: Budgets for education are slashed; young people are saddled with over a trillion dollars in college debt; infrastructure is crumbling; vital government services are starved.

We have Republicans, including presidential candidates, in effect, fomenting racism, hatred and malefaction.  Six of seven churches burned down near Ferguson, Missouri, including the one Michael Brown’s family attended, were black churches, seemingly retaliation for the new pro-black movement, Black Lives Matter. The movement came about because of many instances of police abuse against minorities. The killing of an unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, helped spur a movement to protect black lives. Conservatives politicians and media like Fox News daily imply that Black Lives Matter condones a radical takeover.

Another target conservatism has demonized is Planned Parenthood, whose overwhelming mission is to help the vulnerable to screen for disease, prevent unwanted pregnancies, and prevent disease. The outgrowth of this hate campaign has been attacks on Planned Parenthood centers in various parts of the country.

Donald Trump’s claim that Mexican immigrants are hoodlums and rapists has helped to stir hatred and violence, one such instance being two Boston brothers who abused and beat a homeless Mexican man.

Understanding the forces that guide us is vital as citizens in a democracy. Tyranny can exist in many forms. We must understand that cruelty and despotism changes its expression, softened and enticing in an established democracy, but is more deadly and ruthless in unstable areas like the Middle East. But in both it takes control by utilizing primal instincts of fear and competition – the former by manipulating with stealth and subterfuge, the latter by brutish force.

James Hoover is a recently retired systems engineer. He has advanced degrees in Economics and English. Prior to his aerospace career, he taught high school, and he has also taught college courses. He recently published a science fiction novel called Extraordinary Visitors and writes political columns on several websites. Read other articles by James.