Eminentoes

The Gifted and the Afflicted

This election is bringing out the worst in the likes of Cintra Wilson.

By 9.18.08

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In an election where pilots face off against lawyers, one major party thinks we citizens are gifted, and the other thinks we are afflicted.

Consider the commentary rising like marsh gas from the swamps of Salon, where Cintra Wilson harbors a visceral dislike for any Christian to the right of her former colleague, Anne Lamott. Conservative pundits have noticed the operatic disdain with which Wilson barbers on about Sarah Palin, but too few remember that Palin is only the latest to feel the lash from the lily pad where Wilson has been trying to work frog princess alchemy on a pedestrian collection of hatreds since the Clinton administration.

After honeymooning in Hawaii ten years ago, Wilson filed a column that trashed singer Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, known to his fans as "Bruddah Iz." Wilson wrote shortly after Bruddah Iz had passed away from complications related to obesity, but a decent respect to the opinions of mankind did not stop her from speculating about his sex life, or slamming his Christianity:

"Kauai is beautiful," Wilson conceded. "It is infused with aloha spirit. It also loves the daylights out of Jesus, which is another reason [people there] love Iz -- Iz loved him a big fat plate of Jesus. Little mall girls who aren't walking around in Iz shirts walk around in powder-blue tank tops with the initials 'W.W.J.D.?' Which is actually a clothing brand, the initials standing for "What Would Jesus Do?"

Big fat plate of Jesus? That's a twofer from the amateur anthropologist, and par for the course in her writing. Where other people would appreciate the grace of teenaged surfers, Wilson spikes her appreciation with self-pity, telling the rest of us that she "felt like a rodent dislocating itself in a glue trap" for most of her own adolescence.

Ten years later, Wilson is still lost in some progressive karaoke bar, lip synching to the same song, and lacking even the manners she might have absorbed from watching Born Free or Gorillas in the Mist with an open mind. She describes Sarah Palin as "a Christian Stepford wife" and an "opportunistic anti-female" whose morality is "fixed, predictable, and inflexible." Stick-waving of this kind is not usually mistaken for literary riposte, but it wins applause from Andrew Sullivan, who frequents the same club when he's not banging a shoe on the podium over at the Atlantic to shout that Sarah Palin is a "dangerous, vindictive Christianist cipher."

NOTE HOW the epithets of choice for both progressives are religious: "Stepford Wife" might not be vile enough, so Wilson tries to amplify the insult by adding "Christian" to it, and never mind any malarkey about how her team trades in nuanced thought: If nuanced thought were a progressive birthright rather than a political construct aborted in its third trimester, Sullivan would not be taking "Christianist" for another lap around the track. He used to worry about Islamists, but these days he worries more about parallel structure, and "Christianist" is the term he deploys whenever he thinks he hears the hoof beats of an approaching theocracy.

Sullivan does not seem to realize that Christianity is a bulwark of freedom rather than a cancer upon it. Not for him the tolerant wisdom of Brother Cadfael, the honesty of Flannery O'Connor, or the breezy fiction of Ray Blackston, where Presbyterians argue about whether Jesus would drink beer on the beach. Sullivan insists on finding fascism among the dust bunnies in the sacristy, and his fevered imaginings are abetted not just by Cintra Wilson but also by Juan Cole, who writes that lipstick is the only difference between Sarah Palin and fundamentalist Muslims.

Anyone who didn't know better, or who looked for news in Huffington Post stories with headlines like "Palin's Church May Have Shaped Controversial Worldview," might suppose that it was the governor of Alaska who listened to the "prophetic" rants of a professional grievance-monger for 20 years.

In the Democratic catechism, support for abortion on demand trumps religious affiliation, which is why self-described progressives fret more about Christian Republicans than about Christian Democrats, and why more stories are written about George W. Bush's faith than about Hillary Clinton's, even though both politicians are Methodists.

Beyond the gravitational pull of abortion and the existential challenge posed by a vice-presidential nominee whose family and choices are living refutations of the Democratic Party line, anti-Christian animus among Democrats fits with an outlook that says it is our country rather than our government that needs fixing. Recall how Thomas Frank made a splash in 2004 with a book titled What's the Matter With Kansas? You can't write a book like that without assuming that Kansas needs fixing, and we've already seen Cintra Wilson consign Hawaii to the emergency room. Next thing you know, Alaska and Arizona will be coming down with -- oh never mind, they already did.

BUT SOME OF US like what we see now from the Republicans. We're gifted, not afflicted. We wear tee shirts from Mission San Juan Capistrano or bracelets that say WWJD without worrying about the separation of church and state. We're grateful for the reminder that children with Down syndrome and old people who can't do shoulder presses are as good as anybody else. We're bemused by circuit riders who claim that their own election will initiate planetary healing, especially if they seem to think that leadership means having lots of "Facebook" friends.

We think the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge represents an opportunity to reduce dependence on foreign oil rather than a nettlesome stretch of tundra that must be protected from the incursions of rapacious capitalists at any cost.

We pray for guidance, and ask blessings on our meals.

We love the irony of hearing New York Times grandees dismiss a politician as inexperienced while running four different hit pieces against her on the same Sunday ("Caribou Barbie" got to ya, did she now?).

We thinks it's funny to see people who praised the Godfather movies and The Sopranos discomfited by a real woman who is both a Feminist for Life and a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.

We do not interpret willingness to question librarians, sympathize with "Intelligent Design" arguments, or fire police superintendents as omens portending The Fall of the Republic.

And when Shakespeare says "ambition should be made of sterner stuff," we say amen, because Sarah Palin and John McCain have already shown us sterner stuff.

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About the Author

Patrick O'Hannigan is a writer in North Carolina.