The blog of Frederick Clarkson

Archive for May, 2007

Pastordan Further Dissects Newt Gingrich’s Theocrat of the Week Award-Winning Address

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Pastordan at Street Prophets further mines Gingrich’s award-winning commencement speech at Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell for theocratic gems and other riches of understanding the wily pol and possibly, maybe, presidential wannabe. And along the way, offers some pull-no-punches commentary:

I can’t think of anyone less qualified to uphold dignity and seriousness than this narcissistic buffoon. How many affairs has he had? How many scandals and sleazy political operations has his name been connected to? How many wives has he summarily dumped in favor of a newer, shinier model? How many times has his petty, venal, grasping hypocrisy been exposed for the whole world to see, and he wants to lecture us about dignity and seriousness? Give me a freaking break.

He ought to hold his announcement in a circus sideshow. I double-dog dare him. It’s only there, among the pinheads, that he’ll find the proper stage for his bilious mixture of smarm, authoritarian pandering, and community-college-stoner philosophizing.I don’t know what’s worse, that he’s going to postpone a potential announcement so he can cash in on his seminars, or that he’s trying to make himself out to be Al Gore’s equal, able to float above the messy preliminary campaign in favor of a late, authoritative move into the field.

Either way, he’s running, and being damn clever about it, too. He’s out there sharpening his stump speech and making friends while Rudy and John and Mitt take the heat.

I think this is an important point. Gingrich is running as a non-candidate, making speeches, selling books, punditizing on TV — and reinventing his political persona to conform to the ideology and ambitions of Christian nationalist constituencies in ways that are not possible for the current GOP top teir. Meanwhile, he is also facing much less scrutiny than if he was a declared candidate, or seeming to be close to becoming one. But he is clearly making himself available if none of the current crop quite catches on, or get ripped-apart by howling mobs of disenchanted Republican factions.

Needless to say, his claim to be the champion of American Religion doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny. His conflation of the Declaration of Independence and Natural Law is bad politics and bad theology too….

This is obviously a red-meat occasion, but it’s equally obvious that Gingrich is running to the hard right. His twin specters of the radical Islamist and radical Secularist are sure to become a staple of conservative fear-mongering in the next couple of years.

But of all the scary crap Gingrich has to say in this speech – and there’s plenty – nobody seems to have picked out the scariest bit of all:

I also agree with Pastordan, that there is much in Gingrich’s speech “to digest and come to terms with” and that it is worth reading the whole thing. This may be a bellwether moment in the history of the religious right, and very possibly in American politics if Gingrich’s gambit works — as well as if it does not. Gingrich edging over into Christian nationalism and actually seeking to be the candidate of the religious right seems so unlikely, and yet…

Written by fred

May 29th, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Courage to be Rwandan

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The Commencement season has rolled around again, and as I hear reports of what various important people have said this year, especially presidential candidates, I can’t help but be reminded of a commencement address I wrote about two years ago. It is a commencement address for all seasons; for all schools and for all time.

Commencement addresses are tricky things. Most speakers go in knowing that expectations are at once very low and very high. People would love to hear a remarkable address, but they know they are unlikely to hear one, the best efforts of the speaker not withstanding. But sometimes a commencement speaker rises to the occasion and captivates an audience — and is remembered — if for no other reason, than for having done so.

Dr. William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International cut-through the summer haze with just such a speech Oberlin College in 2005. His remarks — not only moved the audience but lit-up the blogophere. A member of the class of 2005 was so moved that he posted the speech on the Daily Kos where it topped the rec list. As one commenter wrote: “All that I can say is that I wish my days were blessed with more words that could leave me feeling like I feel right now after reading that.”

Dr. Schulz had been much in the news that week, due to Amnesty’s release of a report on human rights abuses and torture of prisoners by the United States at Gitmo and beyond. Amnesty called for an international investigation and the prosecution of any U.S. government officials found responsible.

But Schulz, a 1971 Oberlin graduate was at his alma mater to connect the values of the college to his hopes for the mission of the students as they enter the world beyond. Along the way, he told a story that I will never forget:

“In the midst of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda,” Schulz recalled, “a group of machete-wielding militiamen attacked a girl’s school in the middle of the night. The teenagers were rousted from their beds about 2:00 AM and forced to line up in the dining hall. They were ordered to separate themselves, Hutu from Tutsi, so that only the Tutsi would die.

But the girls refused.

A second time the commander ordered them to divide up by ethnic group. But still they refused. And finally one of the girls found her voice and, though very frightened, this is what it was reported later that she said: “We cannot separate ourselves, you see, because we are not Hutu; we are not Tutsi; we are Rwandan” at which point every one of them was slaughtered.”

“But what a legacy they leave! ‘We are not Hutu; we are not Tutsi. We are Rwandan.’ In that simple sentiment that young girl bespoke a graciousness upon which depends the salvation of the world.”

Here in the United States we do not face such unspeakable horrors. But we do live in difficult times, with much at stake. For those of us who did not happen to graduate from anything this year, and even for those of us who did, let’s adopt Dr. Schulz as our commencement speaker, and as we go forward to face the challenges of our time — let’s have the courage to be Rwandan.

Written by fred

May 28th, 2007 at 9:57 pm

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Theocrat of the Week

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Written by fred

May 28th, 2007 at 7:28 pm

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FrederickClarkson.Com… Returns!

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We here at FrederickClarkson.Com are pleased to announce that we have returned from wherever it was we have been. Suffice to say there were technical difficulties, we were busy, and we started a new international interactive group blog called Talk to Action. But we are glad to be back.

Before we begin, a few announcements:

We are presently out of copies of Eternal Hostility, so please do not order them. (Yet). Watch this space for updates.

If you frequent this site, not that you would, since nothing has happened here for a year-and-a-half — and we here at are certain that you are smarter than that — but if you do happen to stop by, don’t be surprised to see some changes as construction crews rip apart the original design; make some repairs on some site oddities visible to the discerning eye, and otherwise update us from the dark ages of 2005.

So for now, we will all have to be content with fresh content on the construction site.

Written by fred

May 28th, 2007 at 5:47 pm

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