November 5, 2004


The New York Times: The Day the Enlightenment Went Out

America, the first real democracy in history, was a product of Enlightenment values - critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences. Though the founders differed on many things, they shared these values of what was then modernity. They addressed “a candid world,” as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, out of “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” Respect for evidence seems not to pertain any more, when a poll taken just before the elections showed that 75 percent of Mr. Bush’s supporters believe Iraq either worked closely with Al Qaeda or was directly involved in the attacks of 9/11.

The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein’s Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.

Sent to me by the Brights. You know, those people who wanted to organize folks who believe there is such a thing as “secular values” against the rising tide that Bush surfed in on this week. But their name leaves a bad taste in our mouth. So, whatever.

Shotgun post will be late today.

Posted by James at November 5, 2004 10:18 AM
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James, it's not just the name "Brights" that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of others. Here's a letter to the editor from today's Boston Globe:

As a transplanted Ohioan, I can give you the core reason that New England, especially Massachusetts, cannot and will not produce a presidential candidate capable of winning in the foreseeable future.

I read the analysis of native Kerry supporters to the election results, and the message remains the same as it was throughout the campaign: Pro-Bush Americans (i.e., the majority) are stupid barbarians governed by xenophobic impulses that barely reach the level of cognitive thought. The Midwest is full of hicks, and the South is full of racists. Bush won because Americans weren't smart enough to recognize the obviously correct choice. Take a lesson from your children, New England. They can tell you that no one will play with you if all you do is call them names. Your self-satisfied, we're-so-much-more-enlightened-smugness is rubbing off on your politics, and that smugness does not play well in the sticks.


I _do_ believe "Bush won because Americans weren't smart enough to recognize the obviously correct choice." I also belive that "Pro-Bush Americans (i.e., the majority) are stupid barbarians governed by xenophobic impulses."

So sue me, but don't call me smug; that's a word that best describes the president.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 5, 2004 10:40 AM

I think Matt's point is that calling someone a moron and then asking them to vote for you isn't all that smart a move. Of course they generalize us in the same way, however they've realized that they can get away with it. When they insult the liberal elite most people think they aren't talking about me (even though I personnaly know they are and don't really give a rat's ass what they think of me). When we call someone a hick we insult the whole region indiscriminately. I think we need to be a little more careful when picking targets among thin skinned people.

Posted by: B.O.B.(bob) at November 5, 2004 10:58 AM

Secularists and progressive Christians have a common interest in encouraging critical thinking, tolerance, respect for evidence and regard for the sciences. The question is, how do we get together on that?

And, maybe a larger question is, are we going to sent a disunified message by bickering about things like the name of an organization, things like like John Kerry striking a false note by mentioning Mary Cheney during a debate, things that we can live with if it means we can organize.

"Why Kerry lost" is a complex question, though the impulse right now is to simplify it for digestion as we work towards acceptance. I was tempted yesterday to do just that. But if we oversimplify, we'll end up committing the same sort of errors that we abhor. Instead, we can maybe identify parts of the problem.

I the values of the enlightenment are disappearing from sight here in America. In the long term that bothers me more than this short-term setback, because of what it means for my children and theirs.

Posted by: James at November 5, 2004 11:16 AM

I take heart when I look at the long term. Aniti-gay marriage amendments are all the rage now, but look at how far we have come in the 30 years since Stonewall. The fact that we're even _talking_ about homosexual marriage is landmark.

So, yes, I and many others are freaked out and pissed off right now, but we Democrats have to regroup, organize, get a clear agenda together, and do a better job at speaking with one voice, rather than be the fractured rag-tag bunch we were in this election.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 5, 2004 11:22 AM

I'm glad you say that, Patti, because in the wake of this sort of thing, I think there will be an urge for people to:

1) Turn on each other.
2) Abandon America.
3) Withdraw.
4) Adopt an ossifying pessimism

And I have to say that, while I feel a number of conflicting emotions that drive me toward one or more of the above, the way to "not lose" in this situation is to avoid falling into those traps.

Posted by: James at November 5, 2004 11:35 AM

Perhaps the Democrats will only win the election when they nominate someone who has a more humble background. Barack Obama comes to mind. I think the kneejerk Republican voter reaction is to vote against candidates who come across as rich intellectuals. Bush has more net worth more than Kerry but he doesn't project that impression to voters.

Posted by: Mike at November 5, 2004 12:01 PM

Barack Obama gives me hope. I know some day I will be voting for him for president, and I can't wait.

Upbeat, can-do, intelligent...what's not to love? He is our future, and when I say "our," I mean all of us, smurfs (or blue meanies, if you will) and the redhots.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 5, 2004 12:20 PM

Oooohh. Blue Meanies I like it.

We can use my favorite line from Beatles movie (OK I only know 2)
You don't look Bluish!

The other is I've gota hole in me pocket (or something like taht)

Posted by: B.O.B.(bob) at November 5, 2004 1:02 PM

I think that was the line, BOB. Because they were carrying around the hole. I think it was Ringo.

Imagine the difficulty of trying to do a challenging Name That Movie for "Yellow Submarine." Is there even one frame of that movie which is not distinctive?

Posted by: James at November 5, 2004 1:04 PM

They begining (and end?)is live action if I remember correctly. That's about it.

Posted by: B.O.B.(bob) at November 5, 2004 1:51 PM

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