Updated: Jun 20
By Dennis Rice
I have two breakfast buddies. The first time we went to eat, the wife of one said to her hubby, “Don’t talk about politics and religion.” That left sex, so we talked about politics and religion.
Most Americans believe in the separation of politics and religion, but few realize the overlap. Americans are told, “Our country stands up for the little people.” But, do we? In 1949, the test question for seventh grade history was, “Why did the pioneers fight the Indians?” The answer, to indoctrinate all of us was, “Because the Indians refused to share the land.”
We were supposed to believe in the “uniqueness”, “the exceptionalism” of our country; building a wilderness into a nation. Anyone who fought “us”, anywhere, was in the wrong. The Indians were in the wrong, not us Anglos. But exposed political wrongs are recharacterized as “un-American” when the truth starts hitting the powerful in their pocketbooks, or making authorities lose public face. The global churches, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and others, are not so innocent, either. “Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” reads Proverbs 22:6. But when the inquisitive child questions their childhood beliefs or shakes them off to become the real person he or she is, they are accused of being a hypocrite or ungodly by those who refuse to understand or accept the changes: "Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. It doesn't happen all at once... you become. It takes a long time." (The Velveteen Rabbit).
In 1947, the United States was “the world’s only Super Power,” wrote George Kennan; “Money,” the Bible of U.S. capitalism, took advantage of this status. Kennan, a diplomat and historian during the presidency of Harry Truman, wrote a ‘secret’ policy memo which remains the foundation of U.S. foreign policy today: “…We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3 % of its population…Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity . . . our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives…we would be better off to dispense with...the aspiration to ‘be liked’ or to be regarded as the repository of a high-minded international altruism…. We should cease to talk about vague – and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts.” (Memo PPS23. Written 28 February 1948, declassified 17 June 1974). The percentages mentioned above have changed, but during the nearly 85 years of my life, l can’t remember a time when “my country” was not at war somewhere. And we wonder why the U.S. is sometimes disliked?
My government is a hypocritical government. Wanting the votes of the Cuban people living in Florida, my government will lie about the causes of the poor living conditions of the people living in Cuba - which it helped to create and maintain, but only blames a Communist government. Yet when it comes to the living conditions of the Palestinian people, which my government also caused, their lands daily stolen from them, their own land ‘occupied’ since 1948, my government only gives a “tut-tut” to the Israeli abuse of the Palestinian people - including incidents involving American citizens Rachel Corrie, the USS Liberty and most recently Shireen Abu Akleh. As our Muslim believers bow toward the East in worship, so does the American government bow toward the East – to Israel. The separation of Church and State is not so simple. Americans aren’t as informed nor as free as they think, and need to better inform themselves, spiritually and politically. And yes, about sex, too. I’m looking forward to the next breakfast.
Dennis Rice is an Athens resident who taught in the Clarke County School District for 33 years.