Little Red Blogger

This blog looks at radical politics(with a libertarian socialist slant), music and culture. Marx to Mises, Girls Aloud to Steve Reich...

Location: Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Living Death of Schiavo, An Uncomprehending Brit Looks On...

If ever an event illustrated the huge chasm between US and UK politics this case does. The tragic case of Terri Schiavo to an outsider like myself throws into relief the fault lines running through the US body politic. On one side we have the nascent theocrats of the anti-abortion movement who have occupied the commanding heights of the Republican party. To them the Schiavo case is the perfect combination of 'morality' and expediency.

The Schiavo case is a perfect rallying point for the whole 'culture of life' with its nexus of anti-birth control rhetoric, misogyny and biblically motivated desire for controlling the US government. Schiavo has then become a cipher, a mere insubstantial symbol for the hard Republican Right to motivate their base and demonstrate that they have leverage over the wider party. It becomes for the hardcore activist a win/win scenario if they 'save' Schiavo then they have blown a major hole in the separation of the judiciary and the executive in the US. This would then allow them to advance their other agendas. If they loose it spins perfectly into their narrative of being embattled and oppressed by wider American cultural. Rationalisation and the religious right go together like coffee and cream.

The problem for Republican activists is that it risks turning off the wider American electorate and worse for their wider strategy it might actually motivate the American public to act against the religious right. The whole strategy of the religious right in America is based on manipulating policy through an active Republican party and an acquiescent apathetic public. This has so far been a tremendous success and like a frog being slowly boiled in water the American public hasn't noticed the rising heat.

So the Shiavo case brings to a head two competing currents in American culture, that of the secular post-enlightenment idea of a rational republic built on the idea of a separate church and state. The competing narrative is the evangelical revivalist notion of America as the 'chosen nation', the new Jerusalem a new Israel crowned with a shining city on the hill. America to these people has always been a Christian nation and whole idea of separating church and state has always been an anathema to them(see the Mormons in Utah..). A nation for the poor unchurched masses in the world. This conflict has existed in the USA since its inception with the deistic masons Washington and Adams talking at cross purposes with the evangelical poor and their prophetic preachers.

So due to these inherent tensions in US culture there will be more Schiavos, more anti-abortion protests and more attempts to destroy the separation between church and state in the USA. Given the UK's state church and flimsy back of a fag packet constitution I feel blessed that our religious fanatics got it out of their system with Cromwell. A similar movement here would be hard to stop, but ironically the secular nature of the UK population combined with the dead weight of our state church The Church of England mitigate against this kind of situation happening in the UK.