Friday, December 17, 2004

That revisionist touch

We learn via Brian Leiter that Antonin Scalia has been engaging in a kind of Holocaust revisionism:
Scalia, 68, addressed the topic of government and its relationship to religion.

In the synagogue that is home to America's oldest Jewish congregation, he noted that in Europe, religion-neutral leaders almost never publicly use the word "God."

But, the justice asked, "Did it turn out that, by reason of the separation of church and state, the Jews were safer in Europe than they were in the United States of America? I don't think so."

As Thom Hartmann points out, fascism was closely associated with religious institutions, which it cynically manipulated for its own purposes. "Separation of church and state" was not what occurred under Nazism.

As a matter of fact, Jews proved to have been much safer in America, where they had, you know, separation of church and state. Somewhat compromised, perhaps, but certainly more pronounced than what was occurring in Germany.

Indeed, you'd think Antonin Scalia would know this full well. After all, as Alan Dershowitz pointed out in Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000, Scalia's father was a member of the American Italian fascist party in the 1930s. Atrios posted a quotes from Dershowitz regarding this subject a few months ago:
He's an interesting guy. His father was a teacher at Brooklyn college when I was there. His father was a proud member of the American-Italian fascist party and got his doctorate at Casa Italiano at Columbia at a time when in order to get your doctorate you had to swear an oath to Mussolini. So he comes from an interesting background and he went to a kind of military school in New York which was a place where many children of fascists were educated.

You'd think a fellow like Scalia, in fact, would be well aware of the integration of the Italian fascist state and the Church, embodied by the Lateran Treaties:
Through the concordat, the Pope agreed to submit candidates for bishop and archbishop to the Italian government, to require bishops to swear allegiance to the Italian state before taking offices, and to forbid the clergy from taking part in politics. Italy agreed to submit its rules on marriage and divorce to make them conformable to the rules of the Roman Catholic Church, and to exempt clergy from military conscription. The treaties granted the Roman Catholic Church the status of the established church in Italy. They also gave the Roman Catholic Church substantial control over the Italian educational system.

Then again, it's very likely Scalia knows full well these facts.

After all, as another Italian observer of fascism put it: "Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak."

The same essay reminds us of an all-too-relevant reminder from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, spoken in 1938:
If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.

It's starting to sound like prophecy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Just don't kill God

I was pleased to hear that someone was making Phillip Pullman's remarkable trilogy, His Dark Materials, into a film.

Now comes the word (via Pandagon) that the film version is going to omit all references to God -- which would be like doing The Lord of the Rings without any reference to Sauron.

The reason? They don't want to offend AmeriBush's delicate religious sensibilities:
Chris Weitz, director of About a Boy, said the changes were being made after film studio New Line expressed concern.

The books tell of a battle against the church and a fight to overthrow God.

"They have expressed worry about the possibility of perceived anti-religiosity," Weitz told a His Dark Materials fans' website.

The story goes on to explain that New Line feared that staying true to the text would render the film "unviable financially." Right. Just like the books, which have sold several million copies.

Pullman, it seems, is working around this:
Weitz said he had visited Pullman, who had told him that the Authority could "represent any arbitrary establishment that curtails the freedom of the individual, whether it be religious, political, totalitarian, fundamentalist, communist, what have you".

He added: "I have no desire to change the nature or intentions of the villains of the piece, but they may appear in more subtle guises."

There are a number of Christian websites which attack the trilogy for their depiction of the church and of God, but Pullman has denied his books are anti-religious.

His agent told the Times newspaper that Pullman was happy with the adaptation so far.

"Of course New Line want to make money, but Mr Weitz is a wonderful director and Philip is very supportive.

"You have to recognise that it is a challenge in the climate of Bush's America."

Now, humanities have never been the strong suit of these alleged "Christians" who despise Pullman's books, so it's very likely that none of these people have ever heard of Milton and Blake. But they are the literary lions on whom Pullman bases much of his work. His cosmology in particular, and his depiction of God, is drawn directly from theirs.

But then, it doesn't take much reflection to see that, in the view of fundamentalists, such Christian mysticism is indeed a kind of blasphemy.

So how long will it be before the folks with pitchforks and torches start demanding that school libraries remove Paradise Lost and Songs of Innocence and Experience?

I suppose it helps that no one is making a movie out of them ...


Sorry about dropping out for the past week. I've been in the middle of a deadline-intensive edit of Strawberry Days, a process that requires a kind of writing mindset that admits and emits no light.

I have, however, been squirreling away little tidbits that caught my attention and which I just didn't have time to write about. So I'll be popping them out over the next few days.

I should warn you all, though, that I will be able to post only lightly during the week before Christmas, since I'm traveling to Idaho and my Web access will be limited.