August 26, 2005

Pat Robertson's Blunder: A Different Interpretation

The blogosphere has been busy analyzing Pat Robertson's statement calling for the assassination of the Venezuela's leader. The general consensus appears to be that he is a Christian extremist of the most extreme and dangerous variety and that his comments should be vehemently opposed by persons of all faiths. Most reasonable Christians want to distance themselves from him, as well they should. I don't disagree with these responses. Robertson is a dangerous fanatic who continues to be the personification of everything wrong with fundamentalist Christianity. However, there are a couple of additional issues that need to be tossed into the analytic mix.

I suspect that Robertson's views, as despicable as they are, are shared by many politicians in the current administration. After all, America has long been in the business of overthrowing, discrediting, and even assassinating foreign leaders who interfere with American business interests. Venezuela has oil. For this reason, we have been meddling in their country for years. When they reject World Bank loans designed to indebt them to us so that we can drain their resources, more extreme measures are considered. This is what W's daddy did in Panama and what both he and W have been doing in Iraq. Under the banner of American imperialism, we have been promoting the interests of our controlling corporations abroad and eliminating opposition. This is nothing new, and in this context, Robertson's comment was not nearly as outlandish as it has been portrayed.

Politics aside, I suspect that a large portion of the American people would agree with Robertson's suggestion if they were provided with 3 pieces of information. First, Venezuela has huge oil reserves. Second, oil (and thus gasoline) prices are going to continue to rise for the foreseeable future. Third, Venezuela's political leadership stands in the way of American corporations raiding their oil reserves for our use. Yes, with this information, I suspect that a great many Americans (not just Christian extremists) would agree with Robertson's statement.

So why the angry reaction to Robertson's statement? People don't like the idea of a preacher calling for someone's assassination. When the preacher is Christian, it makes it more difficult for us to distance ourselves from the Muslim fatwas. Nevermind the fact that the Christian bible is filled with tales of violence and suffering. Robertson's statement makes him appear un-Christian in the minds of a great many people.

However, I believe that the reaction to Robertson's statement is better explained by the observation that most Americans do not know how our country really works. They don't understand how the corporations have come to control politicians. They have heard of the military-industrial complex, but they don't spend much time thinking about how this apparatus actually works. The recognition that American policies permit continued poverty and starvation because it is in our economic interests to do so runs counter to our beliefs about what America is supposed to stand for. We don't like to face this realization, and so we turn away. When Robertson (or anyone else) reminds us of it, we react angrily.

Please don't interpret this post as a defense of Pat Robertson. It is not. My intent here is simply to expand the analysis by introducing some issues that I have not seen presented so far.

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