Paranoia

It's been said by many that the thing they resent the most about the Bush administration is that they've become paranoid during his tenure as President. I'm one of them. I see threats to liberty where I'd have dismissed them as fantasy in the past--this is the fruit of Guantanamo Bay, of domestic wiretapping, of the continued prosecution of the Liberty City Seven. Who knew that we'd loook back wistfully on the days when the craziest thing the Attorney General did was anoint himself with Crisco?

Okay, that last one is a bit of an exaggeration, but I included it because it links into the article I'm talking about here, which involves the persecution of an atheist in the Army. See, the rise of the religious right hasn't been solely in the political arena. They're in the military as well, and given the blood-drenched rapture fantasies of folks like James Hagee and Tim LaHaye, I think that's something to worry about.

The indoctrination has gone on for a while. The reports of the pressure put on Air Force Academy cadets to become evangelical Christians have been coming out for the last couple of years at least, so this is nothing new. It's not even surprising, given the Air Force Academy's proximity to Colorado Springs, home to New Life Church, once home to Ted Haggard, the man who boasted of very close ties to the Bush administration until his penchant for meth and male prostitutes became public.

Factor in that the Army recruits a lot from rural and economically depressed areas, places that are predominantly evangelical, toss those recruits in an environment where questioning of authority is considered life-threatening, add a dose of old-time religion, and you get the makings of a worrisome trend, at least to me.

FORT RILEY, Kan. — When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.
Specialist Hall was forced to leave Iraq because he was being threatened by his fellow soldiers, and even in his current unit, he has a no-contact order with a sergeant who threatened, without provocation, to "bust him in the mouth." The article is filled with other examples of superiors who physically threatened Hall because of his lack of belief in God.

And here's why that worries me. The military is largely outside civilian control, except for the Commander in Chief, and while we hear a lot about the military swearing to defend the Constitution, there's no greater motivator than religious fervor. Convince a group of highly trained, heavily armed true believers that the country needs to be saved from the secular heathen, and we may have a real problem on our hands.

I'm not saying we're facing a coup, but I do worry, and I worry because I've seen stuff happen in the last 8 years that I never thought I'd see--people ceding civil liberties with nary a blink, smart people falling for the corporate media line on how we're in constant danger from terrorists, on how there were WMD in Iraq, on how a small country far from our shores could pose a threat to us, while simultaneously telling us the war would be a cakewalk. I worry because while individually, persons are reasonable, in large groups, people are stupid, and when you mix fear and blind faith and heavy weaponry, there's potential for extraordinary danger.

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