Ernest Cassara

The U.S. in Iraq

A commentator asks: “Question of the day: if our latest story is that we are in Iraq to bring Democracy and allow them to determine their future, how is it that we have been for the past nearly 2 years building the largest compound (euphemistically called "embassy") costing $500 million to house 8,000 CIA and other operatives to rule the Middle East from Iraq (all started well before the Iraqi elections) and never approved by he Iraqi people?” (See http://qumsiyeh.org)

And, I ask:

How can the U.S. criticize North Korea for it missile tests, when we have abandoned the ABM Treaty and are working on a system to shoot down missiles of other countries?  This “missile shield” has cost us taxpayers $100 million so far.

Further, I ask:

How come, all of a sudden, is President Bush speaking of diplomacy, and the need for patience in pursuing it, in the case of North Korea?  Well, do you imagine that he has learned a lesson from the mess he has created in Iraq?

And, Another Question

How can a government agency, such as the Veterans Administration, keep it precious records on a laptop computer?  So easily removed, compared to a desktop!

Lieberman’s Treason

The Senator from Connecticut is said to be in a tight race for the Democratic nomination, challenged by Ned Lamont.

Senator Joe is displaying a strange type of loyalty to the Democratic Party, by collecting signatures to put him on the ballot as an independent should he lose in the primary!

Joe Conason and Coulter

Having run out of space for more books in my study, I had stacked six plastic milk crates to contain the overflow.  Having, at last, picked up a wooden book case, and actually finding some floor space for it, I have now transferred the books to it.  In the process, I picked up Joe Conason’s great book, Big Lies.  I was reminded, as a flipped through the pages, that he begins the book with the complaint of Ann Coulter that the “liberal” media does not pay attention to her.  Of course, she made the complaint when she was being interviewed by a mainstream, “liberal,” medium.

I had intended to deal with Ms. Coulter again, having commented recently that she has been accused of plagiarism in the writing of her latest book.  But, the following column was called to my attention by my friend Eugene “Woody” Widrick.  It is from “Sightings” from the Martin Marty Center at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, which, like the esteemed Harvard Square Commentary, is happy to see its articles given wider circulation as long as it and the authors are given full credit.  Thus, I would like to keep my comments to a minimum this week, so as to share with you the following:

The Coulter Code

-- Jerome Eric Copulsky

Ann Coulter has been much in the news lately. With her recent best-selling tome, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, it seems that the notorious bomb-throwing cover girl for conservatism has turned Grand Inquisitor. The subject matter of her book -- the idea that liberalism is a religion -- merits a sighting here, and not only because it demonstrates the increasingly "religiosecular" ambivalence of our world that Martin E. Marty wrote of two weeks ago ("Religiosecular Meditations," June 19).

"Liberalism," Coulter informs us, is a "church," complete with its own creation myth (Darwinism), priests (public school teachers), doctrines (infallibility of victims), sacraments (abortion), and so forth. Coulter's liberals subscribe to a pantheistic doctrine, renouncing the biblical distinction between human beings (made in the image of God) and the rest of creation, thus rendering biblical morality impossible -- which, she claims, is the liberals' true goal. Tossing aside any pretense to Christian charity, Coulter darkly warns that liberals (or Democrats, which are, for Coulter, one and the same) are Pagans (of the Druid denomination), science-hating Darwinists, and tree-hugging supporters of PETA, intent on killing their babies and their grandparents. Some of her invective, like proclaiming that Democrats make up "the opposition party to God," might make even a Carl Schmitt blush!

A stalwart defender of what she takes to be the Christian faith, Coulter emphatically denies the possibility of any liberal rapprochement with Christianity. Moreover, liberals are theo-political heretics, enemies of the state, "deny[ing] the biblical idea of dominion and progress, the most ringing affirmation of which is the United States of America." (Such statements, of course, raise serious questions concerning Coulter's understanding of orthodox Christian doctrine.) In Coulter's world, it is really the liberal pagans who cause all the trouble ("somehow it's always the godless doing the genocides"), while devout Christians are peaceful, moral, law-abiding folks. (Coulter conveniently omits the gloomy fact that Christians have managed to slaughter many other Christians and non-Christians well into modern times. Her memory returns, however, to attack "crazy Muslims.")

Coulter's inflammatory rhetoric, proclivity for constructing straw men, and reliance on specious and ad hominem argumentation obscures the fact that her convictions aren't new. In a sense, Coulter is merely reiterating the perennial quarrel between Reason and Revelation, Athens and Jerusalem, Enlightenment and faith ? but here in the age of mass media, and for big bucks. Given that the argument of the book is so derivative and so littered with malicious half-truths and insipid humor, the book's popularity might seem perplexing.

But then I considered the book's cover. The dust jacket of Godless features Coulter in a black dress with a plummeting neckline, sporting an apparently diamond-encrusted cross that dangles above the shadowy suggestion of cleavage. (One wonders whether the diamonds represent the indestructibility or the riches of her Church.) Her arm presses upon the final letters of the book's title, "less," as through she might crush them, a one-woman suppressor of the atheistic horde. She gazes at the viewer, wearing a sly half-smile reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa ? an impression further enhanced by the resemblance in pose and garb.

Ah-ha! I thought. This is no mere accident. Perhaps her book conceals a secret teaching, one more shocking than those encountered in a Dan Brown novel, and so inimical to the faithful that it could only be conveyed in winks and nods. Given the American obsession with codes and hidden meanings, I speculated that when Coulter writes of what "all liberals secretly believe," she just may well be hinting to the discerning reader that there is more to her text than what's on the surface.

As one who has studied with people who studied under Leo Strauss, and attuned to the art of esoteric writing, I searched. And I searched. And then I noticed, buried in a footnote, a "clue" to the entire work: "Christians," Coulter writes, "include everyone who subscribes to the Bible of the God of Abraham, including Jews and others." How very gracious of her! But there is a catch: These "Christians" may not include members of the Episcopalian Church ? which, she writes a few pages later, "is barely even a church." Hmmm!

Why does she go after the Episcopalian Church (aside, perhaps, from the fact that arch-liberal Howard Dean used to be a member)? Here's one conjecture arising from my esoteric reading. The Episcopalian Church developed from the Church of England ? an established Church, a state religion. Is Coulter, then, launching a cryptic attack on the unity of church and state? Given this, as well as her dismissal of the substance of theological differences (effacing, for instance, distinctions between Christians and Jews), and her claim that true Christians are peaceful and patriotic, one might think she is implicitly invoking the ideas propounded by the theological-political treatises of the seventeenth century, ideas like toleration and separation of religious and political authority ? you know, Liberal ideas.

This esoteric reading of Godless is, of course, preposterous, but no more so, in my opinion, than the book's actual argumentation? and that's the point. I'm afraid that the big secret revealed in Godless is that when it comes to the depths and complexities of actual religion, Ann Coulter doesn't know what she's talking about.

Jerome Eric Copulsky is Assistant Professor and Director of Judaic Studies at Virginia Tech.

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