Wednesday, January 26, 2005

The hidden code in Bush's speech

Faith is an important part of my life. One of the things that troubles me about this administration is my Christian faith is being hijacked to justify unChristian acts of unjustified war in Iraq, the torture and wrongful imprisonment of innocents, and the bearing of false statements in an attempt to justify those deeds.

I'm not alone. Apparently those on the left and right sides of the spectrum found George W. Bush's inauguration speech troubling. Wall Street Journal conservative columnist (and former speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush) Peggy Noonan, who often is an apologist for this president, called the speech "startling," "over the top" and "left me with a bad feeling."

Nor is she the only one. Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive Magazine, may have found himself in agreement with Noonan for the first time ever. From an interview on Democracy Now.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, we're going to look closely at President Bush's inaugural address.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens. From all of you I have asked patience in the hard task of securing America, which you have granted in good measure.

AMY GOODMAN: In a moment, we'll go to Gore Vidal, respected American thinker and writer, but first to the editor of The Progressive magazine, Matt Rothschild. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Matt. You wrote a piece called, "The Hidden Passages in Bush's Inaugural Address." Can you talk about them?

MATT ROTHSCHILD: Sure. What struck me about the speech first off, as in many of Bush's speeches, were the explicit references to God, which I find offensive but I also know that he embeds in his speeches very hidden messages to his evangelical base, and so I wanted to go hunt those down, and I did so. You know, this speech was just coated with messages to his base, and also suggested he believes them, that he is somehow deluded in thinking that God put him in the Oval Office and he is God's agent. The clip that you just played with the words, "good measure," Bush was thanking the American people, really, for giving him time, ridiculous amounts of time for that matter, to go after Osama bin Laden, but he was echoing Luke 6:38, "Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure." And then there are a whole range of other ones. I mean, he talked and you played a passage there about -- at the beginning -"Freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul." Well, that's almost straight out of Psalm 107. "He satisfieth the longing soul and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Such as sit in darkness." If you look at these passages carefully and compare the text of Bush's speeches with the Biblical references, what Bush is doing is he is cloaking the best parts of American civic values or civic values of freedom and liberty and justice, he is cloaking those in distinctly Christian garb, and he's making all sorts associations. I mean, if freedom is the hope of mankind and Jesus is the hope of mankind freedom and Jesus are one and the same. That's not what we should have here in this so-called secular democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: What other examples did you see of these -- what you call -- hidden passages in the speech?

MATT ROTHSCHILD: Well, there are a lot. Here is one. Bush talked about the -- this was probably the creepiest section in the whole speech -- the untamed fire of freedom, where Bush was almost rubbing his hands together when he said, "This untamed fire will burn those who fight its progress." That's pretty lurid, isn't it? Anyway, he talked about the untamed fire of freedom in a passage that included the phrase, "hope kindles hope." And this echoes a couple passages in Jeremiah. "I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem." Or, "I will kindle a fire in her towns that will consume all who are around her." This is just all over the place. I mean, Bush talked about the day when the captives are set free. In Ephesians, it says, "He led the captives free." The closer you look at it, the more you can see these parallels, and they are very disturbing to me.

AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Matt Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine. The response of the White House, they had to issue a clarification, saying that this is not new, that these are the policies that President Bush is pursuing in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Middle East and elsewhere.

MATT ROTHSCHILD: Well, it's certainly true. It's not new, the Bush policy of messianic militarism, nor is it new the way that he phrases it. I mean, he has said in speech after speech, Amy, that we are delivering the gift of freedom to the people of Iraq, but it's not our gift to deliver; it's the gift of God almighty. And so he sees himself as God's efficient little delivery boy, God's UPS man, replete with brown shirt. He talked about God as the author of liberty in his inauguration address, and if God is the author of liberty, Bush thinks he's that author's agent, because he talks about America as the one that is going to bring liberty to the people all over the world.

AMY GOODMAN: On Friday, the national prayer service that President Bush and Mrs. Bush attended, Reverend Billy Graham said that God is behind President Bush's re-election. Graham said, quote, "Our father, we acknowledge your divine help in the selection of our nation's leaders throughout history, and we believe in your providence, you have granted a second term of office to our president, George W. Bush, and our vice president, Richard Cheney."

MATT ROTHSCHILD: And that's nothing new. Bush himself thinks that God put him in the Oval Office. After 9/11, he gave a speech by the same speechwriter, Michael Gerson who wrote this inaugural address, and after the speech Gerson called up Bush and said, "Oh, you gave a great speech, Mr. President. I knew right then that God wanted you to be in the Oval Office." And Bush responded to Gerson, "God wants us all to be where we are." And during the campaign just past, he told, Bush did, some people in Pennsylvania, some Amish people that "God speaks through me." This is a man who is so deluded, it goes back to almost divine rites of kings. That's how far back this delusion goes. And at the prayer breakfast that you mentioned, Amy, Bush also said, "We have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom." I mean, he really does believe that he is on a crusade. Finally, the White House has got him not to use that word, but that's what he's talking about.

In his article, Rothschild sums it up well: "Both freedom and Jesus satisfy the hunger and the longing of the soul.For Bush, they are one and the same. In his America, there is no distinction between our public, secular values and his private, religious faith. For those who don’t share his faith—and for those who do but who also appreciate the need to separate church from state—America is becoming an increasingly inhospitable place."

Or as Gore Vidal puts it: "If the United States does go abroad to slay dragons in the name of freedom, liberty and so on, she could become dictatress of the world, but in the process she would lose her soul."


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