Social Issues

Huckabee and the Downfall of Western Civilization

Update on Stuffs and Activities: Yesterday, I applied to give a workshop on bisexuality at the Gay Christian Network conference in January; if GCN approves the workshop, I’ll be a part of a panel with Eliel Cruz and Sarah Moon. If you can, please consider reaching out to GCN and letting them know how important you think it is for them to host a workshop on bisexuality. On a related note, if they do accept the application I’m looking at about $700 between travel, food, and registration– my Patrons have made this even remotely possible, but every little bit helps.

I watched the Republican debate on CNN last night– all three brutal hours of it. In order to ease my suffering, I joined other people who were live-tweeting the event: the sarcasm, I can assure you, was strong with us last night. At one point, though, Huckabee put on his fortune-teller garb and started threatening the American public with the Downfall of Western Civilization if we don’t elect a Republican president. In response, I tweeted this:

And was amused by the interaction that followed. As the evening passed, however, I grew troubled by what Alice had done by equating Huckabee’s “Western Civilization” with “the Internet,” because it represents two problems.

The first problem is obvious: Huckabee said “Western Civilization,” and at least one person thinks that term represents technological advancement. This is hilarious, maddening, and just so sad, because it should be obvious that other cultures are equally as capable of developing technology. Egyptian architecture is awe-inspiring, the metallurgy of ancient China was unsurpassed for centuries, Indians had calculus long before European mathematicians, ancient Iraq had batteries, and the Mayans were also incredible architects and engineers. Saying we needed Western Civilization to give us “The Internet” is woefully ignorant.

However, that’s just surface-level ignorance. The real problem is that people don’t know what Huckabee means when he uses a term like “Western Civilization.” In a sense, Huckabee is referring to this definition:

a term used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, and specific artifacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Europe, having both indigenous and foreign origin.

If you’ve been with me a while, some things probably stood out to you in that– did you catch the bits about social norms, ethical values, and belief systems? That’s where Huckabee’s definition takes a hard right from the more moderate Republican base. I grew up in Huckabee’s world– at Pensacola Christian, he was everyone’s favorite candidate back in the 2008 primaries. When he says “Western Civilization” he is using a dog whistle. All people like Alice hears is “technological advancement,” as misguided as that is; but Christian fundamentalists– who Huckabee is obviously courting by associating with Kim Davis and the Duggars– hear something different, and that difference is important.

This is one of the main reasons why I’m usually frustrated when political commentators try to analyze the interactions between Republican politicians and “evangelicals.” There’s a lot of overlap between evangelicals and fundamentalists– theologically, there’s no real difference, it’s just a matter of intensity–so I get the confusion, but the rampant oversimplification is troublesome because there’s more motivating evangelicals and fundamentalists than anti-abortion rhetoric and homophobia.

The term Western Civilization encompasses an almost unbelievable amount of ideas for something that sounds sort of innocuous. So Huckabee’s worried about the Downfall of Western Civilization– so what?

It matters because Huckabee is accessing an entire superstructure of ideologies he’s hoping will help him win the nomination, or at least push whoever ultimately wins into supporting the same ideals. When Huckabee bemoans the fate of Western Civilization, he’s invoking The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, which nearly every fundamentalist Christian believes was the result of decadence, debauchery, and unmitigated sin (not, you know a combination of political, economic, and militaristic failures). They’re all convinced– scarily convinced– that America will fail, and fail utterly, if we have marriage equality and keep Roe vs. Wade in place.

When Huckabee uses this term, he is tapping into a nearly rabid fear– a terror that’s been inculcated by fundamentalist preachers, colleges, and systems for almost a century now. Fundamentalists are terribly frightened that if they don’t win the culture wars, that America will be literally torn apart by the modern-day equivalent of Visigoths and Huns.

They’re afraid of threats from within– women’s rights, LGBT rights, #BlackLivesMatter– but they’re mostly afraid that these supposed corruptions will make us vulnerable to the Wrath of God, that God won’t protect us when ISIS or Putin or Khamenei or Kim Jong Un come knocking.

Huckabee might have used the term, and Huckabee might be capitalizing directly on fundamentalist fears, but it’s the same worries that drove people like Fiorina to outline a completely terrifying foreign policy last night (seriously, she literally wants Cold War II, her fervor actually scared me) and Cruz to declare that he’d rip up the Iran deal the second he walked into office.

Being afraid of the Downfall of Western Civilization means being afraid of equal rights and diplomacy. It’s resulted in an atmosphere that last night culminated in half the candidates refusing to even talk to foreign leaders– their entire approach to foreign policy is to sit on their porch with a shotgun and scream “get off my lawn!” It’s created a fractured party where many of them are more persuaded than ever that “allowing” people to have equal rights will topple our government.

Western Civilization is a culture built on the realities of slave labor and has a long and horrifying history of genocide, expansion, and colonization. It’s not worth keeping, not worth protecting. It should be replaced by a system based on compassion, empathy, and communication, but that will never happen as long as people like Huckabee keep floating the idea that our country will be ruined unless we continue believing in a particular, fundamentalist brand of American exceptionalism. To those who follow Huckabee and the candidates like him, America is the last bastion of Truth and Morality, and those qualities give us the moral superiority to judge and police the rest of the globe.

Huckabee wants us all to be afraid of gay people and women, the rest of the candidates want us to shit our pants over brown people with nukes– and they will use whatever tactic necessary in order to strong arm us all into doing whatever they want. Dog whistles like the Downfall of Western Civilization are a part of how they could succeed.

Photo by Jose Iglesias

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  • purpleprose78

    Sometimes, I want to sit the Republican voters down and tell them everything you learned in your history class in 1952 was wrong. Joseph McCarthy and his ilk were trying to scare you into being good little Americans. Here is a basic summary of actual American history and actual world history. This is some suggested reading to expand your historical knowledge.

  • “The Downfall of Western Civilization” = “No more white Christian theocracy entirely led by old white guys! PANIC!”

    Rome fell in part because of people like Huckabee – blind ideologues who refused to look at any solution outside of an incredibly narrow worldview that allowed no adaptation to changing times. But we’re not supposed to know about that.

    And a man who, with no sense of irony, stands on that stage and says in one breath “Iran is a dangerous place because it is a theocracy whose citizens are forced by law to abide by narrow religious strictures” and then follows it up in the next with “Everyone in the USA should be living in a theocracy in which citizens abide by MY narrow religious strictures”… that is a man so devoid of self-awareness that he should be in therapy, not running for President. Huckabee is terrifying – he’s “folksy” enough that most people just skid on the surface and go “Aw, he remembers the good old days!” and never actually look at what he’s SAYING in order to realize what the inevitable result of his policies would be.

    Did you watch the kids’ table debate? The whole night was terrifying, and Lindsey freaking Graham is the only person in both debates who seemed to have any freaking clue what was going on. He was like the only kid who studied for the test.

    • Sheila Warner

      But Graham would send in troops.

      • Let me reassure you, I think Graham is a terrible candidate. I live in the state he pretends to represent and he is truly an awful legislator and I loathe his policies and basically everything he does.

        That’s why it’s so terrifying that he was the one who arguably did the best when you combine the two debates. Or rather, he did the -least awful-.

        • Sheila Warner

          I agree. He was the least terrible at the debate.

    • Missionary Dave

      In part, but more so Rome fell because in its attempt to pacify those in lands they had conquered Romans permitted an infusion of cultural norms and mores differing from their own.

    • I like the way Rand Paul didn’t want to send in the troops, and seemed to think the rest of the world might have some responsibility for policing the world, not just the U.S. I’m not sure how Paul is on every other issue, though.

      • Benjamin Smith

        I disagree with Rand Paul on a lot of things, but he was the closest thing to a voice of reason in that debate.

  • pl1224

    Samantha, may I suggest that you submit your very perspicacious and articulate essay to the op-ed pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post? Your extremely wise words need as wide a readership as possible. Also, you might want to see if The Huffington Post would publish your essay. Just a thought . . . .

    • Agreed, absolutely. Not to mention, they might pay you.

      • Actually, they don’t typically pay for op-eds. Also, they only take exclusive work, so because I’ve published it here they won’t accept it. The Huffington Post will re-post blog articles, but it’s not really an accomplishment to have a piece on their site, nor does it really do much for traffic, so.

  • RavenOnTheHill

    The parallels with Rome I think are actually quite strong. What did Rome in was greed and militarism, which is something that most people who make the comparison seem to forget.

  • TheBrett

    There’s a Mormon version of this that I’d hear and read about growing up. The Book of Mormon quite literally has the (white) Nephites waxing and waning in strength depending on their righteousness, and ultimately being annihilated by the supposed ancestors of native Americans because of their wickedness. I’d hear the same thing about the US – that we’d be top dog as long as we were virtuous and faithful. In fact, there’s an unintentionally hilarious novel along those lines called A House Upon the Sand.

    I really hate the whole “Rome fell because of debauchery” nonsense. The western Roman Empire fell in the 5th century because of endless civil wars and a weaker tax base to deal with a larger military threat after the split with the east. Even then, the Italian peninsula was doing pretty well under new leadership until Justinian wrecked the place in multiple efforts to reconquer the west.

    EDIT: Side-note, but that is a fantastic looking castle.

  • timboysen

    So if internet did equal western civilization would that mean South Korea is the current capital of western civilization? Because they definitely have the best internet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Internet_connection_speeds

  • Raymond G. Harder

    Congratulations on your best post (of those I’ve read in their entirety which is fairly often). I don’t know when or why I started reading your Blog. I suspect I saw a pretty face then an interesting bio which overlapped mine in several interesting ways. As time went on I started feeling a little fatherly toward you and, having struggling with some of the same issues of escaping fundamentalism, etc, started wishing I could get to know you away from a public dialogue like a blog and maybe impart some fatherly advice to someone who kind of reminds me of my own daughters and granddaughter.
    If you’re interested in Emailing or Skyping for an hour sometime, look me up. (I’ve been on the Internet since before it was The Internet so it shouldn’t be hard for a bright woman like you to figure out how to get in touch with me privately. Maybe I can help with that lecture you’d like to give….

    Good luck my friend, I hope you succeed, you are escaping your own demons and inspiring the rest of us as you do. If you ever want to dialogue with someone a little further on the journey, look me up. I’d like that.

    Μὴ κρίνετε, ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε·

    Ray

    • I debated whether or not to just leave this alone, but you’re far from the first man to do this, so I’m going to address it.

      This is creepy as fuck. This is all sorts of boundary-crossing and level jumping. Imagine walking up to an author on the street– she doesn’t know you from Adam, she’s never seen you before in her life, and you just say “I started reading your books because I thought you were pretty and now I want to Skype with you for an hour and give you advice!”

      Wow, dude. NOT OK. I’m glad you’ve appreciated my writing, I hope it’s helped, but coming at me with this when I’ve never even heard of you before? Just … ick.

      • Raymond G. Harder

        I’m sorry you took it that way. I was perfectly honest and frank about myself and my intentions. I simply ask if we could dialog offline because this kind of exchange is *exactly* what I wished to avoid in a public forum. I am not the slightest bit interested in some kind of a weird cybersex relationship. I simply offered to dialog privately and to offer you the benefit of my experience in escaping fundamentalism and to support your talk to the Christian LGBT forum. Because although I am a cisgender man, some of the finest people I know have struggled with these things. A couple of years ago, one of my. dearest friends chained himself to his garage floor, poured gasoline over himself and committed suicide by emolating himself. None of us who were close to him had the slightest clue that he was suicidal. After he and I had become close friends, he mentioned to my girlfriend that he was gay, her gay son had been living with us for several years and she, he, and I had dialogued a lot about the struggles within the non traditional gender communities. We were involved with a school at that time and we had one our favorite students share with us his struggles with coming out at a public high school. It broke our hearts.
        I have seen religion and especially fundamentalism tear up some of these people so sometimes your frankness in your blog resonates with me. I was simply offering to dialogue. You obviously have a long way to go in your struggles and wish to do it without my help. Great! I’m glad you have it figured out. You have blogged and therefore I know something about you. You know nothing about me. A simple “thank you for your offer, but I’m not interested” would have sufficed. Your hostile response simply indicates that you’re not there yet and I’m truly sorry for that. I won’t pray for you because I don’t believe that will help. Not because you are beyond help, but because in my experience, you have to do it without “God” and I think you are heading in the right direction. Good luck.
        I’m truly sorry I offended you. My journey may put yours to shame and I am doing well in some ways, but I am not ever going to be perfect and certainly not perfected. The offer stands and is sincere. Do with it what you wish, but I will not be misinterpreted and insulted in “public.” I wish you well on your journey. Christianity really screwed it up, but Jesus message was right we all need to love one another, agape, not eros. I was offering to love you (agape and storge) I did NOT offer to love (Eros) you nor am I interested. I’m old enough to be your father and haven’t dated a woman who wasn’t 20 years over your age for decades –frankly your response is why. I’m interest in relationships with people, not games.

        Sorry you are so raw that your experience colored your perception of me. You’ll be fine. Keep working. Good luck at the conference. I’ll leave you alone. You have some skills and the potential to turn your pain into productivity as proven by that recent blog. I hope you do.

        • Astinfert

          Um, dude, I think you’re still not getting it. Even an old man like me is put off by some random stranger offering to dialogue offline. “I offer you the benefit of my experience,” “I started feeling a little fatherly toward you,” “maybe impart some fatherly advice” … I’m not sure, but I think this at least resembles the sorts of things the kids these days are referring to with the term “mansplaining.” I really don’t know what to do with “My journey may put yours to shame,” but that probably fits under that umbrella, too. The bits about “I saw a pretty face” and “a bright woman like you” certainly didn’t help, and if you wanted not to be misinterpreted or called “creepy,” you probably would have been much better off leaving those sorts of comments out. As for “I’m sorry you took it that way” and “Sorry you are so raw that your experience colored your perception of me” … those may be examples of what the kids mean by a “nonpology.”

          • Raymond G. Harder

            Let me put it simply. I’m sorry. I was wrong.

        • Dude. Just. Stop.

          I posted a screenshot of your comment (without your name or anything) on my facebook wall, and this is the response it got.

          There are twenty more comments after that, all saying the same thing. This is not me being so broken or some shit that I over-reacted. Over thirty different women read your comment and their gut reaction was THIS IS SO GROSS.

          You messed up.

          • B.E. Miller

            Need the Nopeoctopus

    • Sheila Warner

      Very creepy!

      • Raymond G. Harder

        I’m sorry. I was trying to help. I was wrong.

  • Sheila Warner

    I caught that, too. I recorded both debates & finally finished watching. Huckabee scares me more than anyone, even Santorim. He wants a theocracy. He’s more extreme than Cruz. Only those raised in fundamentalism gets it. Hence, Fox News loves him.

    • Fiorina scares me more than Huckabee because I don’t think Huckabee has a chance.

  • Larissa Ann Dalton

    I did not watch the debate but I did see a news report on Fiorina the next morning. The newscaster asked her a question about the refugees and Fiorina basically said, in so many words, “we need to make sure they aren’t terrorists.” I was quite horrified.

  • Missionary Dave

    I have no idea who has the character to lead the country. So I continue to pray that God will raise up righteous leaders in every nation. And I weighed in on the Kim Davis fiasco in a recent post. https://hotfreight.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/missed-it-by-a-mile-2/