In her rebuttal to President Biden’s State of the Union speech, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders made one of the world’s most inadvertently ironic statements.
“We are under attack in a left-wing culture war we didn’t start and never wanted to fight,” whined Sanders, who has previously served as President Trump’s press secretary. “Every day we are told that we must partake in their rituals, salute their flags, and worship their false idols … all while big government colludes with Big Tech to strip away the most American thing there is — your freedom of speech. That’s not normal. It’s crazy, and it’s wrong.”
Where to begin to untangle this hypocritical masterpiece of doublespeak?
Let’s start with “left-wing culture war.” Am I the only one who’s never heard of it? It is the Christian extremists who have consistently declared a “culture war” phrase on us, starting with Patrick Buchanan in his famous speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention. I still remember the chill it gave me as he spoke.
In 2012, after his party caught up with his extremism, Buchanan commented: “That speech was then, and is now, consistent with the heart and soul of the Republican Party. The country-club and the establishment Republicans recoil from the social, cultural and moral issues which many conservatives and evangelicals have embraced.” Have they ever.
The “culture war” has been invoked by every Fox luminary from Bill O’Reilly on. O’Reilly even wrote a book in 2006 calling himself “Bill O’Reilly, Culture Warrior.” Fox News has never met a “culture war” (or a “war on Christmas”) that it didn’t like. Sanders probably got the idea to turn the table and blame “leftists” for starting the “culture wars” when Fox News recently ran a ridiculous segment claiming there is a “gas stove culture war” after studies came out warning of their dangers!
On to Sanders’ accusation that leftists are trying to impose rituals and “false idols.” To state the extremely obvious, Religious Right and Christian nationalists are the ones who are imposing “their rituals” on the rest of us, including flag salutes to their God. The New York Times reported this week on the lengths to which Republican members of Congress are going to impose recitation of the (religious) Pledge of Allegiance. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy pledged on a Facebook post that Republicans would “start every day of Congress with prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance. No exceptions.” (This, unfortunately, already occurs in the House.) As a result, the Judiciary Committee just adopted a new requirement to recite the pledge before each meeting.
“Last week,” continues the Times report, “the first meeting of the Judiciary Committee devolved into an almost farcical display of patriotic one-upmanship featuring not one but two recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance after Rep. Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, proposed instituting a new requirement that the panel say the pledge before each session.” Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., cleverly tried to add a clause to Gaetz’s proposal to bar insurrectionists from leading the pledge, which, of course, lost.
Next on Sanders’ made-up list of “leftist” sins is their worship of “false idols.” It is worshipful fundamentalists and Christian nationalists in state legislatures, however, who are fervently attempting to insert religion into public schools and upon a captive audience of children. These include countless attempts to require placing “In God We Trust” in classrooms, holding bible classes, imposing prayer in public schools, adopting voucher schemes to divert tax monies from public to private religious schools, parental “bill of rights” to inject religiously based discrimination into public schools — and more!
Sanders paradoxically touted free speech, and yet she is part of a movement that’s all about banning books. The day after her rebuttal, Sanders introduced her education proposals. Her Arkansas LEARNS program includes a policy against teaching critical race theory (something that is really a university-level subject) and what she calls “sexuality,” which she calls “harmful material” for students.
She vowed: “We will never subject our kids to indoctrination and we will never ever expose our young children to inappropriate material.” She’s not talking about keeping religious indoctrination out of public schools, but her version of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t say gay” law. How much do you want to bet her children have been weaned on “children’s bibles” (talk about “inappropriate material”) and are sent to Sunday school and church weekly, not to mention bible camps. (It’s wonderful to see how Nebraska state Sen. Megan Hunt, FFRF’s 2022 Freethought Heroine, has labeled them “Christian indoctrination camps.” Hunt is ingeniously countering a bill to prohibit anyone under 19 from attending drag show story hour by proposing that children be prohibited from enrolling in bible studies, attending church camps or participating in other forms of religious indoctrination. Touché, Megan.)
Sanders and her Christian nationalist friends are not the victims of a culture war. They are instead the perpetrators of one intent on using the force of law to inflict fundamentalist Christian doctrines on the rest of us. It’s crazy — and it’s wrong.