“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.”
~from Paradise Lost
“This is not a political war at all,” Rick Santorum told Catholic students at Ave Maria college. “This is not a cultural war. This is a spiritual war. And the Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country – the United States of America. If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age. There is no one else to go after other than the United States and that has been the case now for almost two hundred years, once America’s preeminence was sown by our great Founding Fathers.”
More of the transcript here.
Santorum’s 12th century rhetoric is par for the course when it comes to the conservative movement during culture war season. Blending religiosity and politics is as old as either, but one still can’t help but cringe a little when you listen to the former Senator from Pennsylvania and his alleyway doomsday sermons. Perhaps it’s because we’ve had such a long bout of fiscal conservatism that the emergence of good old fashioned culture war trash-talking is a shock to the system.
So I won’t talk about the culture wars. I’m more interested in the right’s incoherence than in its issue-arsenal at the moment.
What I don’t understand – what just baffles me endlessly – are these dueling notions of America as the greatest, most super-fantastic nation on Earth and America as an immoral, decayed society under assault from all sides. We are God’s people but we’re also so vulnerable to Satan himself that we need a super-hero, super-holy president like Rick Santorum to save us.
The cult of American exceptionalism is, perhaps unsurprisingly, comprised by the same people who make up the cult of American decline. There’s an insecurity about it that I think shines a little light onto the conservative movement and the Republican Party. The pretense of toughness; the rah-rah-rah nationalism; the sense of victimization, of being endlessly put-upon. These are all forms within the language of American conservatism, or at least mainstream movement conservatism, that give shape to the broader dialogue on the right.