nothin's scarier than a blank page

27 May 2011

God is a Doorknob, part 1

Perusing (someone else's) old blog, I noticed this comment:
Being a atheist conservative, I find [Glenn] Beck bothersome and, frankly, meaningless.

Being an atheist conservative who has some strange breed of intellectual crush on Beck, I found the comment bothersome -- and intriguing.  In general, I find it confusing and a little embarrassing how much I like Beck right now.  I look forward to his show each day like some do [did] with Oprah.  How did this happen to me?

Here's some history.  A year ago, I had no idea the Beck existed.  I spent the summer with extended family at lake houses in northern Wisconsin.  Fox News was the main channel watched.  It wasn't intolerable, but I wasn't exactly rejoicing about it.  Mostly I'd play computer games on my laptop, glancing up here and there if something caught my ear.

We watched TV as if we were participants.  Three of us: Mom, Dad, me.  Two remote controls.  At any given time, someone would pause the DVR (or, in my case, wave my hands in a "timeout" sign and wait for someone to pause the TV for me).  Then it was that person's turn to play pundit -- agreeing with their own anecdote, pointing out outlandish inconsistency, fallacy!, I call shenanigans!.  Someone was bound to agree or disagree, and to need to express it.  These breaks would last for one minute or as long as half an hour.  It took us a long time to get through a single program, even with fastforwarding through commercials.

Two programs were always watched.  Bret Baier's straight news and O'Reilly.  In retrospect, I had nothing to complain about.  Even if I were a die hard progressive, those shows are NOTHING to complain out.  Now, if they had been exposing me to, oh, Hannity, that would have been a shock.  They eased me in slowly.

I've always had a love affair with colonial Americana.  Thomas Paine, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin...  These are men of legend.  They are also plain, American men.  They had flaws.  They were human.  They saw "truth" in a manner that I can barely conceive.  They invented ideological frameworks.  They took basic values, and they changed the world.  I have a deep love of the Founding Fathers, and I have a difficulty expressing it in words.

My friend R asked me about the whole Founding Fathers thing, asking, "is it like the Bible?"  I'm not sure if she meant the infallible part (no), the cafeteria style of turning a blind eye to weird stuff (sorta), worship (not really).  I was surprised to find out that she, a law student, didn't have a love for the people who created the goddamn government.

So, I love the Founding Fathers.  My mother mentioned that I might like this Fox guy, Beck, who also really likes the Founding Fathers.  This piqued my interest.  At the time, Beck was doing a series where he profiled different Founding Fathers every Friday.  The next Friday was Sam Adams, who is a particular favorite of mine.  He's the first FF who I fell in love with.  We taped it, and I was excited to watch.

I was horrified.  This weirdo said all sorts of shit about Sam Adams that I didn't agree with.  Most importantly, he focused on Adams's faith.  All of my studies of Sam Adams glanced over his time in seminary (which, for the times, was really more like going to college than anything else).  The Sam Adams I loved was a rabble-rouser.  He did the circular letters, sneaky tricks with fake letters to newspapers that helped frame public perception to be pro-revolution.  He wore a red cape and spent time in bars talking up trouble, getting people excited about ideas.  He was not some man of God.  What the fuck.

Beck quoted Adams talking about God.  But everyone talked about God then.  The concept of Atheists were... they were not.  Period.  Theists, like Franklin, were edgy enough.  People especially used God in public oration.  It's just something you did.  And it was something to which your audience responded.  Like people who go to church only on Christmas and Easter, or who only say grace when their in-laws are visiting.  Or thanking Jesus at the Grammys.  You thank Jesus at the Grammys, that doesn't mean that you are a man of the cloth.

I paused while I watched with my mom, and I said bad things about Beck.  She didn't argue back, with the exception of raising an eyebrow when I said that I probably knew more about Sam Adams than this hack.

I saw some Beck off and on that summer.  I thought the individual shows were interesting.  My problem?  I critiqued that he built strawman arguments.  "He states X like it's fact, and then he builds from there.  I agree with all of the logical conclusions he's drawing; however, I don't believe X.  He never proved X.  How can this be legit?"  The answer?  "He already proved X in a different show."

And indeed he did.  But I wouldn't know that until later on.

I found him interesting.  I thought his chalkboard thing was interesting.  We always FF'ed through commercials, so I didn't get a good idea of the full extent of the whole Buy Gold thing.  There was something about him that I liked, that I found intriguing, that drew me to him... a something that I couldn't put my finger on.  I didn't have the words.  I got a kick out of his younger sense of humor.  Younger, compared to O'Reilly anyways.  I liked his expressive face.  I liked that he talked about the world and events in the world, but he didn't necessarily focus on the minutia of the day.  I liked his energy.  

Even so, I was not yet ready to like Beck.

I returned to home that fall, and I got together with a progressive friend, J.  He's one of my smarter friends, and he particularly knowledgeable about politics.  Not just events, but also theory.  In some parallel universe, I would have fallen madly in love with his brain, but in this world, I appreciate our unique relationship.

I mentioned that I had spent the summer being exposed to Fox News -- to which he groaned -- and I mentioned Beck by name.  He immediately got angry, talking about how much he hates the guy.  "He's a shyster.  Mormon, ex-shock jock.  Now he's selling this conservative shit.  It's all an act.  He's got 'em duped, and he's making a fortune.  And don't get me started about the 'buy gold' scam!..."  

I had no idea who Beck was in the world of the Left, and I was actually surprised that J not only knew so much about him but that he felt such strong contempt.  I didn't know any of the background that he was talking about.  I didn't say much more.

to be continued

1 comment:

  1. I've continued this story but have not yet finished it. I should get on that.