Monday, January 18, 2016

The Continuing Adventures of the Stepford Bundys

By Bob Ferris

Many of us remember the iconic 1975 movie The Stepford Wives and that scene where the robot version of Katharine Ross turns and we see the “eyes” that tell the whole story of what has transpired.  I feel exactly the same way when I see the Bundys and their allies with their carefully placed pocket Constitutions—issued by the ultra-conservative National Center for Constitutional Studies (NCCS) and sold in bulk for a buck a piece.   I knew in that immortal film scene as I do when I see these pamphlets proudly displayed that rationality and free-will have left the vicinity.

Cliven Bundy with his NCCS pocket Constitution. 
It may seem harsh to compare the Bundy clan and their ilk to robots, but when one steadfastly repeats untruths fed to them by discredited ideologues even to the point of arming oneself to defend false principles, you have to wonder whether or not they are really still card-carrying, thinking humans. When they place that pamphlet in their pocket, they signal to the rest of the world that they have not only sipped on the Kool-Aid brewed by W. Cleon Skousen, but they have asked for a second cup and are in hopes of a third.
“He [Ezra Taft Benson] believed that the Constitution would one day "hang from a thread," at which time Mormons would assume leadership of the nation and rescue it from certain and irrevocable disaster. (These ideas are not part of official Mormon Church doctrine.) in Fringe Mormon Group Makes Myths With Glenn Beck’s Help 
Nearly five years ago Alexander Zaitchik wrote an excellent survey piece for the Southern Poverty Law Center that looked at the current legacy of W. Cleon Skousen as well as his compatriot Ezra Taft Benson.  Mr. Zaitchik accurately drew the genealogy of Skousen’s reactionary anti-communist philosophies documenting explicit links between the NCCS, the John Birch Society, Glenn Beck, the so-called Tea Party movement, and the Oath Keepers.  This was pre-Bundy but you can see in this piece exactly where all the strange ideas about the US Constitution, government over-reach and even Cliven’s bizarre and bigoted comments about African-Americans and slavery originate.  All pure Cleon Skousen and all pure crap.
"When the elder Skousen died in 2006, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), paid tribute to him on the Senate floor, and even included a poem he wrote about his friend. Hatch detailed how Skousen helped launch his political career, sending a letter to 8,000 "friends," urging them to support Hatch's 1976 Senate candidacy." in The Skousen Admiration Club
It is easy to point to the Mormon links even up to and including Senator Orrin Hatch who gave the eulogy for Mr. Skousen, Tea Party Rep. Jason Chaffetz who has caused so much trouble with Planned Parenthood (1,2), and Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory who wants to take federal lands from their rightful owners, but that is too simplistic a view and likely unjust.
“A reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Larry Eichel, reached the same conclusion after attending one of Skousen's lectures in the birthplace of the Constitution. "He [Skousen] preached a political return to the eighteenth century," wrote a dismayed Eichel.” in Fringe Mormon Group Makes Myths With Glenn Beck’s Help 
Yes I wrote this past weekend about the Mormon roots and vision of Deseret  and how that relates to the Bundy situation, but as Mr. Zaitchik has pointed out above the Bundys along with these other actors are longing for some centuries-old Mormon vision rather than one that currently exists.  In fact, the Mormon Church was quick to distance itself from the Bundy occupation just as Pope Francis has frequently differentiated between the current Catholic Church and actions from the past (and I am definitely not defending religion here, but rather freedom of religion).

I struggle with all of this in part because America is way too distracted with fear about radicalized Muslims when we should be more afraid of these radicalized and armed Mormons. But that is not fair to Mormons just as the ISIS or ISIL associations are not fair to the vast majority of the followers of Islam.  I could say our country had been “Beck’ed” or go with the Stepford reference, but neither one seems totally satisfactory or appropriate.  But we are still left with these ideological robots roaming the Refuge and that needs to end and they need to be brought to justice.

1 comment:

  1. Good and thoughtful piece, Bob! At the core of this is dogmatism. The antidote is a liberal education that teaches critical thinking,open-mindedness, and philosophy. Let's face it, neoliberalism has cost us dearly in terms of our surrender to market madness and the dismantling of education in favor of dogmatic training...