Clinging to Guns and Religion—No Apology Needed

Slate's blog on legal issues.
April 13 2008 8:46 AM

Clinging to Guns and Religion—No Apology Needed

As Melinda Henneberger notes, Sen. Obama is being accused of displaying a profound misunderstanding of so-called Midwestern or small-town values based on a recent comment. The senator explained how voters—angry and demoralized by their economic circumstance and the inability of politicians to improve rather than worsen their plight—"cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."

With due respect to the good people in Melinda's hometown of Mount Carmel and with fond remembrance of my two decades in South Bend, Ind., I doubt anyone in those places is offended until Clinton and McCain ride into town and rile them up with falsehood and fear.

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This is merely the inverse formulation of Obama's positive message to not fall prey to politicians of either party who seek support by dividing us. Instead of seeking peace, we have a president and his first cousin barely removed perpetuating an unnecessary war. Instead of addressing the poverty or immaturity or insufficient learning that can lead a young woman to terminate a pregnancy, partisans on both sides mystify us into thinking the next Supreme Court justice (so long as she is "our" nominee) will make it all better. Instead of working to limit crimes of violence by strengthening families, the polemicists of old politics construct the myth that when Madison penned "well-regulated militia," he meant ample home arsenal. Instead of honoring people of faith whose gospel motivates them to teach or ladle in soup kitchens or staff hospitals and nursing homes, candidates gratuitously stoke racial and religious hatred by constant replay of a minister's overheated rhetoric.

Now, having stirred up intense hate and suspicion toward each other, the message of Sen. McCain is: Cling to those hates, my friends. Woe be to anyone who would have the hopeful audacity to tell you to stop. Why, says Mrs. Clinton, you should have known all along that anyone who tells you, "Yes, you can" is a fraud. You know you can't. Insist on your right to see yourself as a victim. Don't vote your freedom—vote for me!

No, Sen. Obama, no apologies needed. When you call upon us to set aside divisions based on faith, you do not dishonor religion but rebuild its immunity from political manipulation. Like Pascal, you are reminding us that faith is "of another order which surpasses all the rest in depth and height."

It's a good reminder even if it did prompt Mrs. Clinton to reminisce about how her father taught her to shoot when she was a young girl in the Chicago suburbs. "Incoming!"

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