"Two faces have I
One that laughs one that cries
One says hello one says goodbye
One does things I don't understand
Makes me feel like half a man"
Bruce Springsteen, "Two Faces"
Regardless of what Barack Obama may have said four years ago in that famous speech of his at the 2004 Democratic Convention, there definitely are two Americas––two diametrically opposed Americas. And I'm not just talking about Republicans and Democrats here, though that division largely mirrors the real divide.
The fact of the matter is there's a Backward America, suspicious of not just science and the well-educated, but of modernity in general. An America that believes in the literal truth of some ancient religious fables. This America, by the way, was well represented at the Republican National Convention this past week (more about that later).
Then there's Modern America, the America that embraces science and modernity, just like the rest of the Western world. Aside from country music, perhaps, this is the America that has produced just about anything and everything worthwhile to emerge from the country over the past couple of hundred years. In general, these Americans may still be a lot more religious than the people of other Western countries, but they're not expecting the Rapture to come and carry them up into the sky any time soon.
Obviously, there is a clear red state-blue state/Republican-Democrat divide in America, but what I'm talking about is the much more bizarre and scary modern/medieval divide. It's this fission that truly makes America distinct within western civilization.
Every country has its wacko lunatic fringe of religious fanatics and Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., France, Germany, and the rest of Western Europe are no exception, but the difference is that in America the lunatics encompass between one third and half of the population.
Although it may seem like it to some, this is not in any way an anti-American diatribe. What it is, however, is an diatribe against the anti-intellectual, small-minded, death penalty-cheerin', gun-loving, 6,000-year-old-world-believin', gay-bashin', Bible-thumpin', right-wing freaks who have been running the country and the Republican Party for years now.
The Jerry Falwells, the Pat Robertsons, the James Dobsons (of Focus On The Family infamy) and the rest of their ilk. You know the type, those who not only profess to believe that dinosaur fossils are simply here to test our faith, but who also want to teach such things to kids in science class. Yes, I'm talking about true wackos.
These people are also really big on teaching abstinence only in sex ed classes. Then they wonder why America has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the Western world––by a huge margin. If you want to increase the number of unwanted pregnancies, and thus abortions, this is sure a great way to do it. Way to go guys!
Again, this isn't simply a right-wing, left-wing divide. There are still quite a few economic conservatives in the Republican Party who are not part of this medieval mindset. It's just that they've been overrun within their party by the wackos of the Christian right over the past few decades.
The economic conservatives have their own issues, but I'm I'm not here to talk about the failed policies of Milton Friedman, Reaganomics, and all that trickle down bullshit. Tax-cutting-for-the-rich, social-program-slashing right-wingers exist in every country and their disdain for the poor is not what I'm going on about here. They may be cold-hearted, but economic conservatives don't necessarily reject the reality of the world around them.
Satan Is Real
Christian conservatives, on the other hand, do. Whether it be a belief in Satan as a real guy, hell as a real place, the Bible as literal truth or the world as just a few thousand years old, a shockingly high percentage of Americans answer yes to these questions, with, for example, over 50 percent expressing a belief in Satan.
We're also, it should be noted, talking about worshippers of incest here. After all, those who believe in the literal truth of the Bible must believe that human beings descend from the offspring of Adam and Eve, which of course involved Adam and Eve's kids screwing one another to produce kids of their own. I'm guessing they don't talk about that too much in church, but, hey, it was God's will, right?
Seriously now, where else in the western world, aside from America, would you find a significant percentage of the population believing that the Rapture is coming soon and that Jesus is going to come down and slaughter all the nonbelievers while raising up the chosen few into the sky?
This wacky America isn't really all that different from their fundamentalist brothers and sisters in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Afghanistan, places where people also find their absolute truth in a book of fables.
Republican Convention of Contempt
And on a related topic, how about those Republicans? Did you see John McCain's big speech at the Republican National Convention last night? Talk about a bunch of angry, war-loving, mindlessly nationalistic white people. I didn't think a spectacle like that was still possible in America today. I mean, aside from a KKK rally or a Toby Keith show, where else in modern-day America but at a Republican rally could you get such a high percentage of white people in one room?
The defining moment of the whole night for me was when McCain ridiculed Obama's plan to cover every American citizen with medical insurance and the crowd went nuts booing and jeering Obama and his queer foreign communist ideas. That told you all you needed to know about these people. I mean, where else could you find such a large number of people––themselves all adequately covered of course––sneering at the idea of helping those without any medical coverage get insured?
Speaking of foreign ideas, another very telling moment was when former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee mocked "European ideas" in his speech... and the crowd once again went wild.
Then there was all the ridiculing, by Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin, among others, of Obama's work as a community organizer, with the crowd again roaring its disdain.
But perhaps the greatest cheer was reserved for when McCain talked about how, if elected, he'll slash foreign aid. It was like Beatlemania all over again: the crowd went absolutely insane.
I was just waiting for someone to go after the homeless, those suffering from AIDS and perhaps even lepers. Why not mock lepers? But, alas, there wasn't really enough time, what with all the chanting of "USA, USA, USA" that had to be done.
Who are these people anyway and how the hell did they get so cold-hearted, angry and bitter? Perhaps it has something to do with the God of the Old Testament that they love so much. You know, that angry, vindictive, vengeful and wrathful God.
But, then again, perhaps it's just from attending too many Toby Keith concerts. Who knows?
Mike Cowie is a writer currently embarked on a book about his three-year trip across Asia with his wife, Sonoko. Read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.