Wednesday, May 16, 2007

O Falwell! Where is thy sting?

I was complaining about the tepid Falwell farewells I'd been reading, when I noticed that the Swan of Newark had entered the lists with her typically moist prose. Of course, the Victorians went all-out when it came to death and mourning, so I shouldn't be surprised. But as this is the second celebrity obituary she's written in less than 6 months, maybe it would instructive to compare them.

Here's the one for Jerry Falwell.

The man's life is dealt with briskly: he was 73, and he was "said to be" the founder of the Moral Majority. (Actually, I thought he WAS its founder, but then Jesus Christ is said to be the founder of whatever it is the Lady Novelist does for a living, so I guess the elasticity is just built into the term.)

Now, let's get straight down to business here:
Matt Foreman, executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, extended condolences to those close to Falwell, BUT added: "Unfortunately, we will always remember him as a founder and leader of America's anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation's appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation."
And who could possibly be a better judge of the life of a 73-year old man than a lobbyist with an axe to grind? I know when I die, I count on hearing the measured verdicts of all the telephone solicitors and panhandlers I've turned down in my life - you can trust them to give you an honest and disinterested opinion.
Perhaps Falwell will be remembered best for his . . ."analysis" . . .of the reason for the disaster of 9/11 as portrayed in the cartoon above.
Which is certainly much, MUCH scarier than what turned out to be the REAL reason for 9/11 - enslaving, murdering Islam. No, let us pull out once more our yellowing cartoons and enjoy again the frisson of woebegone victimhood at the hands of an enemy that uses hurtful, insensitive WORDS.
A Falwell Christian is one with a negative, narrow view of the human condition, someone who is both judging and judgmental, who grants forgiveness contingent upon a pledge of allegiance to the god of Falwell's own imaging, and conformity to a way of life strictly prescribed by Falwell's own understanding of the will of God as revealed by his interpretation of the fundamentals of scripture.
This is Victorian English, so let's see if I can update it and make it more "relevant" - after all, if it's good enough for the Prayer Book and the Bible...
A revisionist Episcopalian is one with a negative, narrow view of traditionalists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Charismatics and Africans, someone who is both judging and judgmental (of traditionalists, Catholics, Evangelicals, Charismatics and especially Africans), who grants forgiveness contingent upon a pledge of allegiance to the canons and to the central authority of 815, and conformity to a way of life strictly prescribed by the Zeitgeist as revealed by every individual's interpretation of their own experience.
(By the way, did you know that Jerry Falwell was a clergyman? You wouldn't have found out from reading this.)

Let's now turn to the tender obituary she provided for Saddam Hussein.

I listened, aghast and in horror, as the BBC televised an interview with an Iraqi woman, now living in Dearborn, Michigan, who proclaimed today as a day of "great celebration" in her displaced Iraqi community.

Oh, the tremblings and palpitations! I placed my hand to my quivering heart as the lurid glow of the burning ricks illumined my ceiling with a ghastly red glow, as if the very gates of Hades itself had opened before my bower window. The peasantry, intoxicated with drink and the unaccustomed leisure of a half-holiday, danced the Carmagnole with uncouth whoops and bounds, totally ignorant of all sense of tempo or decorum.
"Oh, there will be great rejoicing," she said, her head covered, as was her entire body, in the modest black cloth prescribed for women by her religion.
Of course, no truly modest woman would ever let a word like "rejoicing" cross her lips, but it would take a sensibility as highly refined as my own to appreciate the irony of the scene.
"We will dance and sing and rejoice," she said, seemingly completely unaware of the oppression her religion continues to visit upon her merely for being born female - even though she now speaks English fluently and lives in America - the "land of the free and the home of the brave."
Oh, irony upon irony! Thank goodness I am here to limn this scene, for Swift is no more. I shall be sure to inform that benighted woman (WHEN she's stopped leaping about like a zany) of the state of oppression she lives in thanks to soon as that nice Mr. Khatami has finished his speech in the National Cathedral.
I understand that there were those in the observer galley of the death chamber who were calling out insults and taunts to Saddam, as he, ankles and wrists shackled, made his way to the gallows prepared for his hanging.

Saddam carried the Koran in his hand - the Holy Scripture, as he understood it, by which he lived his life - as he shuffled his way to his death.
Doesn't that just bring a tear to your eye? There's a real spiritual man for you - was Jerry Falwell holding the Holy Scripture when HE died? Well? Was he? I thought not. He probably had to have someone hold it for him, being in a cowardly coma and all. Not like Saddam.
We are told that he refused to wear a black hood over his head and face. Somehow, I understand that decision, which seems to me to be clearly designed to give greater protection and consolation to his executioners than whatever human pride Saddam might have left.
Speaking truth to power right to the end, that's Our Saddam.
He received some assurance, at the end of his life, of the promises of his faith to be received into heaven a martyr, perfect in body in eternity as he had been given by God on earth.
Nothing like going out on a high note.
Was the man a monster of humanity or a martyr of his faith?

Can one be both a martyr and a monster?

Does violence always beget violence, or does the violent death of one evil man absolve the violent deaths of thousands of innocent people?

Will we know the answers to these questions in our life and time, or will history claim the final, definitive answer?

God only knows.
Unless you're Jerry Falwell, in which case, I know all the answers.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read any books by Ann Radcliffe in over a decade, but every time you do a 'Swan of Newark' I have the urge to reread the Mysteries of Udolpho, just for yucks.

3:33 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Well, you can always go halfway, and read Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey" instead.

5:10 pm  
Blogger Min O'Pause said...

Hey Mabuse,

Would it be okay with you, if I refer to you as the 'Pig from Ottawa', if I decide to blog about you again?


11:40 am  

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