Monday, October 8, 2012

Time's Mormon puff piece: "Pragmatism" and "Expediency" are the new euphemisms for "Lying"

It's funny, but nobody is supposed to talk about the Mormon church, Mitt Romney's biggest commitment in life - unless it is a pro-Mormon, pro-Romney piece like the one published in the October 8 issue of "Time" magazine. It was written by Jon Meacham, a long-time right winger known for his close association with Joe Scarborough

Meacham is most known for his twisted historical portraiture, trying to attribute to the Founding Fathers a faith that they never had. In 1776, 80% of American families belonged to no church (source: Ahlstrom, "Religious History of the American People"). In 1800, 90% belonged to no church. That is the real "context" of the American separation of church and state.  Any description which ignores these facts is just verbiage and selective quotation.  Meacham does not, it's true, attribute any born again "Christian Nation" theology to these Founding Fathers, but his effort to occupy a middle ground between Republican propaganda and the emerging historical academic consensus of a secular majority amounts to a farce worthy of Soviet propaganda.

Meacham misrepresents the Mormons as a peace loving folk, and to "explain" Romney's lying, he uses two euphemisms: "Pragmatism" and "Expediency," which in Mitt's case is because he is to "expect persecution" because of his Mormonism, and so conforms to whatever audience he is with.  Thus he's not really lying, just trying to survive by fooling an expected hostile audience.  The persecution expectation, if real, is not based on personal experience.  Mitt Romney has never lived outside a bubble of Mormon culture.  It was a small bubble when he was growing up in Michigan, which has few Mormons, but since his dad was Governor and an auto CEO, it was nevertheless a highly insulated bubble. Mitt had a car and a state police uniform and could pull people over without getting arrested as he bragged to his Stanford friends.  Mitt Romney has never been "persecuted" and if he believes he would be persecuted as a Mormon, it is worth remembering that all his life he has sought out Mormon companions and Mormon associates in his social environment and career.  This is not someone carrying the Mormon flag into gentile territory but someone hoping the Mormons justify  his loyalty by delivering him the presidency.  Bain Capital bought the nation's two largest radio networks and largest newspaper chain before Romney started his second run.  This is not a brave outreach to the enemy, but a personal strategy to rely on the group for advancement.

Meacham, an Episcopalian and presumably no relation to Arizona's infamous Mormon governor with that name,  is a veritable cheerleader for the Mormon faith in this article, excusing polgamy as "peopling" the desert. In truth, polygamy was reserved for the top hierarchy, and its use confirms the Romney family's exalted status within Mormondom. Mitt's story, that his ancestor married more women because he was told to, reveals the unconscious power of hierarchy in the Mormon world.  An average American would never invent a story where the hero lets a church official choose his bed partners.  Meacham also repeats the Romney lie that they were driven out of Mexico by revolutionaries, forgetting that many of the colony still remain in Mexico, including Romneys. 

When he isn't misinforming us about Mormon history, Meacham is praising Mormon practice. Meacham gives a two paragraph rant on the wonders of Mormon "charity," neglecting that mutual aid is not generally seen as charity outside of the Mormon church, and only in a later paragraph mentioning the church expects service in return for its aid, nor did Romney's personal "charity," as opposed to the church's, normally touch any underprivileged people, let alone non-Mormons.  Meacham has to go to Harry Reid (Mormon approval rating: 20 percent) and the days of FDR to pretend the Mormons are not a right-wing political machine.

The big lie, the whole point of the article, gets slipped in by little doses, when Meacham speaks of Romney's "devotion to personal liberty," and his "commitments to liberty and individualism...also have Mormon origins."  Uh no. The Mormons are highly anti-individualist, as is Romney.  This is a church where men and women are confined to different roles, where every day of the week is planned by the Church, including "family home evenings" on Monday.  This is a church that organizes periodic mandatory visits with the faithful to prevent their falling away. The Mormons are, in that sense, the heirs to old-time Puritanism, which was a busybody religion, whose more intrusive aspects of group control have largely been abandoned by the Congregationalists, Unitarians, and other lineal descendants.  Romney may believe in the power of "innovation" and "derring-do," but it is not the work of an individual entrepreneur but of a System.  To vote for Romney is to vote for the Mormon System, not to vote for a liberty loving individualist.  When Romney was Massachusetts governor, the "moderate" refused to grant any more liquor licenses, usually a routine administrative matter, and refused to provide correct forms for court-mandated gay marriage.  He resurrected a defunct 1913 law to stop gays from other states from marrying in Massachusetts.  This is not a man who has ever believed in individual liberty, and you can see it by noting the short leash his children are on.  Romney runs their lives, and feels free to insult them on television.

In the end, Meacham is trying to "center" the Mormons by giving them American traits of patriotism, charity, and individualism, that they have never had.  And Meacham is trying to bolster Romney by excusing his lying as the result of Joseph Smith being killed by an anti-mormon mob in 1844, and that won't fly either.

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