Thursday, October 08, 2009

Finally, I, Too, Can Be Outraged by the Outrage:

So, how did yesterday's session go? At one point, the ACLU's Peter Eliasberg suggested a preferable memorial would honor all veterans of the war, "and not just the Christians." Justice Antonin Scalia found this outrageous.

"The cross doesn't honor non-Christians who fought in the war?" Scalia asks, stunned.

"A cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity, and it signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins," replies Eliasberg, whose father and grandfather are both Jewish war veterans.

"It's erected as a war memorial!" replies Scalia. "I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. The cross is the most common symbol of ... of ... of the resting place of the dead."

Eliasberg dares to correct him: "The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew."

"I don't think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead the cross honors are the Christian war dead," thunders Scalia. "I think that's an outrageous conclusion!"

I always thought all that "Scalia's a really smart dude" talk was some kind of weird "the tribute white guys pay to each other" sort of thing. This pretty much nails it. That interchange is so crashingly, inexcusably, religiously bigoted and culturally uninformed that its hard to fathom. You would have to *not know* that the Jews don't consider themselves Christian to even make that statement in good faith. You'd also have to have some kind of weird, toddler level, understanding of the symbol of the cross in which it stands merely for the words "dead people are here and I noticed" that is, to say the least, odd in a practicing Catholic.

via Steven Benen


UPDATE TO AIMAI'S POST FROM STEVE M. Here's a comment I left in response to that Steve Benen post:

I'm a longtime atheist and a regular contributor to Americans United for Separation of Church and State ... and yet I always hope our side loses cases like this.

The problem is, you simply cannot get most Americans to comprehend the separation argument -- I don't mean agree with it, I mean
comprehend it. It's beyond ignorance -- it's like some sort of aphasia. Americans just can't get their brains to grasp the notion that everyone in America isn't Christian, and that's OK, and that Christianity isn't normative. Scalia is just (alas) representing those people.

Every time we win a victory on one of these cases, even if it's clearly going to be overturned by a higher court, these people just hate us more and more. They don't
learn. There's no attempt to wrestle with the thinking behind the decision. There's no learning curve -- none. There's just hate, and a redoubled effort to get back at us.

That's extremely defeatist, I know. But the plain fact is that most Americans simply think Christianity -- or, as a (rare) fallback, "the Judeo-Christian tradition" -- is the natural belief system of all decent people. It's suitable to everyone. They think this belief is self-evident and not susceptible to challenge. Not believe it is like believing water runs uphill. And I don't know what can possibly reverse that in this country.

And no, I suppose "aphasia" wasn't the word I was looking for. But you know what I mean.

(A commenter suggests "agnosia" -- yeah, that's it. And, understandably, aimai disagrees with all this.)

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