Anthropologist and Priest Agbali sees the powerful place of religion and privilege in the elections.
Abdul-Raheem's text presents a very intense analysis. But I am wondering about a lot of things. First, I will say that folks say that this election is about Bush, after staying up into the early morning hours of November 3rd, I will say that this election is not about Bush. This election is about the celebration of a singular majority, using the very basis of their institutional order and establishment to celebrate the current efforts at American global imperialism. It is about the same agencies that gave birth to colonial ascendancy in the past, and produced such phrases as "the British empire upon which the sun will never set." This is the dawn of a new imperialist imagination and awakening.
Watching the 2004 election reports on TV, newspapers, and the Internet, one cannot but wonder the way the blue and red states were dichotomized. The core central and southern states went mainly to the republicans, and the outlying Western and Eastern coast states were blue in the hands of the democrats. Interestingly, we came to know that those who voted massively for the President were white evangelical protestants, Catholics, and older folks above 50 years of age, also very significantly in places like Florida and New Mexico new Hispanic voters. That says a lots about this election given that this President is popular, and it might be noted that some of this popularity has something to do with the rejection of affirmative action, snubbing of the NAACP, refusal to appear on Black Entertainment Television (BET), and playing to values that are noted to appeal to whites' interest regarding putting the Black person in his/her place. To be black and acceptable one must adopt some of the values of Alan Keyes, belong to some major white establishments. Therefore, is it any wonder that religion played a very key role in this election. Even, Kerry, a Catholic was rejected by the American Catholic establishment, one of the institutions that privileges white hegemonic dominance, and even abuse minority members of its own hierarchy. At least to the best of my knowledge, a lot has not changed with regards to Catholic attitudes toward Blacks especially since an African-American Catholic priest Lawrence Lucas authored his sensational book, Black Priest/White Church, which documents such practices against minority priests.
Hispanic voting bloc made a difference in the outcome of this election. They manipulated and utilized their multiple heritages well. It is already known that Hispanics now outnumber whites in the state of Texas. This election has become their own kind of becoming politically influential in tide-turning national events. Their phenotypic advantage of fairer (say almost White) skin pigmentation, their religious leanings and moral values (given that many are Catholics, and a significant number are joining the Evangelical movement en masse) are all tools capable of being manipulated toward critical advantages as belonging to and sanctioning the values of American whiteness. Hence, the manner in which they voted made differences in swing states like Florida and New Mexico. In Florida, it was noted that more than the Cuban Americans, other Hispanics helped to consolidate the President's hold, giving him a "political capital" that he can now use, and also to justify himself as a moral authority in political righteousness.
Karl Rove was savvy, knowing the use of religion for political relevance he seized it. The President knows Rove's wizardry and praised him as much in his acceptance speech. Rove, the architect President Bush's victory, was the major strategist that pulled this religious string. Rove lives in the real world. He understands that the resurfacing of religion into the public sphere must have critical advantages that must be capitalized upon. In our contemporary world religion continues to be legitimated as socially meaningful. Rather than the demise of its relevance promised and trumpeted a while ago, and even resounded articulated in the "God is Dead Theology," religion order the tragedy of September 11th, and the same religion united America, giving it solace. Even the Catholic priests image that became so battered thereafter following the sex abuse scandal, received affirmation when a New York police chaplain died in the World Trade Center. Even, there arose a movement to pursue his immediate canonization, a move that floundered it seems after revelations of his gay sexuality. Now, all over the world religion is being rejuvenerated into some kind of relevance, and depending on which side of the equation possess dominance, one religion's act can be positively validated, while if the same act is perfumed on the less dominant side it received less or even negative affirmation. In all of these, we Africans are stampeding on our own religious heritages, discarding it as soon as we have the opportunity because it is the hallmark of civilization. How come those we affirm as the civilizers still find meaning in it and use it?
I think that while Abdul-Raheem's text, and other responses related to it are articulate and very logical, one of their crass mistakes is that imperialism and domination have no logic, and neither is it often rational. It is within this domain that irrationality acquires a sense of rationalism. Max Weber notes how this occurred in the past in the life of the Occidental relative to how the irrational forces of Christian dogma- especially the protestant ethos- produced a rational phenomenon in the ethics of work and the spirit of capitalism. Even, Weber himself would be fearful for such rationalization as bureaucracy as it produces irrational forms in the consciousness as disenchantment. Hence, the philosopher, Hegel was right when he talks about the spirit of history, as a consciousness, a movement (actual mobility and as a stirring) that cultivates civilization. Given that irrational forces in the West acquires autonomous dimensions, a life of their own, through imperialism they acquire a critical form, as rational processes. Irrationality become perforce as civilization and forced through the throats of others through domination. Power and violence have always been the two core values crucial to the identity of the West as a civilization in their spread through different temporal and spatial processes. Feudalism, Industrial revolution, Slavery, Colonialism, and Imperialism, even to some extend the significant forces of globalization are infected with these viruses. Even the highest achievement of Western civilization the state is identified stringently with the instrumentality of violence, through controlling and utilizing it.
Hence, we must also note that at a certain level, it is we Africans who inevitably privileges and sanction academic qualifications as the source of entry into other spheres of human existence. Truly, while these are essential, does it have to be so? I remember the kind of name calling and labelling associated with erstwhile Nigerian President Shehu Shagari given that his highest educational attainment was a teacher's certificate. Leadership essentially does not have to be exercised by the most intelligent. What is required should be that the one exercising leadership is intelligent enough to pool diverse human, social, political, technological, and other vital resources into tools of human betterment in enhancing security, affordable living, and creating the means of further human advancement.
What is the point of all of these? It is merely because looking at this election, Americans have for the most part decided for the values that they consider most significant, which is the moral values, and the war on terror. All said, and done it is about them and what constitutes the future of their children. In the concession speech of Senator John Kerry, he made an important point that we should not overlook. The point is that what is truly nice of America is that the morning after they election they are not counted as democrats, republicans, or any other label but they are all Americans. Can this be said of other nations? Hardly, is this true of our different political dispensation in my years living in Nigeria. Once a party comes to power they witch-hunt those who do not vote for them. In many cases, politics filter into the work places given rise to retrenchment, inappropriate and induced dismissal, and forced retirement of skilled and talented civil servants considered not to belong to the government-in-power. Even religious communities can be very much polarised depending on whom you voted for.
Another interesting point Abdul-Raheem made is why can any nation's leadership not be able to do as they wish. Well, the simple truth is many nations have long concluded with Fukuyama regarding the end of their history. Without America, or the West, they seem to think that they can never survive, because they are not skillful to make oasis in the desert. Else, tell me why Nigeria had to consult with the U.S and Britain before they can say they are willing to grant political asylum to former Haiti's President Jean Betrand Aristide? Ours can be perpetual sickness granting us the status of irrelevance, and perpetual minor in the scheme of autonomous actions.
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