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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 09/08/2003
Volume 2, #93

A lot of reasons have been given for the American Civil War---such as control by the plantation owners (the cotton producers) against the rise of the industrial class; socially, as in Gone With the Wind, a safe, fixed lifestyle without change--keep things the way they are--a profound conservatism. Does this mean conserving an aristocracy? Or rather conserving a class society--an aristocracy whose secret dream is to preserve whiteness in a population that continues to deny its blackness--preserving all the white values long after miscegenation has gone so far that in the south there really are no pure whites anymore. An absurdity?

Actually, it's been the reality for a long time now, so it can't be absurd. And it seems to go right along with another interesting feature of American society--its profound religiousness.

The NY Times columnist, Nicholas Kristoff reminds us that " perhaps the most fundamental divide between America and the rest of the industrialized world is faith. Religion remains central to American life, and is getting more so, in a way that is true of no other industrialized country, with the possible exception of South Korea.

"Americans believe, 58 percent to 40 percent," Kristoff points out, "that it is necessary to believe in God to be moral. In contrast, other developed countries overwhelmingly believe that it is not necessary. In France, only 13 percent agree with the U.S. view." Kristoff then adds that "the faith in the Virgin Birth reflects the way American Christianity is becoming less intellectual and more mystical over time. The percentage of Americans who believe in the Virgin Birth actually rose five points in the latest poll."

"My grandfather," Kristoff goes on, "was fairly typical of his generation: A devout and active Presbyterian elder, he nonetheless believed firmly in evolution and regarded the Virgin Birth as a pious legend. Those kinds of mainline Christians are vanishing, replaced by evangelicals. Since 1960, the number of Pentecostalists has increased fourfold, while the number of Episcopalians has dropped almost in half. The result is a gulf not only between America and the rest of the industrialized world, but a growing split at home as well. One of the most poisonous divides is the one between intellectual and religious America."

Note that here I've contrasted two essential American elements-- the distaste for blackness and the preference for whiteness in a vast segment of the nation--the section once known as the confederacy. Is there some connection? Isn't it obvious that white stands for purity and black for evil. Isn't this an obvious trend in a nation whose religion has become more and more mystical and counter-intellectual? In actual fact, all this is rather hard to believe until you put it alongside a more recent and perhaps even more frightening phenomenon developing in these United States.

Remember, this nation is the only one of the major industrialized nations that still relies on the death penalty.

But now, add to that the fact that prosecutors in great numbers have become so mesmerized by the mystical notion of righteousness, that they are prepared to fight those on death row using such scientific "gimmicks" as DNA testing to prove their innocence.

To understand how they can go this far, let's take a step back and look more closely at the general nature of religious belief in this country. To most Americans, profound believers in God, when the word immorality comes forth, it is not seen as some breaching of a code of behavior that is socially unacceptable. In religious America, immorality takes place in the sight of God--which makes it not mere immorality--but SIN! In the evangelical view, sinners cannot be saved without some powerful solvent such as rebirth, or other means through which sin can literally to be burned out of them. The loving God is also a stern Father. And being saved is a most painful process.

So really, DNA is only the instrument of the devil.

You find this hard to believe. Well, back to the NY Times again, for August 26th.

HARPES, Fla., Aug. 26 , After seeing more than 130 prisoners freed by DNA testing in the last 15 years, prosecutors in Florida and across the country have mounted a vigorous challenge to similar new cases.

Prosecutors acknowledge that DNA testing is reliable, but they have grown increasingly skeptical of its power to prove innocence in cases where there was other evidence of guilt. Defense lawyers say these prosecutors, who often relied on the same biological evidence to convict the defendants before DNA testing was available, are more committed to winning than to justice.

The fight has become particularly heated in Florida, where prisoners will soon be barred from seeking DNA testing for old cases under a 2001 law that set an Oct. 1 deadline for such requests.

What's this? It's okay to prove someone guilty through DNA testing, but not okay to prove him innocent by the same means? That's right. Some prosecutors even go to the trouble of explaining that dredging up old cases just to prove a man innocent is very hard on families, of victims. Better to execute someone than bring all that stuff up again. Yes, yes, it's all quite unbelievable when laid out like this, but keep in mind that Justice in America goes way beyond morality. We're dealing with SINNERS. And sinners are dark personalities anyway or they wouldn't be in trouble with the law to begin with; so, if you think it isn't sin that's the operative principle in a lot of our courtrooms, then just give some thought to the controversy still swirling about the forced removal of that massive stone image of The Ten Commandments from an Alabama courtroom. Think of the many judges in the system who think the same way as the man who had to be forced to remove the Commandments from his courtroom.

Now, let's take this whole thing even further, to the war against the Dark People in the world of Islam, which stretches from Afghanistan to, well, Iraq. No connection? Ahh-h, but you're thinking of morality. But haven't you learned by now that we're dealing with the unspeakable, with SIN? That logic and jurisprudence are basically

tuned to Old and New Testament evangelical visions. And that logic and reason, details such as the existence or non-existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction, have nothing to do with Sin. Because Sin is before God. And God doesn't make mistakes. And human reason and human logic have nothing to do with the matter at all.

Oh yes, by the way, those guys on the other side, they think the same way. It's before Allah. And by the time all this is over, we're going to know a lot more about hell than we ever suspected in this blazing new advanced world of the Twenty-First Century. Enough to make you want to chew up your comic book collections out of sheer frustration.

--Alvin

<< 09/01/2003 | 09/08/2003 | 09/15/2003 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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