Dangerous Dance

Ominous storm clouds threaten to trample the Constitution and turn our republic into a theocracy.

For the roughly 735,000 Arizonans and 56 million Americans who got trampled by the November 2 election, the challenge now is to follow in the footsteps of the Boston Red Sox.

This is not the time to give up in despair after Senator John Kerry's narrow defeat. It's time to rethink strategy and renew our determination to wrest this country back from the increasingly intolerant religious right.

Despite what the Republican party is spewing, 51 percent of the popular vote to 48 percent does not a mandate make. This is not like when Ronald Reagan whipped Jimmy Carter, much less like when Richard Nixon demolished George McGovern.

Despite the disappointment and ensuing depression sweeping nearly half the nation's voting public, the stakes are too high to surrender. Ominous storm clouds threaten to destroy the First Amendment guarantee of separation of church and state and transform this republic into a theocracy.

The drift in this direction is well under way.

We only need to look to our neighbor to the north, Utah. Dominated by the Mormon Church, a fanatical religion that has no problem with theocracy, the state gave George W. Bush his strongest backing with 71 percent of the vote.

Bush's reelection is a clear signal that the merger of God and politics in America is continuing its dangerous dance. And as separation of church and state erodes, other constitutional guarantees are also being diminished.

Dissent is no longer a normal discourse welcomed as a sign of political vibrancy. It is now met with the threat of arrest.

Reports abounded during the election season about storm troopers removing anyone so much as wearing a Kerry button to a Bush political rally. Such intolerance has permeated politics at the local level to the point that I can't even approach Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a public space to ask a question without being accosted by his deputies for being a "threat" to the sheriff's safety.

So much for freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble.

Not only is the First Amendment under attack, the cornerstone of American democracy, our rule of law, is also under fire.

The religious right wants the rule of God to be the ultimate constitutional authority.

Groups like Focus on the Family Action, a Christian advocacy group, are attacking Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who won reelection last week, after Specter said he would oppose "pro-life" judges getting appointed to the Supreme Court.

"The senator would be wise to study all the exit polls coming out of Tuesday's election, which show unmistakably that moral values were the No. 1 thing voters considered at the polls," says Focus on the Family Action founder James Dobson.

"The people who put President Bush back in the White House and expanded the Republican majority in the Senate weren't voting for a party -- they were voting for candidates who share their pro-family values."

Well, there were enough such voters to put Bush over the hump, but how much of a mandate does Bush really have for a so-called family-values agenda when enough of his supporters agree with Specter -- along with practically all of Senator Kerry's?

One thing is clear, however. The religious right has no tolerance for political dissent -- even from a Republican.

It's not too surprising that religious radicals like Dobson are swaggering about with such threatening outbursts. After all, Bush the moralist has been saying he's taking direction from God as he proceeds in the Middle East. His jihad to impose "freedom" on complex societies that worship God differently has dragged us into a war we cannot win unless we kill millions.

As Kerry repeatedly pointed out, Bush's attack on Iraq had nothing to do with tracking down terrorists who struck the United States.

And what about these evil terrorists?

First, I know that September 11 was horrible, but let's put it into perspective. Some guy hiding in a cave managed to get a few fanatics to hijack airliners and crash into three buildings and into the ground in Pennsylvania, killing a few thousand Americans.

It's shocking, despicable, and something we must never forget.

But this "attack" is more akin to a crime than a declaration of war. It in no way rises to the level of Hitler's Third Reich invasion of Poland or the Japanese air and sea attack on Pearl Harbor.

There's no doubt that we must be vigilant in guarding against terrorism. I'd like to see Osama bin Laden strung up from a lamppost in New York City.

Yet, frankly, I feel more threatened by the constitutional terrorists at home than I do from the ones over there.

The national reelection hinged on religious extremists such as Dobson, who cited morality as the most important factor in their decision to vote for Bush.

Forget about the unpopular war in Iraq. Forget about the surging national debt. Forget about the ban on stem-cell research. Forget about Halliburton's obscene wartime profits and Enron's corrupt collapse. Forget about the lack of medical care and insurance. Forget about Social Security's imminent failure. Forget about millions of lost jobs. Forget about the 1,100 and counting dead loved ones coming back to our shores in shameful silence, their flagged-draped coffins edited from our view.

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