God Help us all: Fending off an American Theocracy

by Mark Harvey

The Crusades

The trouble with theocracies is that they generally lead to crusades. And the trouble with crusades is that if you’re not of the right sect or denomination, you’ll end up crucified. Theocracies lead nowhere, bring great suffering on peoples, stifle creative thought, and have women covered or in the kitchen. They do anything but lead to paradise on earth. But they do give people a taste of hell.

Whether it’s the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Isis caliphate in Iraq and Syria, or The Islamic State of Iran, theocracies are inherently oppressive, and regressive. They subscribe to the idea that there is only one God, he is to be obeyed without question, and that those ruling in a theocratic government have some sort of manifest connection with that God.

James Madison

To some degree, Americans have been spared the ravages of theocracies. We are perhaps most indebted to James Madison for that. Madison, sometimes called the father of the Constitution, understood well in advance of 1789 when the framers met in Philadelphia, that the new nation being formed needed to be free and clear of the factionalism so often created by religious zealots. In letters to his close friend Thomas Jefferson, Madison wrote, “When Indeed Religion is kindled into enthusiasm, its force like that of other passions is increased by the sympathy of a multitude….Even in its coolest state, it has been much oftener a motive to oppression than a restraint from it.”

I have no issues with religion per se. I think it genuinely helps some people navigate their lives and having a faith strong enough to maintain an unswerving optimism in the face of life’s hardships is even enviable. For the truly dispossessed and bereaved, a belief in God may be the last thing to cling to. Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of our great writers and a transcendentalist, called the religious sentiment “mountain air” and “the embalmer of the world.”

“It makes the sky and the hills sublime, and the silent song of the hills is it,” he said. Read more »

Stalkerpooh: A Conversation with Simon Lee and Eve Sussman

by Andrea Scrima

Eve Sussman and Simon Lee are visual artists who use a variety of media, ranging from photography and film to live performance. Some of their work experiments with narrative tropes in video, text, and the act of talking to other people on the phone or in the real world. Their joint projects include CollusionNoCollusion, created during a residency in St. Petersburg, Russia; No food No money No jewels, commissioned by the Experimental Media and Performing Art Center in Troy, New York; the performance/installation Barbershop; and the live channeling performance … and all the reporters laughed and took pictures. Together they co-founded the Wallabout Oyster Theatre, a micro-theatre run out of their studios in Brooklyn. Sussman and Lee also act as producers for Jack & Leigh Ruby, two reformed criminals who are now making art and films based on their previous career as successful con artists. Recently Sussman and Lee have started working with snark.art. Read more »