Friday, November 10, 2006

PZ, Lassen County And the 2006 Elections

I couldn't help but catch PZ's morning-after cynicism regarding the election - quite frankly, I was having similar thoughts. It is a good thing that power has shifted back to the Democrats, but that is largely superficial and a closer look at the election results belies some major problems bubbling beneath the political surface.

Pro-science candidates and issues generally faired well in this election, at least in Ohio, Missouri (stem cell initiative passed) and Pennsylvania (where anti-science Santorum finally got the boot he deserved!), although Red State Rabble and others will have more work to do in Kansas where two creationists maintained their positions on the state board. On the other hand, gay marriage bans passed in several states, meaning that most people prefer basing their decisions on texts written by tribal peoples than on reasoned thought. And the fact that the Missouri stem cell initiative only barely passed furthers suggests a large number of people still believe a hundred blastocytes are the equivalent of the 5 year old neighbor kid riding his trcycle down the street. Unreasoned religious fanaticism remains a problem at all political levels: local, state, national and the world.

Locally, the election results were less heartening. Lassen County remains culturally primitive, although there is some encouragement that the view might be changing (albeit at a geological pace!). In looking at the overall results, approximately 60% of Lassen County voters tended to go for conservative candidates, 30% for liberal candidates and 10% for everyone else. Most disappointing was that Lassen County voted to keep one of the most vile, corrupt and morally reprehensible members of Congress we have nationwide: John Doolittle. In doing so, they rejected an individual who actually served his country with honor. "Supporting the Military" in Lassen County means slapping magnetic stickers on your car and rooting for the demise of "islamo-fascists" in front of FOX News from the safety of your up-to-date hi-tech entertainment center; all the while basking in your own tax cuts, going to church on Sunday to pat yourself on the back for being so moral, and adding to your collection of ATVs. But God forbid you would help pay the cost of the "war on terror" with increased taxes or be inconvenienced by a reduction of services or volunteer your vacation time to assisting the war effort, or foregoe profits in your business until the war is over. Whatever analogy FOX news pundits need to conjure up regarding the current war on terror, it is no where near to the sacrifices paid on the home front during WWII. For those without relatives in combat, this is a leisure-time war on the homefront, not far removed from world-wide video game pumped into your house every night.

As for the propositions, Lassen County voted against education, for parental notification, against the prospect of alternative energy and to enable developers' to run roughshod over local governments under the guise of "preventing government acquisition of private property". Fortunately the rest of state was somewhat more sensible in its approach. It's going to take a lot more work to bring Lassen County kicking and screaming out of the 19th century.

Locally, I am somewhat discouraged by school board elections. Several potential creationist candidates were elected (I base "potential" only on my assumptions of their positions based on their religious backgrounds - there have been no publicly overt statements regarding changing science curriculum in the community). Of course I'll be watching school curricula discussions closely and the staff at most schools in the area know they have my support (and that of the NCSE and others) should any intelligent design or other creationist "proposals" come forward.

Despite the euphoria over the election, I agree with PZ that the nation (and the world) continue to teeter on the edge of the cultural abyss. At the bottom of that abyss is religious fundamentalism. We will need to continue to fight for the rights of those who do not share the views of religious conservatives; we will need to continue fighting against pro-biblical versions of science that eschew reason for mythology; we will need to continue fighting efforts to place religions of all stripes on a political pedistle free from critique; we will need to continue fighting against using ancient texts written by primitive people as a basis for 21st century policy. We still have a lot of work to do.

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