Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nature or Nurture?

I am definitely my mother's son. The email she sent me yesterday on election day concluded:

Please God, Rick Santorum will not only lose, but he will fall off a twenty story building tomorrow. I'll keep you informed.


I should point out that if Santorum had fallen off a twenty story building, I would have heard about it on the news, although it is nice that my mother planned to let me know. However, re-reading that passage, it sounds vaguely like she's ordered a hit on the man. If she had, well, I would be the proudest son in the world.

Ah yes. I drank in Santorum's defeat like a fine wine. Literally. When it was announced that he had lost I grabbed an open bottle of wine from the table and took a satisfying swig, too happy to wait to pour it in a glass. My friend Karl (Heitmueller, not Rove) had had a get-together to watch the election returns and finish off the booze and candy left over from Halloween. Heading over, I expected a glum night, convinced that Republicans were going to steal the election. I've never been so happy to be wrong. When I got home I flipped from channel to channel, staying up late to wallow in the Democrats' victory. Plus David Cross was on the Carson Daly show. He was funny.

When I went to vote yesterday I got bounced from polling place to polling place. This didn't seem the product of a sinister conspiracy so much as basic human incompetence. Riding the subway to work afterwards, I read the following passage and it seemed appropriate for election day and what some people think this country should be like:

Cargo cults have have sprung up again and again in the Pacific. During World War II, American forces arrived at the island of Tana to recruit a thousand men to help build an airfield and army base on neighboring Efate Island. When the workers returned with tales of white and black men who had possessions beyond the dreams of the people of Tana, the whole society was thrown into turmoil. The islanders, many of whom had earlier been converted to Christianity by British missionaries, stopped going to church and began to build landing strips, warehouses and radio masts out of bamboo, in the belief that if it worked on Efate for the Americans,it would work for them on Tana. Carved figurines of American warplanes, helmets and rifles were made from bamboo and used as religious icons. Islanders began to march in parades with USA painted, carved or tattooed on their chests and backs. John Frum emerged as the name of their Messiah, although there are no records of an American soldier with that name.

When the last American GI left at the end of the war, the islanders predicted John Frum's return. The movement continued to flourish and on 15 February 1957, an American flag was raised in Sulphur Bay to declare the religion of John Frum. It is on this date every year that John Frum Day is celebrated. They believe that John Frum is waiting in the volcano Yasur with his warriors to deliver his cargo to the people of Tana. During the festivities the elders march in an imitation army, a kind of military drill mixed with traditional dancing. Some carry imitation rifles made of bamboo and wear American army memorabilia such as caps, T-shirt and coats. They believe that their annual rituals will draw the god John Frum down from the volcano and deliver the cargo of prosperity to all of the islanders.

--from Breaking The Spell: Religion As A Natural Phenomenon by Daniel Dennett


Iva said...

Oh, dear! I'll probably have the FBI planted on my doorstep tomorrow morning. Do you think that the fact that Santorum has not fallen off a twenty story building yet will deter them?
Love you,

Julie said...

I just think it's a good thing that Mom doesn't have acess to the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

Number 2 Sister said...

Dude, were you drunk while writing this entry? (Or maybe it was incomprehensible to me because I am drinking, after the slow death of my brain working on this week's assignment for my college course)