Merry Mythmaking

‘Tis the season of mythology.  Roughly two millennia ago, a Jew was supposedly born to a virgin impregnated, at God’s behest, through a shadowy spirit.  Christians will celebrate the event by singing eggnog-curdling noels about snowy sleigh rides and red-nosed reindeer while exchanging gifts made in China.  Some will go to church.  Most won’t.

Jews won’t honor the birth of one of their own.  They’ll eat Chinese food instead.  But then Jews don’t buy into such hokum.  When you’re God’s chosen there’s no need to.  Just follow the 613 Mitzvot from the Old Testament, including such sage admonitions like “Keep the Canaanite slave forever” and “The leper shall shave all his hair,” and you’ll be okay with Yahweh.

Muslims, of course, have their own myths, as do the followers of all religions.  Indeed, the ability to suspend disbelief is precisely what makes faith faith.  Such frightening delusion, which otherwise could get one confined to a padded cell, in a theological context is called piety.  The Good Lord apparently takes care of those who take flight of their senses.

To be fair, myths of all varieties are commonplace.  During this holiday season, let’s look at three of a non-religious nature from 2010.

Religious myths at least enjoy the benefit of being unverifiable.  Not so the enduring fable of fiscal conservatism, which nevertheless outlives all evidence of its abject falsity.  So-called fiscal conservatives spend lavishly and cut taxes with equal gusto.  Is this “conservative,” or just recklessly extravagant?

The right’s mendacity is well trod.  But this year saw a true orgy of hypocrisy when, immediately following the mid-term elections, the bogus apostles of fiscal prudence threatened legislative gridlock until they got their unaffordable tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans—and this after they campaigned against Obama’s alleged profligacy.

A neoconservative was once described as a “liberal mugged by reality.”  Please.  Let’s put that myth to rest.  A fiscal conservative is simply a pirate mugging the country’s wealth.

“Fool me once,” George W. Bush related, “shame on – shame on you.  Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”  Well, you get the point.  If only America’s foreign policy mandarins did.  Some examples:

First there’s Afghanistan.  While we sacrifice blood and treasure, that country’s leaders—mobsters in turbans—plunder and pillage, fueling the same insurgency we’re fighting.  Next there’s Pakistan, that Janus-faced friend that takes American cash with one hand while supporting the Taliban with the other.  We don’t even get any gratitude.  Pakistani’s say we’re their greatest threat, not homegrown extremists threatening to topple their government or their archenemy India, demonstrating that client states and their people always resent their patrons.

The list of Middle Eastern frenemies also includes Saudi Arabia.  We buy their oil and they use the proceeds to purchase street cred from Islamic extremists.  We’re stuck with the lousy arrangement until we break our oil addiction.  And let’s not forget the largest recipients of US foreign aid, Israel.  American largesse earns little goodwill from the Jewish state, which won’t even entertain a US-proposed temporary (temporary!) settlement freeze, even when serious baksheesh is on offer.  Now that’s chutzpah.

This holiday season, let’s dump the myth of the genuine Middle Eastern ally.  It doesn’t exist.

If there’s an intractable problem confronting this country, then we’ve probably got a war on it.  Over half a million Americans died from cancer in 2010, nearly forty years after President Nixon declared a war on the disease, yet we insist on framing the medical challenge in martial terms.

The War on Terror, which began almost a decade ago, is young by comparison.  How a country can wage war on a tactic is unclear.  Also unclear is how we expect to prevail when results thus far are mixed at best.  Sure, America has not suffered a major attack on its soil since 9/11, though that goes to show that the threat is grossly overblown.

It’s time to abandon the myth that “terror” can be eradicated.  It can’t.  But neither can fatalities from bathtub accidents, which killed more Americans in 2010 than did terrorism.  We should take a deep breath and come up with a long-term and multi-pronged strategy to intelligently address religious extremism.  And while we’re at it, we should also ditch that other never-ending and destructive campaign, the war on drugs.

So there you have it, three myths from 2010.  To be sure, there are many others—self-correcting markets, the Celtic Tiger, “reality” television—but an exhaustive list will have to found elsewhere.  Speaking of myths, on this day many will celebrate one of the biggest of all, Jesus Christ.  I mean, really, how many Jewish carpenters do you know?

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