We got the same old men
With the same old fears
Standing at attention
Wrapped in stars and stripes
They hear the phantom drummers
And the nonexistent pipes
These days the buck stops nowhere
No one takes the blame
But evil is still evil
In anybody’s name
- Don Henly, If Dirt Were Dollars
Chuck Colson died this past weekend. No one who knows anything of history and has any respect for American democracy should be shedding a tear for Colson, arguably one of the worst human beings in American history. Colson respected only one thing- power- and he was willing to do anything, no matter how illegal and/or immoral to ensure that his master, Richard Nixon, maintained his grip on it.
Colson- one of the chief architects of the Watergate break-in- was one of Nixon’s “ratfuckers.” As offensive as that label truly is, Colson wore it proudly, playing all manner of dirty, underhanded tricks on those he and Nixon viewed as political enemies. Sure, Colson went to prison for his crimes, but he emerged substantially unchastened, carving out a career as an intolerant, inflexible Conservative Christian who argued that Christians should disobey laws they feel to be at odds with the Bible.
His anti-gay, anti-liberal rhetoric—and unscientific and ahistorical demonization and smears—never veered from the toxic and odious, but one could hear it lustily reaffirmed by almost every GOP primary candidate this season….
Even his Prison Fellowship crusade to convert convicts to Christianity in a war against the spread of Islam in prisons now reads like a faint call to arms compared to the actions of Norway’s Christian-nationalist terrorist Anders Breivik, who, as author Jeff Sharlet points out, was inspired by the same concerns. Breivik—who was also whipped up into a paranoiac nativist fervor by clowns like Pamela Gellar and Robert Spencer—merely took right-wing rhetoric about the existential threat of Islam and the inability to negotiate with or persuade an unreasoning, murderous cultural army and provided its natural conclusion: When they understand only force and desire only to destroy, exterminate the brutes.
Colson’s teachings have been enthusiastically picked up and disseminated by those unwilling to tolerate anything that doesn’t narrowly fit their racist, dominionist, and frankly brutal flavor of Christianity. People like Pat Buchanan have eagerly embraced Colson’s theories, and his influence can be seen in today’s GOP and the Tea Party.
Chuck Colson never really had anything positive to offer. He stood for some pretty nasty, unpalatable, and intolerant things. His legacy will be honored by White supremacists and Christian dominionists, but those who believe in diversity and tolerance will justifiably be glad that he has shuffled off his mortal coil. At least he won’t be able to spread his own special brand of hatred and intolerance anymore.