It looks like Mittens is our man, as far as the GOP presy-nom goes in this year of Our Lord 2012. Not my personal first choice, as I retained a sneaking affection for Rick Perry as one of the very first among our dear establishment Repubs who glommed onto the Tea Party from the get go … but, eh … this is not a perfect world, probably will never be a perfect world. Speaking as an amateur historian, it’s more interesting as an imperfect world anyway. As far as I’m concerned in this current election season, Anybody But Obama will do for me. I don’t care wildly for establishment career Republicans, especially the ones embedded in the Washington D.C. establishment like an impacted wisdom tooth … but in a realistic world, we work with what we can get.
Of course, one of the sneaky push-backs generated as the campaign season wears on through summer and fall will be objections and veiled – or not so veiled – criticisms of Mitten’s Mormon faith. That is, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, LDS for short, the common reference within those communities particularly thick with them. (In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which saw the Enterprise crew voyage backwards in time to our tumultuous century, Captain Kirk attempted to cover for strangeness in Mr. Spock’s conduct by saying, “Oh, he did too much LDS in the Sixties. That line raised an enormous horse-laugh in the theater in Layton, Utah, where I saw that movie in first run: Probably not so much as a giggle, everywhere else.)
In the event of his nomination as GOP candidate, I remain confident that every scary trope about Mormons will be taken out and shaken vigorously, as representatives of the U.S. establishment press furrow their brows thoughtfully and mouth the successor-to-JournoList talking points, and members of the foreign press corps (such as the BBC) worry their pretty, empty heads about those crazy fundamentalist Americans going at it again. Christian fundamentalists on steroids, is what it will boil down to, I am sure. Polygamous marriage, every shopworn cliché about Religion American-style that you’ve ever seen in books, movies and television will be put out there. How our press nobility can accomplish this and still look away from the nuttier-‘n-squirrel-poop ravings of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright of Chicago without giving themselves existential whiplash, I can’t imagine. I am confident that a prospective Romney presidency will be painted as about one degree off from A Handmaid’s Tale, and there will be plenty of blue-state punters who will eat it up with a spoon. I would hope that the sensible ones would be able to stop hyperventilating long enough to listen to reason about all this.
In these modern days, a so-called Mormon theocracy wouldn’t be too bad, actually. Yes, I as a carefully raised Lutheran, believe that LDS theology and proposed pre-history of America is theologically suspect and to this date unsupported by archeological evidence; that Joseph Smith was a charismatic charlatan, and likely the hands of the mid-19th century LDS establishment would not bear a light misting with luminal with regard to certain occurrences, and that many of their established policies are justly deserving of criticism … Still and all, for a non-LDS outsider, the heart of Utah was not a bad place to live, when I came back from twelve years of living overseas, to an assignment in Utah, late in 1990.
Yes, I heard the jokes; about the women who had fled Utah for Iran, seeking political and sexual freedom, any number of gags concerning lime jello, and I saw the T-shirt with a map of all the Utah gambling resorts – all of them located on the borders of Utah. But once I came, and settled into a tiny 1930s house in South Ogden, I began to feel a lot of affection for the place, and for the people and particularly American culture who had made it so. The LDS church is quintessentially American – one of the largest and ultimately the most long-lasting of the early 19th century Utopian colonies. Give credit to Brigham Young, the horny old stoat: the man was an organizational and strategic genius, and the visions of Joseph Smith and the early Mormon pioneers inspired a level of devotion that subsequent hopeful creators of perfect societies can only envy.
First off, I never met so many lippy, independent and outspoken women as I did in Utah – until I came to Texas. Maybe the meek downtrodden women were all locked up in their homes save for the one supervised visit to the grocery store per week … but still. I plain old liked a lot of the things that made urban Utah nice to live in, just as I had liked a lot of the elements that made Greece a nice place to live, a decade earlier. There were some little local peculiarities – anti-American terroristic violence in Greece, and having to schlepp all the way to the on-base Class 6 store to purchase alcohol, in the case of Utah … but the fact remains that for me, it was a nice place to live, as a single parent with a 12 year old daughter, living in a working-class, pre-WWII era suburb within walking distance of my daughter’s school. I liked that the ZCMI outlets had a fantastically well-stocked kitchenware department, that bulk quantities of staple foods were available in retail outlets other than the membership stores like Sam’s and Costco, I liked having four seasons, and that people felt a responsibility to their neighborhood. The guy who lived on my block who was a building contractor; he came around with one of his tractors, and cleared the street of snow after a heavy snowfall. Even the slightly skeevy guy next door – when I had a problem with the driver’s side door-lock of my car (long story) – he came out with a ‘slim-jim’ and popped the lock for me.
I think the thing that I liked the very best was the family orientation. My neighbors were parents, or grandparents, or at the very least, prospective parents. Probably most of them were LDS: I know the next-door young couple was, and the woman across the street with a son exactly my daughter’s age was a back-slider. We were never proselytized to the point that I felt offended – or to any point at all, although the missionaries came to the door once, upon noticing that someone was living in a rental house which had been empty for a year. Nice boys; one was from Ireland, and we were sidelined into a long discussion about Irish legends and folklore. They were earnest, dedicated and sweet; the adult version of the typical LDS male which I encountered (so it’s a situational-selected pool and anecdote does not necessarily translate to data) was usually all that and with a refreshing sense of a sense of realism about a lot of things.
This brings me up to the time that we were stranded by car trouble in St. George; on the I-15 as we were headed north from Christmas with my parents. Something in the old Volvo died on the grade up the Virgin River – it eventually turned out to be the timing-gear disintegrating, but the mechanics at the garage that AAA towed it to thought it was something else, something they could fix in a few hours. So – to kill the time it would take for them to fix the car, we went off on foot to see what there was to see in St. George. And we finished up at the LDS Temple in St. George, where the docents doing tours were all genteel, elderly LDS members offering individual tours to those few tourists wandering into St. George on a mid-winter day.
We wound up getting the tour of the public areas of the temple complex from a retired maxillofacial surgeon, who blinked apologetically when I said that I was a feminist. (This was when I was at a mildly obnoxiously feminist phase of my life – I came very close to joining the Ogden chapter of NOW; only stymied because I couldn’t afford the membership fee, whatever it was at the time. The members of the local chapter were also earnest, dedicated and sweet – and also mildly embarrassed by the antics of the national organization.) The retired surgeon explained, sympathetically, that he was rather a feminist himself. He owned, he said, quite a lot of real property, and he was fully aware that in the natural way of things, his wife would outlive him and probably for a good few decades. He wanted her to be able to cope with his various holdings … so when he retired, he had taken steps to deed half of them over to her directly, for her to manage as she saw fit, without any input from him unless she asked for his assistance. I thought then, and still do – that it was a breathtakingly sensible way to share an estate and to ensure his wife’s future.
So – to my way of thinking, based on experience, an administration with an LDS frame of mind wouldn’t be half bad, really. God knows, we have done worse, and endured. Discuss.
(Crossposted at www.ncobrief.com)