Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pat Robertson on Mary Jane: Too Little, Too Late

As a child in southeastern Virginia, I'd rush home after school each day to watch old Tex Avery cartoons or the bowdlerized Star Blazers saga on what was then local independent UHF channel 27. Like most indie channels in the days when cable TV was still relatively rare, Channel 27's programming consisted almost entirely of re-runs: movies and cartoons older than my parents, a few contemporary sitcoms gone into syndication -- anything whose broadcasting rights could be bought cheap. Unlike most indie channels, 27 also had a few hours' worth of original prime-time programming each week, most notably a boring grown-up church show called The 700 Club. Channel 27, out of Virginia Beach, was owned by Pat Robertson and eventually grew to become the Christian Broadcasting Network, netting Robertson hundreds of millions of dollars peddling his peculiar version of Christianity.

My mother had a church friend who bragged about being one of the original 700 donors for whom the 700 Club is named. So when I grew up, and looked at what passed for contemporary America in the 1990s, I cringed extra-hard to contemplate Robertson's creepy right-wing Christian Coalition and the theocracy they'd establish if they could. My friends and I just wanted to watch cartoons, my mother's friend just wanted to make Jesus happy, and look what a monstrous thing we'd actually supported!

Still, that turned out all right. The Christian Coalition's heyday passed, and though America's gone a terrifying distance down the wrong track, "safety" rather than "God's will" turned out to be the excuse used to chip away at our freedoms.

Robertson deserves credit for one thing: for all the nasty claims he made in the name of defeating Satan, not once did he ever say government thugs should fondle people's genitalia in airports to protect them from Satanic forces. And now, in his old age, Robertson has mellowed further, going so far as to say marijuana should be decriminalized.

My optimistic friends take this as a good sign. "When even extreme right-wingers like Pat Robertson see the War on Drugs as a failure, then stick a fork in it; it's done," they say. "When pot prohibition loses Pat Robertson, pot prohibition loses. Period."

Had Robertson said this ten or so years ago, I'd've shared my friends' optimism. But nowadays, our political class doesn't even pay lip service to the notion of listening to what the people want. Ordinary travelers and rich airline executives with capital-C connections both complain about the TSA molestation policy; TSA doesn't care. Americans overwhelmingly opposed the bailouts, the stimulus plans, the healthcare-reform boondoggle; politicos passed them regardless.

Kudos to Robertson for seeing the light, but he saw it too late. He should've said something back when politicians were still willing to listen.


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