L. Neil Smith's
Number 332, August 14, 2005

"What has become of us?"

Nehemiah Shudder
by Keith R. Wood

Special to TLE

I've coined a phrase, "Nehemiah Shudder," for the various occasions in which the character Nehemiah Scudder is raised as an unfair comparison for someone in today's society.

For those who have yet to discover the works of the late Robert A. Heinlein, Scudder was a "fundamentalist preacher" who rises to political control of the United States, turning the country into a theocracy somewhere between National Socialist Germany and the Taliban's Afghanistan.

It seems that some people are fond of slapping the Scudder label on anyone in politics who exhibits any form of morality or belief in God which is more than just expedient lip service.

A year and a half ago, Dennis Kabaczy dragged this spur up to hit George W. Bush, usually referred to in my columns as "Duhhh-bya." In doing so, he has forced me to do something that I don't really like to do -- stand up for a Republican. Here are his points, and my response:

Nehemiah Scudder: fundamentalist preacher
George Bush: "born again Christian"
Comment: ...and the Butchers of Beijing are atheists. I'll take the "Born Again Christians," though I am not one, because the vast majority of them are good people. Duhhh-bya has not yet invoked his religion as a blanket to hide chicanery, but instead only in attempts to inspire others. Having a president who believes that there is accountable to a Higher Power is a GOOD thing -- most politicians (including Duhhh-bya's father) operate as if they are the highest power, showing as little belief in God -- or the citizens who they supposedly serve -- as they do in the Easter Bunny.

Nehemiah Scudder: informants
George Bush: TIPS (or similar programs)
Comment: Would Dennis prefer that nobody talk to the cops about crime? While the original "We TIP" programs were anti-drug ("We Turn In Pushers"), thus of questionable value, the fact is that there are a lot of times that a tip to the police is a benefit to the victims of crimes.

Nehemiah Scudder: monitoring of citizens
George Bush: TIA (or similar programs)
Comment: Monitoring of citizens has been an activity of the Federal government since the early 1800s. This predates the Bush Presidency. it predates Bush. It predates the 1938 story in which Scudder was first mentioned ("For Us, the Living"). It predates Heinlein.

Nehemiah Scudder: constitution suspended
George Bush: Patriot Act I and II
Comment: Not suspended, though somewhat more sharply defined, perhaps to an unconstitutional extent -- but to a lesser degree of change than was seen in several prior Presidencies, notably LBJ and FDR. Remember that we are at war, have been attacked and will be attacked again by people who much prefer religious totalitarianism over any level of liberty. They kill. They must be stopped. As Patton the Elder said, "A workable plan fast is better than a perfect plan later." The Patriot Acts are workable, and let's be realistic -- if any of the dark scenarios we've imagined come about, there will be such a hue and cry that they will be one-shots, just as the outcry over the Clintoon Administration's incineration of the Branch Davidians has prevented any similar misadventurism.

Nehemiah Scudder: censorship
George Bush: Janet Jackson's breast and the FCC response
Comment: The Federal Communications Commission has had rules on TV nudity since the FDR Administration. There were similar rules in the motion picture industry. The only people who don't think that the incident was intentional are those who are expecting OJ Simpson to find that the real killers are flying around in a flying saucer with Elvis. Given that the incident was intentional, the only two possible FCC responses are to uphold the law or to ignore it.

Nehemiah Scudder: "pariahs"
George Bush: Ban gay marriage
Comment: "Gay" marriage has never been legal. While I believe in the concept of "civil union," I do not believe that a union between homosexuals should be called "marriage." This word has a longstanding meaning, which only a small percentage of the populace accept being applied to homosexual unions, and which rightly belongs in the religious sphere. Nearly all religions condemn homosexual activity, and only a few splinter groups solemnize such unions in their churches. To try to force the 95% of people who don't agree with labelling such unions as marriages to accept the term is unnecessary, counterproductive, and divisive. Given the above, it seems to me that this particular Nehemiah Shudder is just another use of the Scudder label which dilutes it. Just as calling someone a Nazi has become meaningless today due to overuse of the label, likewise a real Scudder can come to power by hiding in the shadow of all of the Shudders being thrown out, labelled and ignored until it is too late. Thus, Kabaczy does a disservice by turning the Scudder label into just another political tool.



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