Edge of Apocalypse: pages 107-111 (Chapter Twenty-One)
As I promised, we would be taking another journey into United Nations bizarroland. As established more thoroughly elsewhere (See the Slacktivist blog for details), LaHaye has a very odd belief in exactly what the UN is and is not capable of doing.
We start off by meeting a couple of US Marshals (note: as usual, all italics or bold are in the original text unless I say otherwise):
“Three blocks west of Market Street in San Francisco, not far from City Hall, two armed officers had just disembarked from their parked vehicle. Both were wearing dark blue jackets with the words U.S. Marshal emblazoned on the back in gold block letters. It was obvious that the senior officer, Deputy Marshal Jim Talbot, was less than enthusiastic about what he might end up having to do today.”
Next paragraph we get a nice lil jab at the “Government always wastes money” button-pushing popular among a conservative readership:
“This was the high-rent district of San Francisco’s downtown area, and the building the two officers were standing in front of fit right in. Gazing up at the high-rise’s smoked-glass-and-steel facade, they could guess that the interior was expensively furnished and filled with shiny chrome and polished marble, though neither officer had ever set foot inside. Talbot could only shake his head while thinking to himself, What an absolute waste of taxpayer money.”
The few government offices I’ve been in have been fairly decently laid out and decorated, though not ostentatiously and certainly not with purposeful grandeur unless they’re legislative or judicial; the Canadian Parliament Buildings are a nice example of a visible reminder of the halls of power of the nation. I got to see the House of Commons as well as the Senate. Historical anecdata: Canada borrows a lot from the British parliamentary tradition, even down to the old unwritten rule that the Monarch can never enter the House of Commons. All Throne Speeches are read in the Senate.
I also find it amusing how officials of a government, whose jobs are dependent on spending taxpayer money, are used as the mouthpieces of the oh-what-a-waste-isn’t-it-awful school of thought.
It’s kind of like waving a textbook on engineering as a way to ward off people who would otherwise point up flaws in that lovely bridge you designed which, by the way, doesn’t have the right compressive strength in the concrete to withstand anything bigger than a pickup truck.
But what really gets Talbot’s dander up is who runs that government office:
“But it was the item centered directly over the building’s exquisite glass entrance doors that had Talbot tied up in knots. Even though he’d seen the big globe-shaped blue symbol countless times before on the evening news, and once when he had passed by the world organization’s well-known headquarters while visiting New York City, it still bothered him no end. The familiar olive branches, one on each side, embracing an outline of the world’s continents in the center.
To Talbot, the whole thing seemed bizarre. To have this building with that logo right here in San Francisco. In his own city. How could this have happened?
The transformation of his home…his country…had occurred quietly…when no one was looking.
Just above the symbol were the words:
United Nations Monitor for Human Rights
Ok, this is where you just gotta stare at this book. I mean, staring like O_O at it, and pinch yourself to convince yourself it’s a real book and not a dream.
Because it’s chapters like this that tell you that the world LaHaye and Parshall are inhabiting mentally to make this book just isn’t our own. As has been popularized on certain websites over the years, the phrase goes, “their logic is not of this Earth”.
One thing I’ve got to say is that this book doesn’t stint at hitting all the buttons in the audience that viscerally recoil at any idea that the United States is Just Another Country instead of first among all; this is American exceptionalism rearing its head and loudly slamming the table insisting that no darn furriner dares tell us Real True Patriots what to do, dadgummit.
Considering how intrusive the United States has been in horning in on the sovereignty of other nations (example: about a decade ago there was a kerfluffle when it was found that US law enforcement routinely overflies Mexican airspace in patrolling along the southern border), it’s more than a little laughable, this pearl-clutching about the same thing happening to the United States.
As Fred Clark once termed it, it’s “oppressed hegemon” syndrome: the fear that now that the Number Twos are trying to catch up with Number One, when they become Number Ones they’ll do to you what you did to them. It might be a good time to stop and remind people that there’s a reason why we’re taught to do unto people as we would have them do unto us. The behavior you want is the behavior you model.
Nothing exercises people so much as hypocrisy, and it’s BLARING out of this book: it’s perfectly all right for the United States to selectively honor treaties in the breach, but not for other nations to demand some giving-up of US sovereingty in the name of things like – oh gee, human rights. If people like George W. Bush can naively and unthinkingly complain that everybody hates the United States, it’s because of swaggering un-selfconscious hypocrisy on the part of the US Government in international matters. If ever there was a time to say “remove the board from your own eye…”
Actually, it is quite interesting that LaHaye and Parshall are apparently unconsciously writing from the point of view of a large blind spot in American culture: the notion that there can be human rights violations within the US’s borders is pooh-poohed up front by the authors, just as it is pooh-poohed in the cultural gestalt they are tapping into. It’s a variation on the “It can’t happen to us” or “It can’t happen here” syndrome.
We follow US Deputy Marshal Talbot as he meets with the UN Observer.
“Talbot wanted to blurt out what was on his mind right then and there. What was happening to America? But he didn’t. He was a man of honor. He loved the United States. And that meant he was dutybound to enforce its laws. Including the unfortunate U.N. treaty that his beloved homeland had signed.
Talbot and his junior deputy strode in and introduced themselves to the woman seated at the receptionist desk. Above and behind her on the wall was a smaller replica of the same words and symbol that was featured prominently outside. She spoke with a distinctive but hard-to-place accent. The two marshals were there to see Chief U.N. Monitor Catalina Obreras, a lawyer from Spain. Her office, said the receptionist, was on the third floor.”
Now, notice the names again. Talbot conveys a good-ol-boy, a law man doing his job. He’s a “man of honor”, after all. Notice who he talks to: a lady who’s not even American. She’s Spanish. (PEARL CLUTCH)
There’s some pretty unsubtle racism in this here chapter, if you keep reading. Talbot would “not associate socially” with her (paraphrased). Gee, could that be because she’s got a name usually associated with those suspicious Hispanics drifting north out of Mexico?
Now we get down to the nitty-gritty, and some more gratis button-pushing of the “oh no we are persecuted Christians” variety:
“‘It’s all here, Deputy Talbot,’ Obreras explained. ‘The original complaint against the Reverend Teddy Berne from three months ago. He was only issued a warning in the form of a written citation at that time and wasn’t arrested. That was in accord with the U.S.-U.N. Compact of Protocol. As you know warnings are given for first-time offenses out of respect for your free-speech customs here in the United States. But despite being told to cease and desist, Reverend Berne has continued his illegal rantings and dangerous public displays. He is scheduled to hold a rally in about ten minutes here in the city. The location is on the front page of the report. In there you will also find the certification from the U.S. Department of Justice accepting the referral from us to prosecute Reverend Berne, which they have agreed to.'”
I just burst out laughing at this, actually, the first time I read this; it’s just so bizarrely unlike anything actually in this world. Do LaHaye and Parshall not know that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as endorsed by the UN, states specifically in Articles 18 and 19, that religious and personal freedom are to be guaranteed?
* Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
* Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Right there. Why would the United Nations deem any faith as intrinsically inimical to the UDHR unless it involved coercion, which isn’t an element of mainstream Christianity at all?
This is just LaHaye and Parshall fantasizing that Christians are in imminent danger of being tossed into Coliseums all over again, all because some guy might have reasonably asked for his own religious holidays off from work instead of the usual secularized-Christian ones (or other minor inconveniences thereof which any reasonable person would shrug off as the inevitable consequence of dealing with a diverse population).
Oh, but it gets even worse. Check this out. If y’all think your eyes are wide enough at the sheer absurdity of the above paragraphs from Edge of Apocalypse, hang onto your horses.
“Talbot leafed through the papers until he came to the DOJ letter authorizing him to take the pastor into custody. The document stated Berne was the head of a group called the Foundation for a Christian America. It specified that Reverend Berne was being charged with a violation of the United Nations Covenant of Tolerance and Human Rights (UN-CTHR) as ratified by the U.S. Senate and signed by President Corland. The letter read:
Reverend Theodore Obadiah Berne has repeatedly violated the UN-CTHR, section IV, subsection 6 (defamation of religion) as made a part of the laws of the United States by the act of the United States Senate, and as signed by the president of the United States. The said Rev. Berne has engaged in the unreasonable and offensive defamation of the religion of another in a manner subjecting such religion to contempt and tending to provoke, or threatening to provoke, the likelihood of a public disturbance; to wit, through public proclamations and communications that have denigrated the religion of Islam and its followers.”
I couldn’t help it. I died laughing, again. This is easily one of the most absurdly transparent attempts at button-pushing I’ve ever seen. Given all the latent anti-Muslim hysteria I’ve seen rolling around over the last twenty years, and given how much wailing and gnashing of teeth I’ve seen coming out of conservative circles grousing about how “all those Muslims cry discrimination over everything and we can’t make even legitimate criticism* BAWWWWWWW” (paraphrased, obviously), it’s difficult to see the above segment of the book as anything but a dog whistle to the intended audience: “us RTCs are the Good Guys and we fight for the American Way”.
“By the time the U.S. marshals pulled up at the Justin Herman Plaza, Reverend Berne, who was standing on a small platform in front of the large fountain before a crowd of about two hundred, was in the middle of his speech.
And things were beginning to come unglued.
A small group of pro-Islamic protestors had just arrived on the scene, carrying signs that read ‘Stop the Christian Crusade against Muslims’ and ‘Bye-Bye Bible Bigotry.'”
Okay. Now for some more absolutely implauisble artificially constructed conflict resolution. Just as Josh Jordan gets to childishly OOOH BUUUUUUUUUURN thumb his nose at a Senator and be considered in the right for it, LaHaye and Parshall believe that the following is a realistic treatment of a public assault.
“[O]ne of the protesters decided to run over to the side of the stage and yank the plug on the PA. He then jumped onto the platform and charged directly at Reverend Berne. The reverend’s assistant leaned in and blocked the assailant’s path with his forearm, causing the attacker to fall. While down, the protester quickly removed one of his boots, then stood and smashed Reverend Berne’s assistant in the forehead with its heel, causing him to reel backward slightly and fall to his knees.
Talbot watched as several San Francisco police officers, who were already on duty near the perimeter of the plaza, sprinted toward the stage with batons raised. Two of the officers jumped onto the platform and swung their batons down hard onto the shoulders and arms of Reverend Berne’s assistant who was already down, while a third officer pulled the pro-Muslim attacker aside, scolded him, and simply ordered him to leave.”
Considering that oftentimes in the United States, this sort of disproportionate response is usually directed at petty offenders like people who steal cars and lead cops on high-speed chases, or, for that matter, in other nations, right-wing protest organizations have often been given a free pass**, it’s kind of laughable that this portrayal of patting-the-pro-Muslims-on-the-head is presented as realistic.
And just to drive the point home a little more, we see Talbot’s thoughts:
“As Talbot and his partner neared the platform, it was all he could do to keep his angry thoughts to himself. I ought to be out tracking down dangerous fugitives from justice. Not handcuffing some preacher and watching the local cops beat up innocent people.”
Talbot ends up putting Berne under arrest. As he does so, the crowd boos and we get this:
“‘God save the United States of America!’ Berne bellowed to the largely disinterested crowd who were now starting to disperse. ‘May Jehovah save this country from the tyranny of the global lords and from the United Nations–and from the oppression of the San Francisco police force!'”
It’s almost weird how LaHaye and Parshall seem to have kind of snapped up a few stock left-wing complaints about globalization and excessive use of force, stuck them in a blender with RTC xenophobia, and produced this sort of material.
The last part of this section has some foreshadowing in it:
“Two hours later Berne was in custody after having been booked at the federal building. The reverend was allowed one phone call, but it wasn’t to his lawyer. It was to a friend. And the friend called an associate who knew a retired Air Force general by the name of Rocky Bridger.”
The remainder of the chapter is after a section break and deals with Joshua Jordan, so I’ll take that up separately.
* Obviously, I’m not much enamored of the militant fundamentalism of any organized religion, but if these folks think nobody is allowed to make legitimate criticism of any religion out there they haven’t seen the likes of Irshad Manji. Or, for that matter, people like Ann Coulter who haven’t been meaningfully brought to heel for making grossly offensive religious-war statements about what to do to Muslims in the Middle East.
** No cites on the web for this, but if you read Ingo Hasselbach’s Fuehrer-Ex book, in it he discusses how the East German police used to come down hard on Neo-Nazis, then after the Wall fell, unified (aka West-moved-into-East) German police often came down hard on leftist-anarchists.