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George Bush’s war on witchcraft

October 1, 2009

bushA new book by a former White House speech writer claims administration officials advised George Bush against giving J.K. Rowling a Presidential Medal of Freedom because her Harry Potter children’s books promote witchcraft, according to Entertainment Weekly’s PopWatch site.

Let’s allow that news to settle in for a moment.

There’s little sport in making fun of Bush. The man did so many dumb things right out in the open, it’s a fish-and-barrel kind of thing.

Like breaking protocol to give German Chancellor Angela Merkel a neck massage in the middle of a G8 summit. Or trying to exit a White House press conference through a locked door. Why the nation tolerated this bufoonery for eight years is an enduring mystery.

But denying Rowling a medal because her books “promote witchcraft” takes even his record of clod-headed acts and decisions to a new level.

Uh, Mr. President, witchcraft is make believe. It doesn’t actually exist.

The revelation comes in Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor, by former Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer, latest in the parade of rats cashing in by revealing the inner workings of the Bush ship of state.

Already lengthy, the list keeps growing: L. Paul Bremer III’s My Year in Iraq; Scott McClelland’s What Happened; The Best of Our Times, by Tom Ridge– these are just a few of the tell-alls by former Bush officials revealing cynicism, bad faith, manipulation and other acts of greater or lesser mischief.

Perhaps the most damning charge so far comes from Ridge, former Homeland Security chief. In The Best of Our Times, he claims the Bush administration manipulated the national threat level just before the 2004 election.

I guess it’s a good thing these paragons are setting the record straight, but I can’t help but wonder why they remained silent while the Bush administration was in power. Makes me long for an earlier generation, when public servants had the spine to act on principles other than what was good for their careers.

Like Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus, who resigned during the Watergate scandal when Richard Nixon fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Speaking of Rowling, the irony of Bush denying her a Medal of Freedom is delicious. Not only is she the most popular novelist on the planet, she also single-handedly revived a love of reading for an entire generation of children. But there’s more.

By the end of the last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it was blaringly obvious that her themes were conventionally Christian: love, duty, discipline, self-sacrifice, the primacy of family, and doing the right thing in the face of great danger and opposition.

This places her firmly in the fantasy tradition of Christian writers C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, by the way, is America’s highest civilian honor, given for, among other things, significant cultural contribution to the public good. Need it be said Rowling would have made a splendid selection?

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Tommy permalink
    October 1, 2009 2:25 pm

    I applaud J.K. Rowling’s ability to write imaginative books that have charmed kids and adults alike. Rowling, Gaiman and Pratchett all deserve a nod for writing young adult fiction that respects and pushes their audiences intelligence. J.K. Rowling is not a U.S. citizen and that is why I believe she should not have received a medal. Medal or not she does deserve a pat on the back and a “atta girl”. I think that combined with multi-millions of dollars, fervent obsessive loyal fans and a castle in Europe is enough. Now, I have to say something about your flippant remark about witchcraft not existing and being “make believe”. Those two statements in and of themselves are not the thorn in my cross, swatting down wiccanism as ludicrous with one hand while elevating christianity with the other is well… just thoughtless. Christianity deals in the paranormal just as much as witchcraft (invoking spirits, chanting, sacrifice and stringent rituals all designed to receive help from other-worldly source or sources) Okay… I am off my soapbox. Great couple of posts the last couple of days, Chauncey.

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      October 1, 2009 2:34 pm

      The Presidential Medal of Freedom is not restricted to U.S. citizens. Previous recipients, for example, include former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Yes, I was surprised, too.

      As for “swatting down witchcraft”, I think you are making a mistake by conflating Wiccan, an ancient pagan religion, with “witchcraft” as the word is meant in common parlance, especially as used by people like the advisors who told George Bush not to honor J.K. Rowling.

      Not the same thing at all. I mean no disrespect to any religion, including Christianity.

      • Tommy permalink
        October 1, 2009 3:11 pm

        Tony Blair has been awarded one? Now I am happy Rowling did not, she deserves better than to be lumped in with that crowd. It is True I may be mistaken (it’s also fun and informative). Wiccans practice witchcraft, Christians pray. To use the word witchcraft in a derogatory sense in the same manner as Bush’s advisors led me to think you had disrespected a belief system and its followers which surprised me. If Palin’s book amounts to anything even close to redeeming or if Nick Cage’s “The Death of Bunny Munro” was anything other than cage liner they should receive medals since they are not professional writers. Where do I purchase the machine that not only prints books while I am getting my tires changed at the local JiffyLube but also writes them? I know that’s cheating but I really want a castle.

  2. rachel permalink
    October 1, 2009 2:42 pm

    Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor…

    Um, excuse me Mr. Latimer, if you were so speechless, how did you manage to continue writing speeches? And you’re right Chauncey Mabe, why do these people speak out now rather than before while it was ongoing? Oh yeah, that’s right because it would hurt their careers. How unfortunate that this is the way that so many people behave.

    And I’m sorry, but who thought that they weren’t manipulating the national threat levels?

    • Chauncey Mabe permalink*
      October 1, 2009 2:58 pm

      It’s one thing to suspect the government is manipulating threat levels — with that ridiculous color-coded thing, no less, like something on Sesame Street–but quite another to have a former administration official providing a detailed verification. So I am grateful to Ridge for coming clean, but in a way it only makes me respect him less for not speaking up when doing so could have done some good.

  3. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    October 1, 2009 4:12 pm

    Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but Wiccans, though they may call themselves “witches,” do not practice witchcraft but an ancient European pagan religion.

    Witchcraft, as it is understood in Europe and America, is entirely the invention of Catholic writers in the Middle Ages. Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger were Dominican Inquisitors for the Catholic Church when they wrote the Malleus Maleficarum (Latin for “Hammer of the Witches”) in 1486, a misogynistic text that became a handbook for persecuting women under the color witchcraft. Most of our common myths about witchcraft date from this book, not from any existing tradition or practice of actual witchcraft.

    Wicca, on the other hand, is a neopagan nature religion that has nothing to do with Black Sabbaths, consorting with the Devil, riding on brooms, child sacrifice, or casting spells on unsuspecting innocents. Indeed, they don’t even believe in the Devil, a Christian concept.

    Instead, Wiccans worship the Earth, a Goddess, and her consort, a horned god. They make ritual use of magic, have a code or morality, and honor eight seasonal festivals. For them, “magic” is a law of nature, not some evil supernatural power. Wicca, in short, is as complex, reverent and screwy as any other religion.

    This is fun.

  4. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    October 1, 2009 4:18 pm

    Let me quickly add that by “screwy” I do not intend any negative connotation toward religion, but only that all religions contain arcane elements, not easily understood by non-adherents, that can be easily mocked by those so inclined.

    • Tommy permalink
      October 1, 2009 5:17 pm

      SCREWY!! Well I never! How Offensive! All kidding aside, and all beating of dead horses aside ( after tossing babies out with bathwater and skinning cats, that is one of the grossest sayings, but I digress) I know you were not attacking wiccans and I know the history and practices of said religion. Some practitioners use the word witchcraft, albeit in a sense far removed from Samantha and The Land of Oz so some mis-understandings are to be expected. All religions are at the same time absurd and sacred. If a religion or belief system is to be workable and useful it must be able to stand up to ridicule and be assailed from all angles with questions. Thank you for extolling some of wicca’s tenets. Now on to Bushie and his advisors. A man can be judged on who he has counsel him. Not only was he short-sighted Bush surrounded himself with weasely yes-men who are now showing their strips in black and white. Sunday school or some trips into the woods with Lady Ravenfyre are in order to help the entire former White House gang be closer adherents to the tenets of being upstanding solid citizens. In my last comment the author is was trashing was Nick Cave not Nick Cage. Nick Cage is a fine actor if you like screen stars with a singular facial expression, he has not written a book, yet. Has been and will continue to be fun. That’s the name of the game, isn’t it.

  5. October 1, 2009 7:28 pm

    Wow! Witchy Wow. I dated a witch once. Wonderful girl. I actually asked her if she could turn me into a prince. She told me she doubted it! She did not have that much power. Seriously her religion was witch craft. It was like a bible. I learned much. The fact I am still a frog probably tells much of the story. As far as J. K., what are you going to say. In a little book I know about I have been asked if in PurpleUmpkin there is a flying dragon. Absolutely not. A flying Gecko is what it is. I wrote the book in South Florida. . So forget about the witch craft. Dream about what you want. The witch craft thing is just another example of strange thinking. I Remember Salem. Not again please. I actually grew up in a town we had a Warlock. His name was Ted. He was famous. On the Carson show I think. Ted Rabin I think. He lived about a mile away. What else can I say. Poof

  6. Candice permalink
    October 1, 2009 8:53 pm

    I’m not going to get into the discussion about whitchcraft versus wicca, but I will say that I always though Bush’s right hand man, Dick Cheny, was Satan himself (of course, that’s more Christianity, isn’t it). Either Satan or the mean ole man on The Simpsons who owns the nuclear (I mean new-kew-lar) power plant. They even look alike.

    Good job, Brownie…um I mean Chauncey…on this column.

  7. Candice permalink
    October 1, 2009 8:57 pm

    P.S. I think I have a bunch of duct tape left over from those Bush threats.

  8. Chauncey Mabe permalink*
    October 1, 2009 9:03 pm

    “Absurd and sacred” — I like that, Tommy. As for Nick Cave, I actually happen to be reading The Death of Bunny Munroe at the moment, and so far it’s much better than I might have expected. Talk about your bad seeds…

  9. October 2, 2009 7:01 am

    If God , or all the Gods are forgiving. How can we have a hell? Every one is to be forgiven. How could you be sent to a place where they do not forgive? I wonder if they charge a toll to go in. Can you get out? I heard route 95 from Delray Beach to South Beach is a road to hell. Is that true?
    I starting to wonder about infinity. Does the thought about space going on for ever and infinity disturb the religious people. Why?

    What are religious people? The answer may go on until infinity.

  10. Tommy permalink
    October 2, 2009 10:58 am

    A seed that should have been spilt. I had high expectations for Bunny Munro so I was disappointed. In a word, and the worst word I can muster for a novel I found Bunny predictable. Now the decision is do I pick up “The Ass Saw The Angel”? In other second books I am really enjoying Peter Leonard’s “Trust Me”.

  11. Jess permalink
    June 6, 2012 7:05 pm

    Witchcraft is real. It is know as Wicca. A religon Bush thinks is Satanict which is a myth.

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