The battle over ultrasound viewing in abortion clinics is just the tip of the culture war being waged in the South Carolina Statehouse.

It is fitting that this little state, which has historically been so arbitrary and out of step with the times and with the rest of the nation, should embark on this new jihad at the moment that sanity seems to be reasserting itself on the national political scene.

In one week last month, the General Assembly banned gay marriage, voted to display religious icons in public places, and the House passed H.3355 — a bill that would force a woman seeking an abortion to view an ultrasound image of the fetus. The woman would be also required to pay for this unwanted and unneeded “service.”

In order to avoid this expense, one legislator has proposed an amendment that would allow women seeking abortion to see their fetus in a crisis pregnancy center. These are the right-wing religious shops which operate, often with federal subsidies, to coax, cajole, and terrorize women out of having their abortion. One of their techniques is to warn of the dangers of post abortion stress syndrome, a condition not recognized by the American Psychological Association or the American Psychiatric Association.

What is going on here is more than a war on human rights and the constitutional separation of church and state; it’s a war on a woman’s right to live her own life, to make her own health and reproductive decisions. It is an assault on human freedom and dignity that more and more people are coming to call Christian fascism.

One of them is Chris Hedges, the former New York Times reporter and author of the new book, American Fascists — The Christian Right and the War on America.

One of the cornerstones of Christian fascism is the cult of masculinity, Hedges writes. “The hypermasculinity of radical Christian conservatism, which crushes the independence and self-expression of women, is a way for men in the movement to compensate for the curtailing of their own independence, their object obedience to church authorities, and the calls for sexual restraint.”

The hypermasculinity of Southern culture can be seen everywhere: in the obsession with violence, guns, cars and property rights; in the disregard for women, children, and the environment. This sense of masculinity is maintained by strict enforcement of gender roles; sexual ambiguity or mixing of gender roles undermines the foundation of this patriarchal system. In so much as the woman’s role is to bear and raise children, contraception and abortion are a threat to the Christian Right.

Fear is the driving force behind fascism — the fear of one’s own impulses and internal contradictions, as much as the fear of the behavior of others. It is this fear which compels the Christian Right to narrowly limit the moral behavior not just of themselves but of everyone around them.

To the Christian Right, nothing creates more internal contradictions and impulsive behavior than sex. That is why the Christian fascists are so obsessed with sex — with controlling it and limiting it to the role of reproduction within marriage.

In the Christian fascist mind, the shame and hardship of bearing an unwanted child are God’s punishment for illicit sex. To have an abortion is to cheat the system and escape God’s wrath. That is something the Christian fascist will not tolerate, and he will put any obstruction in the path of a woman who would dare to have sex and not suffer the consequences. This is why you find Christian fascists so passionate about “saving the unborn.” The same brutes who are infatuated with guns and violence in their own lives, who defend capital punishment and would make war on any tribe or nation that would challenge American or Christian hegemony, these hypocrites will shed tears for unborn fetuses on the floor of the state House of Representatives.

The Christian fascist movement is deeply rooted in South Carolina, both in the suburban megachurches and in small town Southern Baptist congregations, where male ministers hold their congregations in terror of a vengeful masculine god, and his son, who will return to earth, brandishing a sword to smite the wicked and deliver the chosen.

It is a strange and frightening fantasy that drives these people. Hedges writes: “The surrender of personal power allows believers to indulge in fantasies about becoming instruments of limitless, divine power …. The movement …. fosters a warrior cult and feeds its hapless followers a steady diet of battles, wars, and apocalyptic violence.”

These are the people who run our General Assembly in 2007. They seek to force their religious values on all of us and turn the public forum into a temple of Christian fascism. And because they see themselves as agents of God, they are not subject to compromise or reason. But politics in South Carolina has never been subject to compromise or reason.

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