Anthony Foxx, the mayor of Charlotte and Obama’s pick for the next Secretary of Transportation, issued two city proclamations yesterday. One of them recognized the National Day of Prayer; the other one declared the day to be a Day of Reason. The second proclamation noted that the country was founded on the principles of reason and that “it is the duty and responsibility of every citizen to promote the development and application of reason.” Even though we have no evidence that Mayor Foxx was taking a passive-aggressive swipe at the folks at Fox News, they decided to take it as an affront anyway, bringing on Penny Nance, the CEO of Concerned Women for America, to worry that once you start using reason, next thing you know, you’re committing a mass genocide and starting a world war.
“You know the Age of Enlightenment and Reason gave way to moral relativism. And moral relativism is what led us all the way down the dark path to the Holocaust.”
While my reasonable side suggests I shouldn’t argue with fools, I can’t help but point out that anti-Semitic institutions like the Spanish Inquisition and the myth of blood libel long predate the age of enlightenment. Then again, that’s using reason, and we know how Nance feels about that. As Jon Stewart famously demonstrated, Nazis are Fox News’ catch-all villain, used to denounce anything they dislike: being liberal, supporting Obama, criticizing Fox News for its misinformation.
Now that reason is being fingered as the cause of the Holocaust, maybe Fox News will go all out. Literacy led directly to Mein Kampf! Art is suspect, because Hitler was a painter! Could the Nazis have really pulled it off without electricity? Give this strategy enough juice, and you can rationalize a demand that we all live in caves.
The National Day of Reason was concocted by the American Humanist Association to publicize their belief that the National Day of Prayer violates the First Amendment. According to AHA, the day of prayer “sets aside tax dollar supported time and space to engage in religious ceremonies,” resulting in “unconstitutional governmental support of religion over no religion.” In that context, Foxx’s choice to recognize both days should be read as a gesture of inclusiveness, as well as a general affirmation that it would be good to cherish principles such as evidence-seeking, logic, and science. Or maybe it really does foretell bella horrida bella. In that case, Fox News will only be able to stand by helplessly, crying out that they tried to warn us all.