I watched El Camino, the Netflix film that continues the story of one of the best TV series of all time, Breaking Bad.
It’s a respectable effort to complete the arc of the series from BB’s creator Vince Gilligan even if it doesn’t soar to the same heights. Still, we get to know what happens to our favorite dim bulb sweetheart of a crystal meth maker, Jesse Pinkman, witness a brief encounter between him and… (Note: Okay, NO SPOILERS HERE!) and realize once again that once you heavily enter into the world of drug dealing and drug taking no good will come of it.
Nothing de-glorified the illicit worlds of drugs and toxic masculinity better than Breaking Bad. It’s certainly not the only example of that in popular culture but its ability to eschew proselytizing and instead focus on the lives of the people who choose this road made it one of the most respected, watched and memorable TV series of all time.
Jesse Pinkman grew up in a two parent household with a Christian mom and dad who, by his own admission, did the best they could to raise him with the moral values he needed to sustain himself in the world. He was fictional yet somehow familiar, like the lovable doofus next door who once showed potential but somehow, and in some way, went on to break bad.
Jesse came of age in the early nineties, right around time our current U.S. attorney general, William Barr, first served in that post (1991-1993). This was under then Pres. George Bush, Sr. and at the time, as now, it was Mr. Barr’s task to set the standard for the legal, and, in turn, moral tone for the country. In other words, he is the custodian of what passes as the rule of law.
A devout Catholic, Mr. Barr’s tone and morality have remained constant and virtually unchanged since the time young Jesse Pinkman was looking for guidance on how to be an adult.
By way of explanation, here are some nuggets from a speech Mr. Barr, our sitting A.G., gave this week to an audience of law students at Notre Dame Law School, many of whom never heard it because they were too busy protesting his appearance outside of the auditorium on campus from which he spoke.
…Judeo-Christian moral standards are the ultimate utilitarian for human conduct…We are told we are living in a post-Christian era, but what has replaced the Judeo-Christian moral system?… Among the militant secularists are many so-called progressives, but where is the progress?…
We see the growing ascendancy of secularism and the doctrine of moral relativism…Basically every measure of this social pathology continues to gain ground…Along with the wreckage of the family, we are seeing record levels of depression and mental illness, dispirited young people, soaring suicide rates, increasing numbers of angry and alienated young males, an increase in senseless violence and a deadly drug epidemic.
….New Jersey recently passed a law requiring schools to adopt a LGBT curriculum that many feel is inconsistent with traditional Christian teaching,
….Over 70,000 people die a year from drug overdoses. …But I won’t dwell on the bitter results of the new secular age.
Attorney General Barr is on a familiar frontline of American governmental religious fervor and his perception is that there is a decided lack of it that is causing the moral decay or our world. Or at the very least, it’s lack is the primary reason for our social problems and the key to why so many people, both young and old, disobey the law, misbehave in general and seem so, well…unhappy.
If you lived through the thirties, the fifties, the eighties/nineties or were paying attention in the latter half of this decade, aka yesterday on Fox News or the Christian Broadcasting Network, you’ve heard this before. If not, you can go through the speeches of Father Coughlin (1930s), Joseph McCarthy (1950s), both Bush POTUSes and Barr himself (1980s/1990s/2000s) and catch up. Or better yet, view Mr. Barr’s Notre Dame speech here:
What it boils down to is a society whose problems have mostly to do with straying from a strict RELIGIOUS doctrine. It is a school of thought that conveniently (and very purposefully) ignores the many secular advances in the world like, say, women having equal rights or laws against them being stoned in town square for cheating on their husbands – to – laws preventing members of the LGBTQ community from being fired from their place of employment, barred from their local marriage license offices or, say…being stoned in town square for simply…being.
Most importantly what it seeks to do is blame the Jesse Pinkmans of the world – either fictional or real – on the fact that they were raised in a country or household where government and home teachings of the Bible were not somehow enshrined in their being and viewed as the gold standard of citizenry, if not the requirement and guiding principle of its government and its leaders. (Note: This would presumably include our current American “leader”).
In times like these it is important to remember, repeat, and rinse and repeat again, that this line of thought was precisely the opposite type of doctrinaire thinking on which our country was first founded.
One of the essential pillars of American democracy is and always has been the separation of church and state. Don’t take my word for it. It’s the very FIRST AMENDMENT to the U.S. Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
What this means is feel free to NOT BELIEVE in God and religion or BELIEVE in any God or religion you want. But bottom line – leave RELIGION and whatever you believe it to be out of our government.
It is also important to note that the very definition of secularism (Note: Barr’s dreaded word) is: the principle of the separation of the state from religious institutions.
This in no way means that we can’t consult many sources, include our religion, to define what is right and wrong individually for us. But as a government, a basic tenant of American law is that we leave our religion at the door.
As Americans we are guided by a set of norms and law that evolve over time, not ones enshrined in early A.D or B.C. We have our problems, particularly these days, but this freedom to think any way we like, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, is in our DNA. It has made us the most prosperous nation in modern history and, until recently, the one country the vast majority of immigrants in the world have chosen to migrate to.
Hmmm, perhaps what this attorney general and his cohorts from up above are trying to do by him speechifying about the enshrining of our country with an old/new religion is nothing more than their latest strategy to stem immigration?
The game Barr and his ilk are playing is far simpler. In fact, it’s all about the simplicity of thought. Quiet the masses by evoking a past that never existed and ignore, prosecute, condemn and persecute (legally or by any means necessary) anyone who dare speak against them. When all that fails, claim the sinners are the ones taking away THEIR freedom of choice, their religion, and stifling their ability to simply be who THEY ARE.
There is an immoral majority in American society right now but it’s not the Jesse Pinkmans of the world. Rather, it’s the members of our top government elite, such as Barr, who think we’re all too dumb to catch on to their bait and switch game of immoral strategy to retain power and do what they please behind closed doors. (Note: I’m trying NOT to imagine anything I can’t unsee or unthank).
Well, they underestimate all the rest of us sinners at their own peril, don’t they?
Nick Lutsko – “The Ballad of Jesse Pinkman”