The Culture Wars, and all of the single-issue politics that form the component campaigns, battles, and skirmishes, are orphans of the First Amendment. The remnants of Constitutional compromise, along with the battles fought over the Bill of Rights, are with us today. As much as economics, education, infrastructure, and defense provide the structure for American prosperity, the expression of our democracy is dominated by short statements that involve none of the above:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Think for a moment how positive many liberals are for an expansive interpretation of the clause leading the First Amendment, and how equally expansive conservative interpretations are for the clause in the middle of the Second Amendment. All Constitutional interpretation is correct, if said interpretation favors one’s individual needs and preferences. At the recent Values Voters Forum, the question of interpretation regarding the First came to a head in the form of a very particular insult hurled by one Christian at another.
Over the decades, both sides of every major policy debate in our democracy have used the time-honored phrase, “a slippery slope”. Whether the issue was abortion, guns, speech, or business regulations, the argument has been counted on by both the intellectual and the intellectually lazy.
Most of the time, the slippery slope argument is cover for the avoidance of reasonable compromise. For this paradigm to add weight to an argument, it is necessary to believe oneself to be on a firm summit, where a step down the slope would be treacherous. In reality, avoiding the slope in our front opens our democracy up to the precipitous fall behind us. In the whole despicable business of Osama Bin Laden and all he wrought, the head over heels fall down the backside of the mountain has been the hallmark.
(Publisher’s Note: Don’t let your small kids read this…M.C.)
Maybe the issue is too serious for the comparison, but I can’t help thinking of Santa Claus when the subject of Wikileaks is raised. I know; Christmas right? I never have been serious enough for the news. But hey, if the battle of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is really about whether we Americans are mature enough to take communal showers, then Wikileaks is really about whether it is good and proper to tell your kids the Santa Claus story.
The issues relating to the theft and release of millions of secret documents have dominated news cycles for months now. Should governments have secrets, what limits exist on freedom of the press, and what defines national security? I would argue that another issue, lying just below the surface, is fueling this story. Is the United States government ours, or is it some outside entity bent on malevolent control? If this is still the government of we the people, then only a hypocrite would suggest it not be permitted secrecy. In fact, it is my argument that many who line up now to cheer the perpetrators of this theft are indeed hypocrites.
As I sit down to my laptop to write this post, I am acutely aware that this will be the final post I write and publish in Blogspot. Beginning with Monday’s news cycle, The Rational Middle will be broadcasting from its new address at www.therationalmiddle.com. This move comes just three weeks short of the one year anniversary of the RM. I think it fitting that the final post comes as an acknowledgement of Memorial Day; that I have spent the last 49 weeks posting on a free site is a testament to the country I am proud to call my native home.
Nazi Arizona? Well, not quite. The new immigration statute in the state is however, over the top, ill-considered, and ill-conceived. When Governor Brewer signed the measure into law, she opened up Arizona law enforcement agencies to enormous public pressures and liabilities. This is a measure, after all, that is supposed to “fix” illegal immigration in the state. The law, in short, is a travesty.
So what is wrong with this state? To be blunt, nothing that isn’t wrong with the rest of our nation at the moment. We have, collectively, taken leave of our senses. As a nation we have become all to comfortable giving up our hard-earned civil liberties; all we need is the Serpent in the Garden to tell us who the problem is and how to catch them. Currently, we also lack an objective media able to show us the fools we are becoming. In the last decade, some members of the media briefly (and quietly) suggested that the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act were serious violations of the 4th Amendment. The suggestion (for the point of historical context) was that elements of these two acts were reminiscent in tone and scope to the laws passed by the German parliament in the 1930′s.
Those crazy “Founding Fathers”. I have often wanted to ask individuals who love to use phrases including, “The Founding Fathers intended” and other such rhetoric, which of the “Fathers” they were referring to and why. “They” were a disparate lot, farmers and lawyers, tradesman and soldiers who were, just barely, united by a common purpose….sort of. We are, I concede, a culture that values the citation as a badge of credibility whether the label fits or not. There are those among us who would pair up a phrase from Revelation with one from Leviticus and use the twain to undermine the collective message of the four Gospels. The citation is the important thing when the people one is trying to impress aren’t really listening.
Thus, the “Founding Fathers”; most of them disliked the Royal authority and some of them disliked any authority. The clear motives for rebellion; the quartering of royal troops in colonial homes, warrantless searches of home and business and seizures of property, and government policy enacted by a Parliament of which the colonials were not a part of, all found their way in to the Constitution. Most of these slights are now pointed to by current politicians wanting to make a point (or rather, steal one). The “Teabaggers” (their name, not mine) were supposedly against “Taxation without representation”….”The Founding Fathers fought against it!” Cue the gnashing of teeth and wailing of women and babes. The problem of course, is that we Americans do have representation; being the minority party in a democracy is not the same as living in a colony for which no representative is allowed into the ruling nation’s legislative body.