E Pleb Neesta

26 09 2010

Long ago, when people watched TV in their caves with their pet dinosaurs standing guard outside, there was a TV show called Star Trek. It was, in its day, considered groundbreaking, although it is hard to explain why to those who only discovered it after its many siblings and descendants. The special effects are pretty hokey, for one thing, and the producers ran true to type and decimated the show’s budget each year- eventually shutting it down altogether as being unprofitable. But some of the writing for the show was first-rate science fiction.

Veteran viewers of Star Trek may recognize the words of this post’s title as Yang “Worship Words”, from one of the better episodes called “The Omega Glory“. Like most episodes, the special effects blew chunks, the science had only tenuous connections to reality, and there were plot holes big enough to fly Enterprise through. The episode did bring up a couple of interesting points- mainly regarding the Yang “Worship Words” and their Holy Documents (the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence).

There are a lot of people in this country waving the Constitution about like a magic wand, claiming that all our societal ills will be done away with merely by acknowledging its power. To many of these people, the Constitution is a Holy Document, the words written on it are their “Worship Words”, and somehow only the enlightened few who are treating the Constitution as a magical talisman have divined the mystical secrets within. We should therefore vote for them, regardless of how mind-bogglingly stupid too many of them are.

I would caution those people to at least make an attempt to understand those words. These folks seem to believe that merely quoting passages from their Holy Document negates all arguments against their political positions, but display an appalling lack of understanding about the meaning of those words. They also routinely demonstrate only the most tenuous understanding of the Constitution and its history.

Far too many people seem to believe that the Constitution was intended to limit the power of the central government in favor of greater powers for the states. This demonstrates a seemingly willful disregard of actual history. The document which accomplished the things these folk are advocating was called the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution was created to correct many of the colossal fuck-ups created by the Articles- by giving more power to the Federal Government at the expense of the states. The men at that Constitutional Convention were understandably wary of the powers of a central government, but also knew that the Articles of Confederation made it impossible for the United States of America to be anything more than an ironic title. They got together and hammered out a series of compromises (often in smoke-filled back rooms, taverns, and clandestine private meetings) to create a single nation under a centralized Federal Government, to which the States would be subordinate.

That sound you just heard was a bunch of Tea Party heads exploding.

Some of those compromises included the first twelve Amendments (the ten of which make up the Bill of Rights were just the first of those twelve Amendments ratified) to the new Constitution. These Amendments were compromise measures designed to protect the rights of the States and individual citizens against the power of the Federal Government.

I personally am appalled at the extent to which the last few Presidents (with the connivance of the Legislature) have expanded the powers of the Executive branch, and I am likewise nauseated by the growing power of the Federal Government in general at the expense of individual rights. I share these feelings with the manifold and diverse Tea Party groups around the country. One way in which the Tea Party folks and I part company is in the blind worship of the Constitution and the Founders.

When history becomes scripture and men become deities, truth is the victim.

The Founders were men, not gods. They had the same frailties and foibles as any other men. The Constitution they created was a committee effort, and therefore the result of laborious compromise and dirty dealing. It is not a Holy Document, the mere mention of which will assuage all fears and solve all problems. The Constitution is a set of limits and powers which are hopefully properly balanced to allow freedom and prosperity. Tea Party activists tend to ignore these facts in favor of cherry-picking sections from the Constitution which favor their positions. This is eerily similar to the way fundamentalist christians cherry-pick scriptures to justify their insidious deeds and words. The similarities are easily explained, because many of the most vocal and idiotic Tea Party activists are also fundamentalist christians. Far too many of the remainder are what can best be described as Constitutional Fundamentalists. Fundamentalism in any flavor is bad. Fundamentalism coupled with political power is indescribably bad. Political fundamentalism coupled with religious fundamentalism is a precursor to Hell on Earth.

The people who make up the Tea Party groups (not organizations, mind you- just groups) are starting to fall victim to the public perception that the rabid fundamentalist whackjobs who get most of the air time in the media represent the totality of the movement. It is therefore incumbent upon the Tea Party members to abolish this justified perception by acknowledging the fact that their movement appears to have been hijacked by utter fuckwits, and doing something about it. Not every criticism of a Tea Party candidate is the result of a sinister conspiracy. If criticism is justified, deal with it. Alleging that everyone who so much as looks cross-eyed at a Tea Party member is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist Wannabe only reinforces the public perception that Tea Party members are all a little bit unstable- particularly if the original criticism is true and well-deserved.

If the Tea Party truly wants to make changes to the political process, they will need to reiterate their core aims to the public. Tell the public what you plan to do, why you want to do it, and how you plan to make that happen. If you are truly a grass-roots movement of the average people in this country, this approach will pay the greatest dividends on Election Day. In doing so, the Tea Party will also need to deal with the rabid foaming loons in their ranks, to avoid seeming crazy by association. At present, every Tea Party representative who gets air time seems to be a rabid, fundamentalist christian bigot with an outspoken disdain for anyone who is not white and christian. All this will get you is enormous trouble in the political process and defeat at the polls. You want to be fundamentalists? Try getting your movement back from the paranoid xenophobes who have hijacked it.

Current status: Annoyed

Current music: Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits



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