Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Birthday, USA!

Let's try to remember what the USA is about by looking at what it's not.

It's not about a static constitution written for an agrarian society ruled by a wealthy few and voting rights to only a few more. It's not founded by a bunch of guys who all thought the same thing was a good idea for how to run a country, either. Finally, it's not about the Founding Fathers being some sort of perfect saints.

The Founding Fathers were of different minds on what the Constitution should entail. In fact, the Constitution is one big compromise, a concept that is an anathama to the absolutists of the talking head world of punditry, whether on TV or the internet, but the truth nonetheless. They compromised on slavery. They compromised on congressional representation (majority in the House, even numbers in the Senate). Even so, as soon as they were done with it they weren't satisfied and proposed the Bill of Rights (aka the first ten amendments). From the very beginning the Constitution was written to change.

And change it has. One of the first and most important of changes was not an amendment, either. It was the Supreme Court case of Marbury v Madison that established the Supreme Court's power to review the constitutionality of executive and legislative actions. That's nowhere in the Constitution as a power granted to the court, but for over 200 years now it's been accepted as such. The author of that decision, and the Chief Justice at the time, was John Marshall, a Founding Father. (He's the guy behind Ben Franklin in the tattoo on my right leg.)

The Founding Fathers were full of flaws, both personal and political. There's the aforementioned failure to deal with slavery, which eventually lead to the Civil War. The original Constitution they created left voting rights limited to white males who owned real property. The Senate was an appointed body, not elected. Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. Thomas Jefferson engaged in extramarital affairs (after being widowered) and likely fathered children who were literally his property.

These guys were human. They did something phenomenal and without precedent in creating the framework for a government that, over time, evolved to protect its citizens from intrusive government while also allowing it to take more action to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity".

That Preamble alone should tell even the most casual of readers that the Constitution was not a document writ in stone (that would be the Ten Commandments).

Something else the US is not about is this.

This is a sign a neighbor has on his gate. Now, the US has lots of people who "think" this way. I am reluctant to grant that there's any actual thinking involved, though. Let's start with the linguistically amusing "Obama, orgainizing to socialize America". I'm going to presume he means turning the US into a Socialist nation, as that's what the vapid talking head advocate incessantly, but what this sentence without punctuation actually says is something else. I'll grant Obama has utterly failed at socializing America, too. The social skills of the populace appear to be in free fall, far more so than the economy.

Then there's the second part of "working to steal our freedom", so let's take those two parts together. Obama is turning the country Socialist and stealing our freedom. What industry has been nationalized? Not a freakin' one. Health care? Nope. That's all to be run through private companies. Chrysler and GM? Nope. The US owns majority interests in stocks, but is working rather diligently at selling the stocks as soon as possible. Financial industry? Nope. Bailed out banks have had to follow some additional rules, including restrictions on executive compensation, but the biggest of the bunch have already bought their way out of the loans. And that's something too, because none of those banks were bought by the US. Instead, they were provided loans with conditions. There's nary an industry in the US that's owned by the US. Hell, even things that would seem like maybe a good idea for the government to control, like defense and highway construction and security at airports, is contracted out to private industry. These days even a lot of military operations are handled by private contractors. Social Security? The SEC? I'll leave those at the simple observation that Obama didn't have anything to do with the founding of either, both having pre-dated his birth (in HI, by the way).

So, the Socialization of the US is a bankrupt idea. Let's move on to "stealing our freedoms". I can't for the life of me figure out which freedoms those might be. Can't vote? No, more people than ever can vote. Can't move to whatever part of the country I want (if I can afford it)? No, nothing governmental holding me back there. Can't leave the country if I want? More of an issue for getting in than out, unless I'm subject to some sort of penal oversight. Can't go to school? Hell, that's not even a right, but I have access to free education for my kids and all sorts of governmental and private sources of aid for college and such. College is ridiculously expensive, but that's not the government's fault. Can't marry who I want? Well, I'm not gay, so I'm ok there. Loving v Virginia took care of that in 1967. I'm going to take a wild guess and say that this neighbor is not agitating for gay marriage rights.

I'm all for a robust discussion of issues facing the nation. We have serious things to address in terms of how to promote the economy while still protecting ourselves and our posterity (environmentalism). National security is always something up for discussion (is military intervention in Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq helpful, harmful, or a wash? should policing be the primary way to address terrorism or should policing and military action go hand in hand?) . This kind of thing isn't discussion of any sort, though. It's just yelling as therapy, like an angry driver in rush hour traffic. Like that driver, it's one thing to be peeved at the other drivers, but when it gets into road rage (militias, assassination threats, advocating "no" as a sole policy for governance), it's something dangerous to others, myself included. The hot button social issues are less important for the health of the nation, in my opinion, but sure, let's have a rational discussion of why banning abortion is not providing women with a choice (as Palin maintains with a straight face) or why allowing gay marriage in no way undermines heterosexual marriage (which is doing a fine job of failing all by itself). Why, we could even enter the politically fatal realm of atheism as a legitimate choice of "belief". I'm certainly game.

So let's remember that the US is about a government designed to impede rash action and promote compromise. Instead of hiding in corners with only those of like minds (ie those opposed to the release of the names of petitioners signing on to repeal of gay marriage rights), come out into the light in the center of the floor. Put forth some ideas for the problems facing the country. Listen to other people's ideas. Work out something that a majority can agree on. Sure, it doesn't generate ratings or blog hits, but then the Founders didn't anticipate that government would be based on the profits and losses of media organizations on an instant news cycle. Another flaw on their part, I suppose.


  1. Happy Birthday America and all of that, but personally this comes across as a rant of you not liking your neighbor's sign.

    Also just because there maybe good things about this country, does not mean we are not headed in the wrong direction.

    Personally I believe since the second term of Regan going forward we have done nothing but sell this country to corporate interests and Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama are leading us to ruination or at least a economic downturn that will make the Great Depression just a very good one.

  2. We're on about 2 years from the beginning of the recession. At what point do you run out of time to say its a depression, and not just a depression (of which we had many prior to the Great Depression), but one that's larger and deeper than the Great Depression?

    There's a fairly simple reason why there hasn't been a depression since the Great Depression. Government spending. Prior to the Great Depression governments just ignored depressions and rode them out, however long that might take. Now, governmetns intervene and spend money to prevent recessions from becoming depressions. Despite European austerity measures, that's not going to change anytime soon.

    I don't have a problem with someone such as yourself who thinks the country's headed in the wrong direction because when you say that you mean economically. The greater mass of Obama bashers are not you, though. Much larger numbers comprise the haters of religious, ethnic and other biases.

    As for my neighbor, he's put his muddied thinking, and even more muddied grammar, on prominent display, so here I am to make light of it.