Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The U.S. Constitution vs The Bigotry of The Now And The Shamanic Eye-Roll

I was talking to someone the other day about the problems in the country today, and as I mentioned the Constitution, I noticed a familiar tick that passed across his face at the word… you might have seen it before too… a quick flick downwards of the eyes, a fleeting grin-twitch across the lips… almost as if I’d slipped in a “ya’ll aint” to an grammarian. When I asked what the matter was, there was the ‘Oh… you’re not really going to ask me about this are you?’ look, as if I was forcing them to embarrass me… and with a sort of “Yes, the world really is round” patronizing look, he said ,
“Well… it’s just… the whole ‘Constitution’ thing… I mean… we don’t wear wigs and leg hose anymore either, why should we be bound by something written centuries ago by people who know nothing of us?”
Ah. Well… in that case… do you mean we should just ignore the Constitution?
“Well… we can’t ignore it, it’s just that it means today what we need it to, not what they meant it to mean back then... kinda like the Queen of England... quaint by not especially relevant... we shouldn't let ourselves be bound by what guys in wigs said two centuries ago.”
"We shouldn't be bound by it" that's an interesting way of putting it... it certainly goes well with the world upside down nature of the news these days. Does that same sort of bigotry of The Now apply to other things too? Math for instance?"

"Oh... come on..."

"Ok... how about resisting tyranny? Is that old fashioned too?"

"Well... no... but...."

"Was 'Freedom of speech a bad idea too... or was that good then, but is it just outdated today?"

All I got with that was a sigh. Of course, being a flogger, I didn't let that slow me down, and while I couldn't remember the full quote, I tried the gist of this one from Jefferson,,"
""It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice to silence our fears for the safety of our rights... Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism. Free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence. It is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power... Our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further, our confidence may go... In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." --Thomas Jefferson: Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798. ME 17:388 "
Got the blank stare for that. "Just not too big on Jefferson, eh?"

Only got an impatient 'Nope'. Just disagree with him and the other wig wearer's?


"So you've read them and disagree with them?" I think he was about to answer 'Yep', but worried that I'd quiz him further (and I would've), but he just said "It's just not as relevant to our world today." I answered that his 'oh so modern' notion, is well over a hundred years old, and was many years old when Woodrow Wilson mouthed it, but that didn't help either, knocked down with another eye-roll - apparently some centuries old stuff is 'modern'... and some is 'outmoded'... depending on the needs of the speaker, I suppose.

Well... I couldn't do much against magic incantations like those eye-rolls and mutterings, spells which have the power to banish the accumulated wisdom of ages with a simple set of shamanic motions and mutterings. So after a moment I thought maybe I'd try out the meaning of Jefferson's quote on him...rather than just the words,

"Well in that case, it might as well be irrelevant, but if so, then what is the use of the Constitution?

If you're left leaning like yourself, I can see that you probably might be mostly happy with how things are proregressing at the moment... but if you know even only a smattering of political history, even just recent history, you know that following a President Carter, there was a President Reagan, right?; and from the other side of the aisle, the conservatives should know that following such a conservative even as that, there will likely be a President Clinton soon afterwards, or maybe just a mixed message like President Bush (I or II), who might lead into someone like an Obamao.

What that should bring to mind, is that while you may very well be happy with the current bunch in the Whitehouse, you may not like the next one, or maybe the one following that, right?

(A sigh and a nod)

So to prevent a future ‘bad’ administration from doing more to you than you’d like, and vice versa for the other sides point of view, don't you think that there should be limits on those in power to limit whatever it is that they want to do?

"Well... sure"

Well... handily enough, we do have just such a set of restrictions on the limits of power. Not only do we have such a set, but it is what our representatives and our judges - and even a President such as Obamao - all solemnly swear, pledge and affirm to uphold and preserve it - and in the case of our military personnel, it is what they pledge their very lives to defending against all enemies, foreign and domestic – it is what they are sworn to die for, if need be.

Given that... got any friends or relatives in the military? 'Yep' Given that they, and others, like my son, have their lives sworn to uphold it, doesn't that seem like something they - and we - should take at least a little bit seriously?

Uncomfortable silence.

At the very least that should give someone pause who might otherwise be tempted to snicker at the mere mention of our constitution, shouldn't it? Nothing else in this land receives such official recognition and is held in such importance and given such legal protection,
...not the President,
...not the Judges,
...not the Flag,
...nor anything else, only this short piece of paper – why?

This Constitution which our government, from its inception in 1787, to now in 2010, finds within this scrap of paper written by old dead white guys, not only every source of every one of it's powers to act, but also lays out the key Rights of our fellow citizens that are to be protected, and far more importantly, there are to be found within it those restraints upon what the government can do to We The People and to the country.

If you don’t trust politicians, or you don’t trust the other side’s politicians, then you should want to know, protect and promote this short outmoded piece of paper, because if you don’t, if you allow your politicians, while they are in power, to act beyond what is constitutional – and the ONLY thing which prevents them is the public’s awareness of their going too far (and believe me, it isn’t the Judges or Congress, it is YOU - if the Law ceases to live in We The People, it will cease to live - and cease to protect you) – then you can be assured that there will be even less restraint upon the other guys when They come to power, and they will be even more able to do whatever they want to do because they Too will feel that what they want to do will be the Right thing to do! And your feeble yelps of ‘not fair’ or even funnier (by that time) ‘that’s not constitutional!’ will fall on deaf ears.

And in that time you will find yourself at the mercy of the political power of the other side of the aisle... so ask yourself now, how will you feel then, and what you wouldn’t then give if you could just go back in time to our time, to today, and say – (or in other words vote) - Stop!

If you don’t do that today, then when some seemingly distant tomorrow becomes today – and in the blink of an eye it will - the opportunity may very well be gone.

The Constitution – use it – or lose it!

And that was of course the end of the argument. He couldn't answer... but with another magic incantation of eye-rolls, and muttered '... just can't talk to you people...like luddites', his spell was cast, absolving him from all need to think any further on this uncomfortable topic, and from the need of making his thoughts conform to reality... with the magic spell weaved... his contradictions were safe and secure, locked up within his super smart and cool leftist brain.

It is baffling... the contradictions the leftist requires that they live by. And while it's good to see that it's not just baffling to me, it isn't only Obama that's always contradicting himself, you simply cannot be a leftist, without blatantly contradicting yourself. Leftist thought requires arbitrary, contradictory positions - it fundamentally means opposition to reality.

It. Is. Unavoidable.

Aristotle had a thing or two to tell us about contradictions, when he first identified it, and called it the 'Law of non-contradiction', here stated in his Metaphysics

"...For a principle which every one must have who understands anything that is, is not a hypothesis; and that which every one must know who knows anything, he must already have when he comes to a special study. Evidently then such a principle is the most certain of all; which principle this is, let us proceed to say. It is, that the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject and in the same respect; we must presuppose, to guard against dialectical objections, any further qualifications which might be added. This, then, is the most certain of all principles, since it answers to the definition given above. For it is impossible for any one to believe the same thing to be and not to be, as some think Heraclitus says. ... "
Impossible for anyone but a leftist, that is. Whether or not they aware of what they are doing, the embrace of contradictions (and they are often embraced quite deliberately and lifted up with admiring comments of 'paradoxical' and of complicated personalities) the use of arbitrary statements, the disregard of context, are the chief techniques of sophists and other dishonest fools (aka: Leftists), in order to equivocate and obliterate the possibility of meaning, and absolving themselves from obeying reality.

They have no grasp of Metaphysics or respect for reality... hopefully I'll finally get to that more in my next post.


Unknown said...

I have a question Van. At what point do you think the Government started to poke holes in the Constitution? Or, who was the first President to begin weakening it?

To me that may be part of the problem of today. When politician after politician has weakened the document so much it makes it hard for normal people to even view it as something important. I am not excusing that I just think it is interesting.

Van Harvey said...

Lance said “At what point do you think the Government started to poke holes in the Constitution? Or, who was the first President to begin weakening it?”

That’s a good question, which of course means you’ve loosed the long winds... I’m already over two blogger-allowed-comment lengths in my reply and still blowing... probably better to make my reply to that a post. I’m not likely to have time to finish it today, but hopefully tomorrow.

In the meantime, let me ask you a question, what with as you said “... politician after politician has weakened the document so much it makes it hard for normal people to even view it as something important.”, doesn’t that mean that you assume the position of trusting politicians (those who sought after and have Power) to say (and abide by) what they say is important?

That’s a hard one for me to wrap my head around – and it’s not just a notion of the left, plenty of people on the rightish side have the same reaction. When you see something like Obamao saying that ‘some people make too much money’, and actually setting up a Czar to cap executive pay... how is it you ( I don’t know if you take issue with it or not, I mean ‘you’ in the broad ‘leftish’ sense (or maybe I should say pro(re)gressive sense – there are plenty of McCain type republicans who are at least sympathetic to it)) don’t see that as,
The Fed Govt will now use its power to determine whether or not agreements you make will be allowed, and will cancel anything you’ve agreed to that we don’t like.

??? That is the principle that they have stated here, plain as day. And really... anyone who trusts to politicians to only use a newly acquired power on those they first pick on – the easy targets – and never stray beyond them... are 'you' all really that naïve? Anyone remember who were the ‘only ones’ who’d ever be affected by the Income Tax when it was first proposed? It’d only ever affect the super rich. How parole would only ever be extended to the most safest and trustworthy of happenstance criminals... never 'dangerous' criminals. Ever. Honest. Or how about....


Anyone ever heard the phrase that begins “First they came for the....”

Ok, back to work.

Unknown said...

I do not think that I "trust" politicians but I feel like...I am have a hard time putting into words what I am feeling.

I guess I feel like if the Politicians and Lawmakers of this country are not willing to honor the Constitution then how am I supposed to. I have far less power then they do.

Van Harvey said...

That's close to what I was anticipating you would answer. So... essentially, the larger and more distant your govt becomes, the less you feel you have influence over your representatives, and the more inconsequential you feel your voice is?

That is a very well known principle of govt, well known to the founders who structured federalism to keep the distancing of the individual at a minimum... and to those in congress who, coincidentally around the Pro(re)gressives highwater mark of power in the early 1900's, permanently limited the number of representatives to 435 in the House... which means that the more your state grows... the less voice and influence you have over them.

It was very much behind the 17th amendment, removing the election of Senators from the State legislature (where your state representative and state senator, who you were likely to know and have at least a measure of influence with, would have to earn each of their votes (I think the avg is around 50 members) and remain responsive to their (and your) opinion which reflected the many regional needs of the state), to statewide popular vote where you are a single vote amongst millions and one or two 'hotbutton' issues statewide.

And ask yourself who is likely to benefit most from the further 'inconsequentialization' of the individual American, by the growth of govt? The process of consolidation, of removing from the local level, upwards to the State and then Federal level, of control and policymaking, 'law'making, to more centralized control by experts - that has been THE hallmark of progressives, since the time of Rousseau.

Ask yourself whether you feel your voice, your vote, is better served (and heard) by constitutionally defined, limited government... or by an ever expanding, ever bureaucratizing, big government increasingly controlled by regulatory agencies (btw the healthcontrol bill created over 200 new bureaucratic committees and agencies all on it's own) and Czars?

Ask which party - despite the deep flaws it may have - is more favorable towards reducing the size of govt, rather than expanding it?

It may be surprising, but the more you are a True Liberal... someone who is concerned with freedom and liberty - if you clear your mind of preconceptions, you might just find that you have far more in common with the Constitutionally oriented Tea Party Right, than with that of the Left.

Seriously. Look into it. Madison and Hamilton were bitterly opposed on how to implement the Constitution, but they were nearly one with the principles of writing and arguing for the Constitution.

You and I could be worlds apart on policy (and btw, there's nothing in the Constitution to prevent Oregon from becoming the type of State you would like, though I might not), and still see our interests best served by re-establishing the meaning and posiiton of the Constitution.

I do believe that in the next months, you will begin seeing more and more instances where your personal opinion - left though it may be - will become more and more sidelined, in favor of the ruling fews opinion of what should be.

Just a thought.

Unknown said...

"It was very much behind the 17th amendment, removing the election of Senators from the State legislature (where your state representative and state senator, who you were likely to know and have at least a measure of influence with, would have to earn each of their votes (I think the avg is around 50 members) and remain responsive to their (and your) opinion which reflected the many regional needs of the state), to statewide popular vote where you are a single vote amongst millions and one or two 'hotbutton' issues statewide."

That is an interesting issue for me. Because I am a big fan of the individual voter getting a voice. I like Oregons initiative system warts and all. I like the messiness of it. But I can see what you are saying about it being used to limit the voice of the voter despite the way it seems.

I would in fact welcome and love a nationwide petition process so that voters could band together and get things on the ballot that we all want and need.

Though I also am a huge fan of states rights and would prefer that states get to decide their issues and I always have been regardless of who is in national office. Oregonians know what is best for Oregonians and the idea that some politician from some other state has a say in my life makes me sick to my stomach.

xlbrl said...

The single most important "principle" in the unthinking leftist political culture is the Living Constitution, a religious sentiment that requires no further explanation. In fact, it forbids further explanation.
Your Jefferson was great. My eyes lit up, as your friend's glazed over. I would try to answer that the Constitution is not a living organism, but a legal document which is an anti-trust act for government. Its very purpose is to withdraw many subjects from the controversy of politics, not expand them to present fashion.

Van Harvey said...

I think Jefferson’s key line in that quote is “Confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism.”.

It’s not so much the evil intentions of those in power we have to worry about, it is our confidence that they are intending (and they very likely are) and able to ‘do good’ in their actions, and perhaps even worse, our confidence in ourselves that because we also think the proposed doing of good would be good, it’ll be ok to look the other way as govt exerts power which the constitution doesn’t permit them to.

If ‘We the People’ don’t realize that ‘We the People’ are capable of despotic behavior, we’re in deep do(good)-do (good).
As Plato pointed out, if our understanding of self-governance is poor, then our participation in actual governance is going to have appalling results.

Hence the necessity of real Education.

Van Harvey said...

Lance, as usual, you let the winds loose. My comment has grown beyond comment length, and beyond a short post length... hoping I’ll be able to post it before the weekend... we’ll see.

Unknown said...

Well, I am glad I am able to inspire you at least. But, I am not sure if I am inspiring you in a good way.

Van Harvey said...

Lance said "But, I am not sure if I am inspiring you in a good way."

Hmmm... care to elaborate?

Unknown said...

I hope I am asking intelligent questions at least and not wasting your time and also explaining myself in a way that is understandable.

Van Harvey said...

Lance, lol, sorry, I thought your "...I am not sure if I am inspiring you in a good way" meant you thought I was irredeemably heading towards the dark side.

Hey, obviously our points of view don't match, but your questions always make me think things through further... can't ask for more than that.