As is often in political discourse, ideologies that aren’t featured on the mainstream media are seen to be anti-American, insane, ideologically dangerous, etc. This includes both left and right libertarianism, socialism, the green party, and many others. To the constant bantering of ‘America Basher!’ I would like to elucidate some as to the wonderful things about this country for there are quite a lot when honest history is used.
From the founding of this country in 1776, America has been blessed with a population that have fought for rights, succeeded in expanding opportunities, clearing away obstacles, and breaking down barriers in the hopes of furthering those famous words of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Sure, many detractors glue themselves to the faults of America- and of course, to be intellectually honest- there are many. But one needs to realize that the freedoms we enjoy- those of speech, press, religion, fair trials, and gun ownership are pretty unique when looked at from the history of world governments.
As opposed to many other countries, in America, one can reach success with given effort, one can amass wealth and prosperity unlike any other country in the world. This ability for Americans to do this comes from honest Americans standing up for the rights our founders laid down in the spirit of the Enlightenment. Millions come to this country for the promise we proudly show on our Statue of Liberty; ‘give me your sick, your hungry, and your poor.’ For in this country, the mixing of cultures only inspires further growth of everything from the economy to societal norms and practices.
The fact that America’s Constitution is the longest lasting Constitution in the world says a lot and the fact that it is practically inarguable that our Declaration of Independence is still considered one of the most ‘radical political documents ever written’ stands true.
Throughout the modern era, our citizenry, government, and corporations have continually helped those less fortunate through charitable offerings, increased opportunities, and encouragement of the entrepreneurial spirit. One need only to go to a local grocery store for an example. The options for consumables stretch as far as the eye can see- offering foreign foods, discounted foods, fresh and organic foods- all of which are usually reasonably priced.
Regardless of one’s view on many of the social issues of the day- it is comforting to know that in this country there is an actual debate. From politicians to religious leaders to special interest groups- the debate always rages on. The debate may not always be civil but voices from Christopher Hitchens to Pat Robertson get a say in matters effecting any and everyone. From the Dust Bowl through the Great Depression the American spirit has gone through quite a lot and has continued to push on, defying the many obstacles that come with such great tragedies.
The American Ideal- that of freedom, though not always practiced or encouraged by various institutions will most likely stay around for some time. This is not due to any institution granting permission, but just from the individualism and at the same time collective understanding and appreciation for what our Founding Fathers envisioned with this country.
There is a wonderful paradoxical nature to this country that is always interesting to point out. In America, we preach staunch individualism, the ‘rugged individual’ and the like, which is practiced throughout this country. Though in the same country collective consciousness also comes about in times of trouble. From war protests to labor rights, people get together to voice an opinion in a country that not only allows it but requires it.
The collective spirit shows itself in times of natural disasters, along with other events. Following the earthquake in Japan to the tsunami in Indonesia, every sector of this country poured out. From Coca-Cola to the government to charities, to churches, to individuals setting up websites- money, food, rebuilding materials, and other aid came pouring in in an act of generosity, empathy, sympathy and global community. When looked at from simply monetary figures, the amount the US gives in charity is beyond impressive.
There are many reasons why one chooses to love America- the people, the history, the big stores and the little mom and pop shops- but it must be stated that America, like any other country, does great things and does terrible things- but deep down, when looked at from the Founding Fathers to the US troops today taking an oath to defend this wonderful country- it is hard to not feel at least a bit lucky.
Of course, in my attempt at being intellectually honest- I am not a jingoist and the Founders didn’t want a nation of zombies. Thomas Jefferson once stated that about every twenty years or so a new revolution should take place- to wake people up and inspire a new generation. I have and will continue to critique this country- not because I hate it- but because it is my freedom, my right, and exactly what the Founders envisioned for this country stating that ‘dissent is the bedrock of democracy.
I tend to be leery of anyone who emphatically states that ‘America sucks’ or of someone that says ‘America can do no wrong, it is perfect’- both sides are intellectually dishonest and in need of kool-aid rehab. Unlike dissidents in China or say Turkey- when my country does do something wrong I voice it and include no euphemisms such as ‘everyone makes mistakes’ whenever it is my country that does wrong. I wrote this blog in acceptance of a challenge issued by someone who thinks I hate my country- to which this blog is but one shot from a pint of Maker’s Mark of why this country is so great. Though it may seem to many that I continually find only fault in this country, it is because I expect such great things from it. When I was taught that this country was incredibly unique and filled with promise- I took that notion very seriously. So, with a country devised with such wonderful things, an immoral action can have devastating implications to someone with such high expectations.
So, to emphatically state once and for all- I do love America! I am many times not impressed with many politicians, religious leaders, companies, and the like- but who is absolutely satisfied? When my country does great things- I may not pat myself on the back or do a back-flip- it is merely because it is what I expect from this country. I perhaps over-excite myself when the negative occurs because it flies in the face of all that this great nation was built upon. As any marketer will tell his business client- a customer, a patron, a reviewer- will always remember the bad experience before the good.
As with myself, I encourage through such talks on existentialism and philosophy in general- I never want to be content….I never want to be ‘satisfied.’ I want to keep going and each accomplishment is only met with new challenges and new obstacles. This applies to my views of America- we are great, and guess what? We can do a lot better as well. And with the aforementioned quote on dissent in mind- the best way to make this country get even better is two-fold: 1) Know the greatness, appreciate the good things, know the history of the great struggles, know the people that helped this country get to where it is; 2) Know the bad, know the things that might tarnish this country’s reputation, the smudges on the flag if you will. The founders knew this and every patriot better damn well know it. Orwell was famous for writing a whole book about the rewriting of history in a dystopia and it is up to patriots to keep this from happening in a country that encourages both points.
A common platform found in the Republican/Conservative movement is Christianity. Just as it is difficult to find a liberal who opposes abortion, it is even more difficult to find a Republican/Conservative who is an atheist (I did read once that Karl Rove was…not sure). However, last night in South Carolina, we all received what I find to be indicative of American Christianity- what I have previously called ‘Diet-Christianity’ or ‘Christianity-lite.’
Last night’s debate featured Ron Paul quoting Jesus’ Golden Rule which itself can be traced back to Confucius considerably predating the Bible with the response expected if Ron Paul had quoted the Koran to the Phelps’ Church. This is quite the phenomena- here we have a bible-belt state (South Carolina) and Ron Paul staying consistent with both his Christianity and his libertarian message connects the two which shouldn’t cause that much of a hermeneutical problem and he is booed beyond sound capacity. Why is this?
Well, as long as these bible belters misinterpret both Leviticus (while selectively ignoring other rules) and Paul’s letters to the Romans which manifests itself in a desire for a homogenous WASP society- then that’s the Christian thing to do. It seems that Christianity as a social movement is here to fight that demonic Darwin and the subsequent science it has spawned, maintain a staunch level of homophobia, and disallow ‘secularism’ (which includes ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ mind you) then all is well. Yet, when the Golden Rule, one of the most popular ethical maxims if not the most popular maxim, is presented in political discourse, the rabid foam of Constantine’s Christianity comes to light. Constantine’s Christianity is a warring Christianity, bent on marginalizing the pagans and those who don’t ‘fit in’ and creating all these wars on alternative perspectives of what the ‘pursuit of happiness’ may manifest itself as. As the Mormon Church did with Proposition 8 in California, and as the audience demonstrated in South Carolina- the notion of Christian brotherly love, or the Golden Rule itself, is outdated and only seemingly applies to fellow Christians.
From a historical perspective, it is interesting to note the 180 degree flip the term ‘fundamentalist’ has taken. The original fundamentalists focused almost exclusively on one’s community, spirituality and the helping with the poor, while more/less disavowing involvement in politics and similar institutions. Today’s fundamentalist want to shove their notions of right/wrong down your throat, but worse of all, it’s not even a consistent shove. Jesus preached the Golden Rule- not to be practiced just between Christians, nor just to be observed during times of peace, nor was it merely a idealist maxim that would lovingly work as a bumper sticker.
Ron Paul’s Christianity, contra Santorum for example, coincides much of the early fundamentalist in one way. Obviously he is a politician who is running for president, but unlike the other candidates, he isn’t shoving the Bible in our faces on a continual basis. Ron Paul isn’t accounting for disabled children as God’s punishment for abortions (Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall) and not blaming 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Japan on secularism, liberalism, atheism, as many evangelical fascists have in fact done. He is a Christian but that is not the Constitution nor is it what the Founders envisioned. Whereas those who booed at Ron Paul and those Rick Santorums and the rest of today’s evangelical Christian community- they want everyone to be Christian- gays: just stop being gay and chastise yourself for your natural inclinations. This idea of homogeny goes back quite a ways and if you want a politician who will use the Bible as he/she sees fit in public policy, inject selective morality presented as God’s word into your home, then ignore Ron Paul.
I am not a Christian, yet knowing Ron Paul is one (contrary to the other candidates) doesn’t bother me a bit. See, it’s real simple. I have no fear of a politician who is a Christian. It is the Christian-politician one should fear. For they see themselves perhaps as some pseudo-half-assed- Constantine and it’s only a matter of time until we rational folk are deemed too pagan.
For those who have even moderately followed my blogs it should be readily apparent my views on moral exhibitionism and those social conservatives who pray to whomever for a homogenous society of WASPs. Be it the debate over the drug war, gay marriage, or this seemingly ambiguous notion of the ‘pursuit of happiness’ that somehow found itself scribbled on our Founding Document. Yet again, we have only one real candidate who sees these issues through the understanding of the Constitution and individual liberty- two things held dearly by the Founders. This candidate is Ron Paul
Obama did, not too far back, rid this country of that abominable DADT policy that marginalized certain men and women according to who turns them on and who they envision standing next to them reciting vows. To this I will give Obama credit and applaud him for doing what to me seems so damn obvious. Now, on to bigger things:
Currently we are spending approximately 60 billion dollars a year (let me spell that out- $60,000,000,000 a year) fighting this supposed ‘war on drugs’ which has been nonsensical since the first marijuana laws were passed in the early twentieth century. With every drug czar that gives his/her two minute report we are reminded how this is the ‘good fight’ and how we are ‘winning’ while more and more synthetic drugs are being concocted and numerous studies have found that it is easier for a non-adult to acquire illegal narcotics then those currently legal and regulated. We actually lock people up for enjoying a plant that grows naturally on this earth- which says volumes to those creationists who argue that God made it all- in essence, on this one plant among many- we are telling him he screwed up. We treat nicotine and alcohol abuse as a medical problem…yet the other substances which politicians for decades have screamed about are treated in a legal manner- just throw them in jail; that’ll fix em’.
In regards to both the silly war on drugs and even gay marriage- I fall in line with the notion of liberty and individual freedom espoused by the utilitarian philosopher John Stuart Mill. The notion is very simple- one should be able to do what one wants as long as he/she doesn’t hurt anyone or inhibit their exercise of freedom and liberty. Why is such a notion so hard to understand to these moral exhibitionists? As F.A. Hayek noted in his wonderful essay ‘Why I am not a Conservative’- the conservatives feel that, through one way or another, he/she has inherited or acquired a standard that everyone else should fall in line with. This is blatant totalitarianism pure and simple. The notion of individual liberty and democracy is incorporating numerous pursuits of happiness- not one. For if it was just one notion of the pursuit of happiness…one would figure that the founders would have mentioned it at one point or another.
The same applies to gay marriage as it applies to drugs. If your neighbors are gay men or gay women and they aren’t engaging in ‘fun’ on your front lawn- why do you care? If your neighbor enjoys a joint after a long day after work while you enjoy a beer- why the hell do you care?
Ron Paul has consistently talked on the drug war and its absolute failure. With the stringent drug laws having hardly any effect, many people today are getting hooked on synthetic drugs which are 100 times more harmful (meth, huffing, pain pills) while the pharmaceutical industry and private prisons lobby to keep drugs illegal- keep this in mind dear readers. There isn’t a Mad Mothers Against Pot Smokers like there was with alcohol during prohibition, no , these are multi-national businesses who want you to get hooked on their drugs or worry that their stock price will fall due to a lack of inmates.
Ron Paul has consistently argued that the government should get out of marriage altogether- for this would really help the matter. Why the hell does someone in Washington DC get to tell me who I can marry? Why does someone in Washington DC get to tell me what I can do after work in the privacy of my own home? Does this not worry you at all?
See, when the welfare state and warfare state grow- so does the governments’ involvement in your personal life. The recent smoking ban in public places here in Idaho is proof of this. Follow this logic with me folks. There are cigarette shops here in town that caters exclusively to smokers- they just sell cigarettes- that’s it. They use to have a sign that said ‘SF- Smoker Friendly’ meaning that you could go in with a lit cigarette to purchase even more cigarettes and that is now banned. They banned smoking from a store that only sells cigarettes. There are even proposed bans on those electronic cigarettes that only emit a light water vapor when exhaled. As far as this is concerned, the business owners should decide for themselves what are the appropriate policies- not fascist special interest groups nor any government.
This is incorporating private property rights, individual liberty, and personal responsibility- all things Ron Paul has championed and all other candidates have ignored. Sure, they want to get rid of Obamacare because that’s just ‘too much government’ but a man and a man becoming one is just not acceptable. The level of selective ‘freedom-fighting’ is appalling at minimum and blatantly ideological at one minute’s reflection.
Both the neo-liberals and the neo-conservatives want to run your life one way or another. Tell you what to believe in, who to love, what to enjoy, how to spend your money, what school your kid goes to, which doctor you should see, what enemy (real or fictional) you should hate, and on and on. Frankly, I’m sick of it. I want all the ‘do-gooder’ hypocritical politicians to just leave office and go picket outside a huka (sp?) bar or something. Go throw water at people wearing Birkenstocks. I won’t post it here, but for those who doubt the extent that politicians want to control your life and think that the pursuit of happiness is a farce- right on youtube is an interview with Rick Santorum entitled ‘the pursuit of happiness is destroying America’- and he says exactly that. He argues for a social homogeny that mirrors a lab filled with white mice. Wake up people…for once you give them a foot, they will tell you what shoe to wear. Ron Paul 2012!!!!
I apologize for such a long vacation from the blogs and can think of no better way to get back into the fray then to write about my choice for president for 2012. Instead of writing a ten page diatribe incorporating foreign policy, domestic policy, monetary policy, and the like, I will focus on one at the time in order to not drown you dear reader in my silly ability to just go on and on and on. And with that- foreign policy:
By supporting Ron Paul, many things can be said. First off, we don’t need to be the policeman of the world nor do we need to destroy all that we simply don’t like. From Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders through Obama’ s use of NATO in Libya, we have spent the last 120 or so years just beating the hell out of any and everybody with little to show from it but newly formed sects of hatred while still scratching our heads as to the why. Just as Woodrow Wilson ran on a ‘no-war’ ticket, Bush Jr. ran on a ‘humble conservatism’ arguing against ‘interventionist foreign policy’ and ‘nation building’, and Obama ran against pretty much everything Bush ever did. From Obama, we went from three wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, and the overall ‘war on terror’) to even more wars (Libya, Yemen, drones in Pakistan, etc.) without much showing for ‘America’s defense.’ The mainstream status quo statists (Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, Perry) seem hell bent on stripping our liberties in the name of liberty and blowing up the Middle East and any other country in the name of protecting our way of life. Protecting our way of life, by the way, must include pseudo-molestation at the airports and the authority to kill the fourth and sixth amendment by sending American citizens to Gitmo because they are ‘suspected’ of doing wrong.
With over 900 bases in over 130 countries, it has become apparent that the wonderful movie ‘Team America’ may in fact be more and more of a reality. Some have argued that our foreign policy has been a success due to the fact that we have yet to engage in a third world war- this is demonstrably silly and for simple reasons. It was our interventionist foreign policy that took us into WW1, our need (along with England and France) to blame someone for that horrible mistake led to WWII to which then the Cold War was about the only result as we helped Stalin defeat the Nazis. However, our hubris after WWII came with a cost. Japan did in fact work as a bulwark against the communist interest in Asia and within a decade or less after WWII we have the Korean Conflict and a communist China with the Vietnam War only to follow with many chances for Nixon and Kissinger to exert more of the ‘red scare’ silliness in South America as well. The simple notion of ‘blowback’ (the unintended consequences of covert missions), which has been reiterated to jingoist ears by Ron Paul is indicative of what we are living through now. Many actually think that our conflict with Iran began in 79’ with those nutty Ayatollahs coming to power- this is demonstrably false. Our conflict with Iran began in 53’ when we in fact overthrew a democratically elected leader. We actually think that Castro was just a radical who hated….whatever or that Hugo Chavez is nuts. These are leaders, Castro for example, who lived under a military dictatorship installed by the US who destroyed any sort of democracy that Cuba at one point had. Let me state emphatically that Castro is a terrible leader- but that’s not in question. The question is how do these people rise? Ayatollah’s, Castro’s, Mao’s, and Kim Ill Sun’s?
This isn’t ‘blaming America’ or ‘America-bashing’ but simply an attempt to put our current situation in context. As Ann Coulter famously said at a recent CPAC meeting, regarding the answer to be ‘bombs,’ one must stop and just wonder what the hell is wrong with her. Now, you diehard neo-conservatives who scream ‘no appeasement, not another Chamberlin….’ stop being silly, for your insistence on Ron Paul being an ‘isolationist’ is absurd for based off your normative view of America’s foreign policy Canada is an isolationist country….would you make that claim?
Now, under the Constitution, the President is the Commander in Chief, yet it is Congress who declares war which is something mainstream politicians seem to forget. Sure, let’s stay in Vietnam for 15+years, let’s stay in Iraq for 100 years as John McCain famously said during the 2008 election and let’s use NATO (US providing overwhelming amount of technology, logistics, and finances) to invade Libya. Ron Paul, being the self-described Constitutionalist, seems to be the only one who really understands it at all as Mitt Romney recently pointed out in the last debate. It is so interesting to hear warmongering neoconservatives and hypocritical liberals quote the Constitution in speeches while crawling for every vote and book sell they can but when questioned on problematic legislation (Patriot Act, NDAA, etc.) they act like the Constitution was a mere bar napkin of suggestions to be enforced only during times of peace and since the founders didn’t have the internet, cell phones, or nuclear technology- this document is kind of a fun to read in a high school US History class.
The founders knew that time would advance along with standards of living, etc. for these were people who really read history, from Cicero through the England revolution of 1648- which is why they allowed a way to add on to the Constitution- which is still readily ignored by both sides on a continual basis.
I am not a utopian wearing Birkenstocks waving a peace sign but I am not a jingoist who thinks that war is the solution because the last 100 yrs of history has proved otherwise when looked at from a perspective of fluid history- not a frozen period of time (i.e. what about Hitler?). Ron Paul who not only served his country honorably (unlike Newt the draft deferment candidate) but understands the rudimentary laws of geo-politics (contrary to Bush Jr. who never left the US before becoming President) and the Constitution (contrary to Obama who defended the NDAA in Liberty Hall where our Constitution lays), has the only conscionable policies to take us from constant war and the constant need to police the world.
Be it the Christian heaven or Plato’s Forms, the idea of a dualism has a long history. The dichotomy between the apparent world (earth, empirically demonstrable, etc.) and the real world (Augustine’s ‘City of God’, Plato’s ‘Forms,’ Christian ‘heaven,’ etc.) have found quite a following among our species. Yet, one must keep in mind that many of these formulations came at a time in which either science and/or psychology was in infancy.
I have discussed the effects that certain religious doctrines can have on its most devout proponents, but what about just the notion of the ‘other-worldly’? As Nietzsche points out as early in his 1868 critique of Schopenhauer, one must marvel at the fact that the conceptions of an ‘other world,’ or ‘real world’ came out of simple negative deduction. Simply stated, enough time on this planet one simply sees the process of ‘Becoming’- this continual Heraclitean flux of change, life, death, growth, decay, etc. which intelligent people simply created a realm of the inverse of the aforementioned realities. These postulates came at a time in which man couldn’t explain a rainbow, prayed to numerous gods to help with the upcoming harvest, saw such conditions as we now know as epilepsy as a form of demon control.
In a world of constant turmoil, war, fluctuations in socioeconomic concerns with little laws of say…economics or of the physical sciences; the idea of an after-life or of at least denigrating this world, this life; as something other than the real world became an effective defense mechanism. Either one was deserving of the punishment offered by the natural world (think of the ancient Jews’ view on divine punishment), or this world being seen as a test in which those who perform/believe successfully shall be rewarded in a realm filled with the inverses of all the horror this world perpetuates, or if not that- then that this world is of error- in the Platonic sense; in which our senses deceive us and all we sense are crude derivations of the pure which our minds should constantly be aiming to understand.
One mustn’t search far for examples of this in literature, philosophy, and religion. Be it St. Augustine’s ‘City of God’ in which the metaphysical dualism of Plato is coupled with the teachings of the Bible, or the numerous theodicies that culminate in Hegel’s notion of the ‘Absolute.’ It is undeniable, albeit careful contemplation, that the notion that all of one’s turmoils shall eventually be compensated for serves as a powerful form of coping…with the threat of a debilitating psychosis.
The psychosis previously mentioned is not an attack but merely the results of a psychological coping mechanism that isn’t based in reality at all, in fact, it rejects reality. The obsession with the after life, the fear of eternal damnation or any number of theoretical punishments threatening us post-flat-line creates a wall between experiencing the world ‘as-is’ and seeing it merely as a formality for the faithful.
The notions of a ‘real world’ separated from this world is senseless both in the epistemological sense- since we can’t ever use our senses to discern it’s actual characteristics, and senseless in the evaluative sense. The latter judgment simply stems from the psychological implications mentioned earlier. Religions and certain philosophical systems have, in one way or another, attempted to blind themselves from both reality and all that makes man significant. Between the absolute prohibitions which with a bit of reflection would serve as a capital example of the impracticality of such systems, to the emphasis of the other-worldly while routinely rejecting this world through categories such as ‘secularism, illusory, sinful,’ etc. it becomes quite apparent that perhaps the evolution of dualistic metaphysics have in fact created the psychosis alluded to earlier.
In the illusory realm of partisan politics we continually find a predictable phenomenon. The left routinely bashes corporations, wall street, and the super wealthy. The right routinely bashes the government; from entitlement programs to its continual growth and expansion. The Tea Party serves as a paradigm of the right- for them, history began with Obama, the problem began with Obama. Now, it seems that the OWS protests are filled with nothing but the youthful agitators of the left. The media presented the Tea Party members as redneck fundamentalists fully armed while the OWS are being portrayed as loony socialists who are delusional, if not in fact criminal. Recently, the likes of Hermain Cain and Rudy Guliani have weighed in with what amounts to ‘screw them, get a job, quit complaining.’ I’m here to respond from a perspective that isn’t offered on mainstream media or the goofball political pundits.
First off, from what I’ve been told, the OWS protesters are blaming the receivers of the money, not the senders of the money; demonstrating some level of misdirection on the part of the protesters. Well, this is the first fallacy. To present Wall Street as mere receivers of the Leviathan’s generous intentions is to wear a cloak of naivety made of iron. It has recently been noted that President Obama has been the largest recipient of Wall Street money in US history. Now, it should be noted that Wall Street has been throwing money at Presidential candidates and the victors for quite some time. Let’s not forget that there are approximately 70 lobbyists for each congressmen and I don’t think the lobbyists are representing TCBY or Pizza Hut.
The point I am trying to make is that there is no differing between the receivers and the senders of this garbage. Wall Street, corporations, the government, and other institutions of influence are so meshed together; so complete with a state of the art revolving door that it is hard to really find one of the aforementioned institutions solely to bear all responsibility. Think of all the federal regulatory committees that exist and look at the members filling the slots; then correlate their resumes with their previous employment at the corporations they are now regulating. Aren’t you a bit distressed, to say the least, that food companies don’t have to disclose the origins of their food or that they don’t have to label if the food has been genetically modified at all? Well, how has this massive industry done this so successfully- denying millions of concerned citizens the information to make a responsible choice? Perhaps because the members of the FDA are cronies from the corporations that they are now regulating. This just serves as one example of the meshing of institutions- does one protest the FDA or the corporations? Who do we blame? Honestly, you might as well spin a roulette wheel and realize that the exposure of one will only beg the attention of the next.
The point is is that we must understand that the problem isn’t just the government, it isn’t just the corporations, it’s not just Wall Street. The state capitalism or ‘free-market socialism’ as Hayek referred to it, encourages this exact situation we as Americans find ourselves in. I support the OWS protests as they are at least attacking one leg of this corrupt system.
The lives of the Founding Fathers is of extreme interest to many people..as they should be. The intellectual powerhouse of some of these figures is absolutely astonishing. The contested issue that continually arises is that of the religious beliefs of these figures. The top contenders reign from devout Christian, deist, agnostic, to a soft version of Christianity known as Unitarianism. The historical research continues…but that is not what this is about dear readers. This is about the insistence that from this historical research and our ‘heritage’ that we are in fact a ‘Christian Nation,’ and by the title of this piece, the merit I give to such a notion shall be adequately elucidated.
From a moderate fideistic viewpoint…the notion of a Christian nation becomes a bit problematic. If a relationship with Jesus Christ is predicated on a subjective acceptance of the teachings and divinity of Christ; how does a nation or a government or a group of people reach this place? Now, even going back to the Founders themselves- it is hard to find a real consensus on exactly what type of Christianity is paradigmatic of our nation. We had devout Christians, unitarians, deists, and those who had no real problem with faith but lambasted religion continually (ref. Thomas Paine’s ‘Age of Reason’ for a proper example). The Founders even implemented certain religious practices in government- Madison encouraging that each Senate meeting begins with prayer for example. However, what is a Christian nation exactly? It can’t be simply the based of the majority of a nation’s citizens all believing in the same thing- there are over 34,000 denominations of Christianity- many of which have diametrically opposed views on important issues. Could it be because there is the use of the word ‘Creator’ in our Declaration of Independence or because they dated their works and correspondences with ‘Year of our Lord’? This is quite silly.
In the GOP debates recently we have been hearing from the likes of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich the importance of faith in being a leader, the role that faith must play in the betterment of society. I can even still remember the roar of applause when George W. Bush told audiences how he was a ‘born again Christian’ and in response to seeking advice in Iraq from his father…replied that he had a higher father that he appealed to. In essence, we are seeing the beginnings of legislating faith as an optimum societal necessity. However, as referenced earlier, it was this same Madison who wrote that there should be ‘no religious litmus test to hold any position in government.’ Every politician we come across these days has to profess to being a faith-holding member of this Christian nation. Polls after polls have indicated that people are more likely to vote for a Muslim, Buddhist, or a Mormon than an agnostic/atheist. Are we really living in the 16th century?
Christianity as a faith…or as more commonly described by its many devotees; Christianity as a ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ can’t be a national phenomenon; unless by irrelevant coincidence of such an extreme homogeneous nature. One doesn’t need to go back too far in history to find Christian nations at work. Ironically enough it was these nations that first introduced European slavery, genocide, Jewish ghettos, and many other wonderful things- showing that being a so-called Christian nation says nothing about actually following any core principles…just merely the facade of such things; just as it applies to this country.
There are many wonderful Christian people in this country, in this world in fact- but that is exactly the point…it’s individuals that can be or not be a Christian. There are no Christian nations for collective salvation does not exist…nor is there any hope for a consensus in doctrine of Christian faith.
The lives of the Founding Fathers is extremely fascinating and so is studying the history of religion…but this is for historical research and appreciation…not for legislating some illusory notion as a collective Christianity.
Forty thousand in Libya, tens of thousands in South America, a million plus in Iraq, thousands upon thousands between Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan, two million between Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, a million in East Timor, and on and on. These events are not classified under ‘military defense’ but military offense, interventionist foreign policy, policing the world, economic terrorism, and empire building. This piece is in response to the difficulty in judging the horrible events that occurred in My Lai during the Vietnam War after viewing some grotesque images and listening to testimony from the participants and witnesses.
At first, I was ready to condemn the US soldiers who undoubtedly committed not just a war crime but if anything… a crime against humanity. Over 500 Vietnamese in one village were shot- women, children, men- all of whom were civilians (it was shortly found out later that the enemy that Charlie Company were pursuing were clear across the country). The images that were released to the press which are still available looked like a shoddy attempt at a post-Holocaust copycat. Revulsion and rage, if only 40yrs after the fact, came shooting through my veins as I saw what ‘we’ had done. Yet, a dear friend reminded me of the fact that many of the troops had lost friends, were constantly being blown to shit by mines- as one soldier put it, looking back- ‘we were fighting an enemy we couldn’t even see, couldn’t anticipate, couldn’t defend against.’ Vietnam still remains to this day the most heavily mined country in the world. Recalling this horrific testimony along with vivid recollections of fellow soldiers being decapitated on a daily basis forced me to put things into perspective…
As of now, the suicide rate amongst US personnel serving in the Middle East is at an all time high (rarely reported in the mainstream media), we can easily recall the events at Gitmo where detainees (not terrorists, there haven’t been any charges filed mind you) were not just humiliated but tortured, and in almost all wars there are such events. Hell, after WWII, the British were using captured Nazi soldiers for forced labor so this isn’t a cultural phenomenon of any kind; yet perhaps a common denominator does exist- war.
The Founding Fathers didn’t want tangling alliances, didn’t want a standing army, and wanted several levels of discussion before just rushing off to war. In the Constitution it discusses the government’s role in DEFENDING our country from foreign invaders. Yet, we don’t fight wars to defend ourselves anymore. We don’t overthrow democracies for the protection of our own citizens. We don’t carpet bomb third world indefensible countries because of a threat (direct/indirect) to America. The effects of war seem to be pretty obvious- excluding sociopaths who successfully enlist.
It is for this reason that war needs to be a form of defense, not offense or for some sort of idealistic ethnocentric form of empire building. To supply an example of this…one only need to look at 9/11- what was our reaction to that tragic event? We cried, screamed, questioned, searched for answers, build monuments, blasted our cars with bumper stickers and flags, boycotted the French and changed a few food names to suit the situation. Well, there is another 9/11 which is never discussed in history class or recalled on the news- the 9/11 in Chile. This 9/11 was the overthrow of the democratically elected leader Salvador Allende which brought in the military thug rule of Pinochet. Now, the CIA, being directed by Nixon and Kissinger carried out this attack; killing roughly 3000 people. Here is a country minding its own business with a democratically elected president who up to the point of the coup did nothing but pass some FDR like policies- mainly in agrarian reform. Well, the point of this is not to trivialize the events of the US 9/11, but to encourage a step back and realize that we have done similar things in other countries…more than once. Now, we have done this same thing in Iran, Guatemala, Panama, Cuba, Iraq, Egypt, and many other countries. To think that we are always the benevolent ones and that it is the other countries that are filled with extremists, filled with radical warlike leaders, filled with dogmatic dreams of destruction….think again. Many people around the world are just like us…living in a country with shitty leaders.
People don’t hate us because we let women drive cars, because we have McDonalds, or because we live in a Republic with many freedoms. The people who hate us hate us for what we have done to them. Sure, there is some who simply hate the one ‘on top,’ but this is the exception.
For all you mainstream politicos who want to scream at me ‘oh, the blame America first argument!’- This is a silly fallacy barely worth addressing, but with a new cup of coffee in hand…I’ll humor the notion. I live in America; I am an American- plain and simple. Sure, I could scream and rant about the human rights abuses in China- what is that going to do? You and I will agree that China treats people pretty horrible and then go grab a beer. However, in this country, we get to vote (grimace), we get to talk to people here in this country that can also contribute to a change in the system. We have easier access to the local press, local officials, etc. China may treat its citizens poorly, but as an American I am going to address the country I am a part of. This is not to say of course that America is evil, horrible, always in the wrong at every turn- this is the argument used against criticizing America from a national perspective instead of just a bi-partisan perspective.
In the end folks, we can look at the policies of this country from a global perspective and realize that there are consequences for our actions (the CIA has discussed the concept of ‘blowback’ numerous times- look it up) and it is not our ‘benevolence’ that creates the hatred.
With the last few blogs being politically oriented, I feel I should perhaps take a step back and attempt to elucidate the origins of the major political ideologies from the standpoint of a simple transference of theories on human nature itself.
As stated in an earlier blog, the negligible difference between the right and the left come down to simple picking and choosing of positive and negative freedoms. These selections come from a much more basic premise, usually established early in one’s life through religion, education, and personal experiences- namely, the view of humans as a whole.
So to take the right/conservative/republican position is to state that individual citizens are too ignorant/stupid/sinful to decide moral conflicts on their own. Who to marry, what substances to put in your body, a woman’s reproductive rights, euthanasia, and others serve as moral conflicts which the right routinely states through its legislation and speeches that individual citizens are just too damn stupid and need to be instructed like a child.
With the left, it is quite similar but it covers different areas. So, for example, which school your child goes to….you’re too stupid to choose that unless you are rich enough to take them out of our abysmal public school system. How to save for your retirement, which foods you and your children should eat, and many other issues form the basis of the left’s insistence that you the individual are just too damn dumb to figure this out.
If one were to combine these two seemingly negative views into human nature…one might find something akin to Lenin’s insistence on a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ or the ‘vanguard proletariat.’ When the Russian Revolution was going under way and Lenin was about to return from Switzerland to overtake the provisional government, the methods of the revolution were made plain. The citizens are too stupid so along with the period of what Marx called ‘raw communism’ (violent adjustment period which Lenin began and Stalin perfected) there would have to be massive indoctrination, strict adherence to Lenin’s interpretation of Marxist ideology, and many other things. Lenin believed that with enough generations being fed the same meal, eventually the proletariat would become intelligent enough to fully realize the ‘workers paradise.’
As the quote from Hayek which began my blog on moral exhibitionism states, there are people who feel that from their tradition, their ideals, their notions of right/wrong, or even just their privileged status- they feel that all should live under their enlightened vision for social cohesion and mass uniformity. I find myself in the libertarian/anarchist ideology which from the outset must state as a theory of human nature that humans are basically rational (not good or bad mind you) but are able to pursue their own lives with little interference. Sure, there are going to be screw ups, there are going to be cracks. However, the government, advertising, religion, and other institutions of power don’t set their sights on the cracks and the screw ups- they include everyone into their paradigmatic vision.
In the end, my dear readers, the left and the right start from a pessimistic view of the human individual and it is through the media that group mentality is perpetuated and thus we are more easily controlled and shuffled from one end of the spectrum to the other. If you think humans are basically bad, sinful, stupid, etc. then you would love the writings of Thomas Hobbes and Vladimir Lenin. If you think humans are free and are basically rational creatures that left to their own devices usually do good- then you would enjoy the writings of the existentialists, John Stuart Mill, libertarians, and anarchists. But try one day to mentally list your honest political beliefs as far as government involvement in individual’s lives and then translate that into your theory of human nature- it may very well shock you. For many, being a misanthropic humanist is not a contradiction or even a paradox….it just takes a couple of celebrity magazines staring at you in a book store to create.
‘In the last resort, the conservative position rests on the belief that in any society there are recognizably superior persons whose inherited standards and values and position ought to be protected and who should have a greater influence on public affairs than others.’—F.A. Hayek’s ‘Why I am not a Conservative.’
Feeding off the rage from typing the last piece on illusory bi-partisan politics, I feel I should elucidate a fundamental problem that is eroding this country from the inside- moral exhibitionism.
From gay marriage to drug policy, the conservative position has been one of archaically justified barriers. One must revel in the paradox that the conservative is the champion of the second amendment which grants individuals the right to keep and bare arms, meanwhile, to consume a natural plant in the privacy of one’s own home is just too terrible to imagine. This latter point becomes even more explicit when you consider the importance that conservatives give to the notion of ‘private property.’ Now, to really drive this point home I’ll provide an example. Just this last Friday I purchased yet another commentary book on the 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and upon buying it and taking it home I could read it, burn it, cook it, urinate on it, throw it up against the wall, mark all over it with any number of colorful ‘tools.’ The reason for this is that it has become my private property. With the conservative position, this simply won’t do. They mean to tell me that I can own my own land, keep and maintain dangerous weapons, but to, for example, partake of a substance which grows naturally on this planet in the privacy of my home is just too absurd a notion to even consider.
I have already touched on the translation problem in the Old Testament where ‘homosexuality’ is condemned but let’s examine the subject a bit further. Now, even though liberal democrats don’t seem too eager to help, the conservative actually insists on using pseudo-scientific terms from the 70’s when discussing homosexuality- ‘pathological,’ and a ‘behavioral disorder’ usually come to mind. Thus, such brainwashing fascist camps such as Exodus sprout all over the country. Without any scientific/medical research, these groups and other imbeciles truly believe that homosexuality can be ‘cured’- which is obviously implying that it is a fault to begin with. What’s even more interesting is that it is almost routine from the right that homosexuality is interpreted as a choice….yet, who in their right mind would ‘choose’ to be so ‘sick’? Now, for it to be a choice to begin with, this is going to imply moral agency, yet, we find homosexuality in the animal kingdom where there is no real moral agency- this paradox remains unaddressed.
Nonetheless, the argument provided in favor of moral exhibitionism comes from a blurring of individual freedoms and social cohesion. In response to being able to partake of any number of activities in the privacy of my house, the reply that comes includes the necessity of having stop signs and cross walks and enforcing the adherence to what purpose they serve. Yet again, conservatives miss the point. When John Stuart Mill pinpoints freedom lying in the ability to do what one wants as long as he/she isn’t harming somebody else or infringing on their liberty- this does not include a stop sign or a traffic light.
In fact, in many respects, our current legal system illustrates this distinction. For example, I am perfectly able to have sex, masturbate, drink alcohol, etc. in the privacy of my home- yet, I can’t do any of these activities in a public park….and there is a reason for this which should not need explaining.
Whether the conservative wants to cite religion or traditionalism (which is going to be rooted in religion), the justification in legislating morality is nothing but a bullying tactic for uniformity. That is to say that there is nothing wrong with being religious for example- but to objectify one’s subjective belief and subject all to its rules is akin to practices in today’s Iran. A further example of the aforementioned distinction may help to illustrate the notion of individual freedom vs. social cohesion. I have quite visible tattoos and many may not like their depictions or not like tattoos in general- and this is fine for in a free society there are going to be things one view which is disagreeable to one’s own morals. I, in fact, hate reality television and sure, sometimes I imagine being the ruler and outlawing them and sending the participants to a secluded island where they can ‘act’ in ‘reality,’ but why should others live to my whims? Sure, these and other shows perpetuate stupidity and trends, but if I want to have my tattoos then it seems that there are going to be things that I don’t personally agree with but in the end, they don’t really ‘hurt’ anyone, no one is forcing me to watch them, the participants and viewers are voluntary, etc.
Moral exhibitionism is the antithesis of a free society, the antithesis of democracy, and the absolute antithesis to any sort of enlightenment, cultural understanding. In fact, it is moral exhibitionism that encourages all sorts of prejudices and stereotype loathing.