I’m reading “Idiot America” by Charles P. Pierce. Pierce is a journalist who claims he reached the breaking point when he saw dinosaurs with saddles at the Creation Museum.
I’ve only gotten through the first two and a half chapters or so but already Pierce has triggered something that has been rattling around in my brain for a while now.
The founding fathers really had no idea how the government they were creating was going to develop. It’s familiar to us now but back then it was a radical experiment built loosely upon the principles of the Enlightenment.
By no stretch of the imagination was it built upon “Christian Principles” although to a great extent it is difficult to ever separate western civilization from the moral foundations of Christianity. Still, men like Madison and Jefferson would have been horrified at the idea that they were creating a Christian Nation.
What they were creating was an environment in which ideas, even totally crackpot ideas, were free to be expressed, developed and even possibly to acquire a following. Consider Mormonism and McCarthyism for example.
About the last thing Christianity wants is an environment where new and radical ideas can be expressed and explored.
The danger of course is things going completely off the hinges if there aren’t sufficient safeguards to prevent it.
Allow me to suggest that somehow the “many safety valves” that Madison thought sufficient in a letter to Lafayette to be a “relief against the infirmities from which the best of human Institutions cannot be exempt” appear to have failed.
Congress has degraded into a strictly partisan affair. The welfare of the country is irrelevant. Politics have become paramount. The Republican obstructionism on health care is the perfect example. Rather than working to resolve problems and deliver badly needed reform, they appear to be simply interested in preventing anything from being accomplished. Apparently the 30 million Americans without health insurance can just go to hell for all they care.
The press is tied up in the absurdity of insuring “balanced reporting.” They have forgotten that not all sides of an issue are equal. Some sides are just total nonsense. In the interest of this misguided notion of “balanced reporting” they have abdicated their responsibility to help keep the electorate informed and they have allowed propaganda machines masquerading as journalism (Fox News? Who said Fox News?) to be far more effective than they should be.
Even the Supreme Court appears to be more interested in politics than law and justice. Just consider the farce of Bush v. Gore and the idiotic positions often expressed and taken by Scalia and Thomas.
I suspect Madison assumed that the Intellectual Elite would keep things from getting out of hand. The problem is that the Intellectual Elite is no longer in control. When we politely, and seriously, consider the ramblings of people like Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson and Glenn Beck instead of laughing in their faces and telling them to STFU, something has gone terribly wrong.
Yes, they are entitled to their opinion and they are entitled to express that opinion. However, the rest of us are most certainly NOT required to treat those opinions with respect when they are total crap nor are we obligated not to flat out criticize them as total crap. Politeness and “balanced reporting” be damned. All opinions are NOT equal. All ideas are NOT equal. Assholes are entitled to their own opinions but they not entitled to their own facts; they are NOT entitled to deference; they are NOT entitled to respect.
Pierce points out the idiocy of a Zogby poll in August 2004 that discovered that 57% of the undecided voters would rather have a beer with George Bush than John Kerry. As Pierce points out not only was that an inappropriate questions for a nation of serious citizens it was even an inappropriate question for a nation of drunkards.
Do we really want our drinking buddies in the White House? Apparently the Sarah Palin supporters are thinking along those lines when they say "oh, she's just like us, that's why we support her."
You will excuse me, but personally I'd like someone a lot more intelligent, a lot better educated and a lot more even tempered than me as President and I'm a hell of a lot more intelligent and better educated than the yokels showing up for Palin's book tour.
I’m not terribly optimistic about the future of this country. I’m not even certain it can maintain its cohesion through the remainder of the century. I probably won’t live to see the disintegration of the American Republic but it may well be an issue for my children.