Unspun Logo

Thou Shalt Pick Thy Battles Carefully

Posted by Rick · March 2nd, 2005 · 2 Comments

I’ve mentioned doing a follow up article to my post from the other day entitled “The New Fascism” and I will. Unfortunately, the thought and time it will require forces me to await a weekend when I (hopefully) will have a few hours to devote to writing it.

For now, I want to talk about a case that goes before the Supreme Court this morning. I’ll be writing for my fellow liberals here. I suggest the rest of you — American troglodytes — go somewhere else, because you will neither like nor be able to comprehend what I have to say. And since you won’t bother to try to comprehend — even if you were capable of doing so — why even read it? Besides, some of the sentences, like the post itself, will be a little too long for you and there are lots of polysyllabic words.

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, populated by conservative Christian “judges,” will tackle the “thorny” problem of whether or not the government can create public displays of the Ten Commandments.

It’s difficult to know what to say about this, because I have a sense that this is a critically-important question in what is increasingly an outright war over the Constitution and whether we, as a nation, will continue to support it, or turn our back on it. However, at the same time, it feels like the wrong battle, handled the wrong way and, more importantly, the wrong time. And like the inappropriately-timed gay marriage issue that probably made it a little easier for Bush to steal the election (because it made the numbers close enough that voting machine fraud was subtle; it’s not like he stole an election that clearly favored the Democratic candidate), this one is being pushed before a Supreme Court — and a public — not intellectually ready to consider it.

For the record, I support the idea that gays should have the same rights as everyone else. In fact, I believe if the Constitution were understood and supported, there would be no real question about whether or not gays could enter into marriage contracts. Under the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution, or by invoking constitutionally-based privacy rights, or by simply looking to the preamble of the Constitution, we would not even question this right.

Unfortunately, social studies is no longer taught in school. Contemporary Americans have no sense of the Constitution. The core concepts of that document are not only misunderstood; to most Americans, they’re unknown and undesirable.

The Constitution of the United States is an anti-majoritarian document. The very purpose of the Constitution is to protect unpopular minority views from the majority. If everyone would just “go with the flow” of the majority, there would be absolutely no need for the protections embodied in the Constitution. Unfortunately, Americans not only don’t understand this; they don’t understand why it’s important. Many have grown up to believe that the core requirement of a democracy is that “the majority rules.” The rationale for protecting unpopular ideas held by “fringe groups” is just not part of their mental repertoire.

When you think about it, that’s rather ironic. The group currently in power was once considered fringe. Christian fundamentalists have battled vociferously throughout our nation’s history — becoming shrilly vocal in the last few decades. If not for the Constitution, their hateful bigoted ideals would have been squelched long ago. Instead, they now have slavish adherents, or at least people willing to pander to them, in every major office of the U.S. government. What a change adherence to the Constitution hath wrought. Ironic that endorsement of the Constitution should eventually result in the destruction of the Constitution, isn’t it?

At any rate, what America needs right now is to regain an understanding of the importance of core constitutional principles. It’s vital to us that we remember why the Founders would have written a document that would tie their own hands — and ours — on certain issues. Why did they write things like “Congress shall make no law [none, nada, zip] respecting an establishment of religion”? Why did American legislators impair our ability to easily and quickly deal with the criminal element in our society with (at least) the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th — and later the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution?

If it’s right to say “majority rules,” why create a document that doesn’t allow that on every issue?

Unfortunately, these important questions almost never get discussed. When they do, it’s only in passing, by liberal fruitcakes like myself, to whom few (except those who already agree) ever listen. “We” liberals talk about such things only in attempting to push other important agendas, like stopping governmental funding of Christian proselytizing efforts, or trying to achieve equality for various minority groups (lately homosexuals).

While these are noble goals, they’re doomed to failure in a conservative society that is afraid that merely allowing people to choose whether or not — freely — to accept the promise of John 3:16 is insufficient. It will never work in a world where heterosexuals who want to marry other heterosexuals know that their entire world will collapse if a homosexual marries another homosexual and — damn the Constitution — G-d therefore says they cannot allow it. So long as “christians” believe that free will was a mistake and that they can correct it in G-d’s name (but, significantly, contrary to “his” stated will), the anti-majoritarianism of the Constitution is anathema.

Progressive ideas are impossible in a country populated by unchecked troglodytes.

It’s for this reason that I think liberals need to focus. Our efforts should be geared not towards the limited purposes of fighting this or that particular battle, but on winning the war. What is at risk, unfortunately, is much more than whether a government building contains a Christian symbol on the wall. Given that the United States isn’t really Christian anyway, these are just empty idols to keep the troglodytes happy. America risks much more than homosexuals unable to exercise the same freedoms as heterosexuals. What’s endangered is freedom. What’s already lost is an appreciation of how the Constitution makes possible, endorses and supports freedom.

Until we re-educate people as to the purposes underlying the Constitution, our attempts to push the specifics will — yes, I know you hate it, but it’s true; they will — fail.

As a start, I propose that more liberal bloggers turn to discussing these core principles. For the moment, forget about trying to explain why it’s wrong to put crosses or other idols for the troglodytes in public places. Stop trying to convince unthinking heterosexuals who fear that allowing homosexuals their rights will result in their children growing up to be buttfuckers that gay marriage is as much a right as heterosexual marriage.

Because right now, we’re fighting the wrong battles. We’re trying to win arguments that depend on an intellectual understanding the troglodytes no longer have. Their hearts have hardened into tablets of stone carrying rules they worship but don’t live. Stone hearts don’t pump lifeblood to the ears, much less the brain; intellectual arguments fall on barren ground.

It’s important to start educating people as to the benefits of allowing anti-majoritarian ideas to have a voice — as they always have in the past — in America.

For, among other things, good ideas cannot be understood until they can be heard. As long as all our energy goes into taking away their symbols, there’s no chance they’ll hear the constitutional Liberty Bell however much it peals forgotten core principles.

Categories: Religion


2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Malnurtured Snay // Mar 2, 2005 at 12:16 pm

    Thou Shalt Pick Thy Battles Carefully

    Rick is: a) Snarky b) A Good Writer c) Unspun d) All of the Above The correct answer is D. Now, now … keep reading. The Constitution of the United States is an anti-majoritarian document. The very purpose of the…

  • 2 Steve // Mar 2, 2005 at 1:24 pm

    I have just a couple comments on what you’ve written, Rick, beginning with the notice below that announces this topic will be embraced by the next debate. I find that encouraging:

    The Next Great Fresno-Oxford debate will be on Wednesday, April 6 from 7 -9:30 p.m. The motion before the house is: “The Wall between Church and State should be torn down”.

    If you or you know anyone else who would consider speaking for or against this motion, please contact Vincent Lavery at 486-5422.

    Ultimately, what could be clearer that we need to educate about the core principles of the Constitution, arising as they did out of the Romantic era, and purposefully, in light of a sordid past of kings, ruthlessness, rampant domination and individual abuse, very purposefully, set their sights on freedom, humanism, if you will, and individual empowerment.

    Rousseau, I think, called these the Rights of Man.

    Can the conservative champions of that piece of paper be educated such that they see the document as three-dimensional, alive, and protecting against those historical evils? I do not know. There’s something that seems to attract conservatives to literalism, two-dimensionality, and, frankly, superficiality.

    But, I agree we must try. After all, life would lose its purpose if we did not. 🙂

    But, I also believe it often takes an issue, a current need, to bring attention and the rote education we would seek to impart — to the fore.

    I have no problem with current efforts cited above. You never know, you know; the Supremes just voted down the death penalty for minors. There may be some civilization yet left in them.


Leave a Comment