Archive for Tea Party
(The following commentary is part of a weekly series called “Reflections” by John Mill. John is a noted free thought advocate and broadcaster. His series airs on my American Heathen® internet radio show. Air date of this particular segment: 03/11/11)
What just played out in Wisconsin, and may soon be echoed across the United States, is a valuable lesson in what is wrong with American politics and what is right with America.
This is John Mill and if you’ve been watching the slow-motion evisceration of the middle class as played out just recently in the Wisconsin legislature, where a Republican governor and his ditto-heads in the state house used the power of the law to take away the right of workers to bargain as a group, you’re seeing not just a microcosm of the gradual disenfranchisement of the American people under corporate power masquerading as popular power, but a pretty good parable of religion being a divider rather than a uniter.
One Nation Under God, anyone?
I’ve always despised the motto, and not just because it excludes me. I always preferred E Pluribus Unum, the Latin dictum on the Seal of the United States that means “Out of many, one.” Which do you think should be the motto of a nation? While never made the law of the land, until overturned in 1956 by a law designating its divisive successor, the Latin motto gave us something to believe in – as a nation.
But are we a nation? Filmmaker Michael Moore brought up that point when he addressed the crowd at a rally in Wisconsin last Saturday: if we disrespect the commons, if we care more for corporate welfare than the welfare of the people, how are we to “provide an outstanding educational system that then grows a new generation of inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and thinkers who come up with the next great idea”?
Maybe it’s time we had a little class warfare. It’s time we attacked welfare for the rich instead of welfare for the poor. Sure, you might be rich someday. And that’s why many of our politicians want you to vote for the party that protects the rich man or woman that you might be some day. But in the meantime, they’re taking away the very foundation, the shared foundation, poisoning the seed corn of the next generation.
What does “The United States of America” really mean?
We know what divides us. What unites us? If we’re all just independent contractors, with nothing to make us a whole people, then what’s the point in having a nation?
This is where the entire Tea Party argument falls flat: if we share no responsibility for the commons, and for the welfare of our fellow citizens, then there is truly no point in having a nation.
This is where religion divides us rather than uniting us: if we are really “One Nation Under God” instead of “E Pluribus Unum,” then we are a nation in name only, because we will be loyal first to 40,000 different versions of God, and only second to the “one” that comes of “many.”
So which is it, America?
“A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation.”
Politicians are great at dividing us: they will define a problem, fill us with fear of it, then tell us who to blame for it. A statesman will define a problem, make us understand how it affects all of us, they inspire us to solve it together. You see the difference? The politician shifts all the responsibility for our problems onto someone else. That’s a lot like religion, shifting all of our troubles onto the Big Sin Eater in the Sky. It may feel good, the way it felt good as a child when Mommy kissed it and made it better. But at some point most of us have to grow weary of being treated like a child if we’re ever going to have the self-respect which is the due of an adult.
The statesman is really concerned about the state of the state; he or she is a true leader, not a blame-shifter; an organizer of people toward a common goal, not a shepherd tending sheep; someone who creates an environment, or at least a mindset, in which the members being led feel they have something at stake that is shared by the other members, not someone who uses the members to further his own ends by setting us against each other.
Politicians do it, not by pointing us toward a common goal, but by making us fear another group for taking advantage of us individually. Religion does it, not by pointing us toward a common goal, but by pointing toward a selfish salvation in heaven. But if we truly are a nation, not under God but under Goal, we see no reason to fear and no benefit in selfishness.
The dismantling of the commons under color of “fiscal discipline” is based on a lie of our leaders: America is not broke because we ran out of money. We’re broke because we ran out of commitment to the commons, because we lost not our funds or our faith, but lost our common direction.
So which is it, America? If we choose divisiveness, demons and deities, there’s no point in having a nation. What I saw in Wisconsin was the people rallying against their misleaders: I saw, shared, American democracy!
(The following commentary is part of a weekly series called “Reflections” by John Mill. John is a noted free thought advocate and broadcaster. His series airs on my American Heathen® internet radio show. Air date of this particular segment: 03/04/11)
Let me see a show of hands: If you stand on a principle, then violate that principle, that makes you a hypocrite. How many of you are hypocrites? This is John Mill and I don’t see too many hands out there.
Now, how many of you hate to pay taxes? Ah! The hands go up. Well, not only are you all hypocrites, you’re in the company of Sarah Palin, the Cato Institute and the Tea Party, among many others. I guess you wouldn’t like paying a little more taxes to balance the budget, right? You’re probably saying, “When hell freezes over.”
OK, if you don’t like paying taxes, then here are a few things you would like to do without: paved streets or highways, traffic signals, bridges, truck stops, 911 emergency services, public hospitals, flushing your toilet, clean water, garbage collection, the court system, the police, public schools, state universities, social security, Medicare, elected officials, national parks and the wildlife in them, assistance in a natural disaster, safe food, safe drugs, safe buildings, weather reports, patents, copyrights, clear radio and TV stations, US currency, the Internet, laws against murder, theft, etc., prisons, a passport, a US embassy, insured deposits at your bank, museums and libraries, buses and subways, air traffic control, and zoning laws to keep a gas station from being built next to your house or a gun range next to a playground.
Like most of us, when we pay our taxes, we don’t get a receipt showing what we paid for with our taxes. Maybe the IRS should include a receipt with your tax refund, in case you need a reminder. But I did leave out a few important items from my list: national defense, for one. You Teabaggers should man up and pay your taxes because wars are expensive and I’d bet my house you wouldn’t pay for them if the IRS didn’t force you to. Or donate a son or daughter to fight them if they weren’t drafted. It’s easy to accept what somebody else pays for; it’s at least tolerable when “everybody” pays for what governments do.
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. famously wrote, “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” So, if you think you have rights in the USA, think about this: it costs tax dollars to defend those rights. Don’t be a hypocrite.
Now, before I go on, I have to take back something I just said: “everybody” doesn’t pay for what governments do. I mentioned this in another reflection, but there is one group that receives benefits from government, funded by tax dollars, but contributes nothing for those benefits. The churches.
In fact, your tax dollars are supporting the churches in the US. Not directly, no, but indirectly, yes. You see, just like the anti-choice zealots who want to de-fund organizations like Planned Parenthood, claiming that every tax dollar given to them frees up a dollar that can be used to provide those horrid abortion services – every dollar of tax relief for American churches is just like a dollar of support for religion from taxpayers: you are taxed more so churches can be taxed not at all.
Now I know conservatives and Christian Nationalist Republicans wail about big government and wasteful spending. They hate welfare cheats and freeloaders. They also, famously, say no government benefits and services should be unfunded – except, perhaps, stupid wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So when are they going to get the churches to stop being freeloaders pay their fair share?
Probably when hell freezes over!
This is John Mill.
(Editorial Comment from the American Heathen® radio show – Air Date 10/29/10)
On the eve of another election, so many participants and candidates claim to be fighting for the United States Constitution. And yet, as I listen and read all the rhetoric coming from each of them, I find it difficult to find evidence for this claim. Instead, I hear the trumpeting of malicious agendas squarely aimed at usurping the Constitution and the freedoms and liberties it upholds.
So, who really fights for the Constitution? Well, before I get to that it’s important to tell you what the Constitution really is. First and foremost, it is a document that created a nation following a period of enlightenment. The Founding Fathers cherished freedom, even though they themselves denied freedom to some. In their time of history, humanity had yet progressed when it came to acceptance of Blacks, Asians, Middle Easterners, Native Americans and, of course, anyone who wasn’t white. Even women were considered lesser. Indeed, our founders were less than perfect, far from tolerant, and needy in practice. But, they did know that change would come as time passed and knowledge was acquired. Indeed, the Constitution bares the scars of time and knowledge. From prohibition to civil rights, the Constitution has ebbed and flowed, but maintained its most cherished of principles, freedom. On September 17th, 1787, the last day of the Constitutional Convention, Pennsylvania delegate Ben Franklin wanted to give a speech prior to the signing of the final draft. At the time he was too weak to actually give the speech himself, he had fellow Pennsylvanian James Wilson deliver the speech. The following is as reported in Madison’s notes on the Convention.
I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said “I don’t know how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, that’s always in the right — Il n’y a que moi qui a toujours raison.”
In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us in returning to our Constituents were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects & great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength & efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress & confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administered.
On the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.
Infallibility? Indeed, we are not infallible. It is because of this that I look at the current state of our Democratic Republic, and I’m certain that passions, errors of opinion, local interests and selfish views are opening the door to despotism. The future of this country is in deep doubt as I hear the screams, hollers, taunts, lies and ideological scum that permeate every inch of society. Claims that they are defending the Constitution – made by politicians, judges and clergy – are riddled with intentional error, dripping with selfish abandon, bigotry, hatred and despotic tendency. More so than at any other time in our nation’s history, in my opinion, the word “Constitution” is being used as nothing more than a movie poster, a fanciful advertising catch phrase to draw in the ignorant and unsuspecting. So engrained into the electorate’s collective conscience the word “Constitution” is the only piece of its glorious history that truly remains. The people know nothing of what the Constitution really stands for anymore.
So, who’s really fighting for the Constitution? Those who stand for ALL people. Black, White, Brown, Red, Non-Religious, Religious, Gay, Straight, Bi-Sexual, Trans-Gendered, Women… ALL humanity in all its forms and with all its vices. The Constitution defends the rights of all, and stands firm in its conviction to defend those in the minority. It is this very ideal that gives strength to freedom and liberty. People who stand ready to fight for the rights of all are the ones who fight for the Constitution. They look carefully, choose wisely, and more importantly stand firm when despotism threatens. They do not yield, they do not waver, they do not pretend. They are true to humanity, an ideal that inspired one of the greatest documents in the world. Is it perfect? No. Is it better? Yes. Will it ever be perfect? Maybe.
To quote Franklin again…
“I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise.”
Yes, Mr. Franklin… I’m in full agreement.