Saturday, September 07, 2013

Political Football

There's a term, probably over-used and sometimes mis-used: "Political Football".

It's defined by Wikipedia as "a topic or issue that is seized on by opposing political parties or factions, and made a more political issue than it might initially seem to be," or sometimes as "a political issue that is continually debated but left unresolved" (though I'd view that as more of a 'hot potato' than a 'football').  When gangster Lucky Luciano used it, perhaps he meant it in the original sense of being kicked around helplessly.

Today, though, I realized I think of that term in a different way.

The major political parties will tell you that they represent different ideologies. It's often bandied about that Liberals want personal freedoms; Conservatives want economic freedom. And that's fine in print. But in practice it seems to be anything but true.

Take the subject of my last post for example... Syria. The reason I commented about that was that on my lengthy commute home from work, talk radio was filled with Democrats who support immediate action in Syria and question the integrity of Republicans who don't. Many of these are the SAME Democrats who opposed immediate action in Iraq when the Republicans opposed it.  Or look at domestic spying. For many Democrats, it's horrible and unconstitutional when a Republican administration does it, and just peachy when Obama does it. For Republicans it's the exact opposite.  President Obama has continued many of the exact same policies of President Bush, and many of those who were in favor are now opposed, while those who were not in favor now rally behind Obama. Even those who aren't "rallying" are conspicuously silent, as this tongue-in-cheek piece from Buzzfeed illustrates so well: 14 Principled Anti-War Celebrities We Fear May Have Been Kidnapped.

This isn't imaginary. 

It's disturbing.

And only when you look at it from a vantage point clearly anchored to principle do you see how incredibly weird it is. You see that their opinions are not formed by their ideology... but very often their ideology is formed by their opinions. Opinions that they didn't form, but which were handed to them by their teams.  Because this isn't politics, it's the fanaticism of team sports. Anything is OK so long as it advances "your team", and gets the political football over the goal line. And at halftime, you switch goals.

I receive newsletters from the DNC and the RNC. I also receive newsletters from a few of the prominent "rah-rah" groups on both sides. And they use the same rhetoric, and they all have the same calls to action. And when the Democrats suggest something that agrees with the Republican's goals, they're still opposed because their motives are attacked, and the same is true the other way 'round. Sometimes you could just change the names and not know which group wrote it.

That's not politics.

But the most disturbing part of it is that there are those willing participants, who are SO blind and SO brainwashed, with SUCH team-worship that they are unwilling to see when their side has done an about-face. And these are the people that have NO sense of humor... it's the Democrats that respond to any hint of irony or sarcasm with reflexive venom spewed about how George Bush and Dick Cheney were evil... who don't seem to notice that their whipping boys retired from politics years ago, and the mess that Obama now has is the one he inherited from himself. People who are so bloody blind that they think a constant barrage of hate speech from them might actually bring you to their side. It won't.

It's the Republicans who oppose every Democratic proposal purely because it's a Democratic proposal and furthers the "Democratic agenda" (which really doesn't have to be defined because half-time's coming soon); who cry out their defense of your "freedoms" as they seek to control your actions; who side with the Democrats on the one thing the two of them can agree on... incrementally ceding your rights, income, and control of your lives to a centralized government. In the case of Republicans, doing all of this while denying it.

My New Rules = Playing by the Old Rules.

Just about the best on-line version of the
Constitution there is. The places that are
amended are marked and linked.
So I made a decision. For me, the anchor must be the Constitution. No matter what you do or propose in terms of law, it must be in accord with that document. I find that to be completely fair, as this document applies to all Americans equally. It is a stance immune to bigotry and class warfare, though that doesn't stop bigots and class warriors from trying. And it has the advantage of actually being written down, so I don't have to remember the talking points that Fearless Leader handed down this week.

This means that I had to straighten out some things for myself. First, I chucked the parties. I noted that the "supreme law of the land" requires a respect for the rights of others, and that means that most of the political agenda had to go... because most of that agenda has nothing to do with respecting the rights of others... it has to do with gaining power and control over others, and that will never do. And it means understanding the concept and the value of "make no law". So, I re-read that Constitution and its Amendments, many times.

The primary purpose of the Federal government is to defend the people of this nation and to defend their rights as enumerated in the various Constitutional Amendments. The bulk of the Constitution itself deals with the mechanics of how the Government should be structured,  The Constitution's a tiny little document,   It describes a limited government, and specifically describes one limited to the powers enumerated within its text.

Let's take one contentious issue as an example. Limited power means that if, for instance, you live in Arizona and your state hasn't explicitly outlawed gay marriage, you don't need a judge to give you permission to marry. A judge just did that recently, but rather than being the "sweeping judgement" reported in the press, it really didn't change anything... it just clarified the situation that had always existed in Arizona. There was no law, therefore you were free to do it. That's how freedom works. Unfortunately we've been trained against it. And the religious beliefs of folks such as myself don't enter into it because the First Amendment says they don't. Simple. But do I favor laws "legalizing" gay marriage? Hell no. Instead, I favor repealing laws that criminalize it. Because that's what "shall make no law" means. Your marriage is frankly no business of anyone else so long as it doesn't infringe someone else's rights.

See, that's the other thing I had to do. I had to differentiate my beliefs, even my most firmly held ones, from my politics, because other people have a right to their beliefs as well. This Constitution requires tolerance. And so does Christianity. And I'm going to jump up on my religious soapbox to tell you why.

Religious Soapbox

I addressed these remarks to Christians, because it is often argued by the Right that this is "a Christian nation". Although this is arguable, it is undeniable that the Founders were of a Christian culture. Nevertheless, broad guarantees of religious freedom are built into the Constitution. Why? Because a Christian culture demands it.

No one can be goaded into salvation, nor can one be 'tricked' into salvation. It is by grace alone. So you're not going to save one single person ever by forcing them into moral action. It is simply impossible. For that matter, you're never going to save anyone anyway. Not ever. That's done by the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ, not you. And as odd as this may sound to many Christians, Calvinists would argue that it's not even his the person's choice. "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them" says Jesus in John 6:44. Non-Calvinists don't believe in determinism. In this more mainstream view, salvation has to be a matter of Free Will. That is, a person must choose to accept Christ. In this view, John 6:44 describes an invitation.

Either way we have this: "He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned'" Whether they choose to believe of their own accord or God calls them with the invitation is immaterial... you don't know and it doesn't matter. A Christian is to preach, but not force. And not all those who hear will come. And there's not one single thing you can do about that. The best you can do is follow your instructions and be as Christlike as you can. And the condemnation of unbelievers is not left up to you. You are told they will be condemned; you are not told to condemn them.

Christ taught tolerance. He didn't convert people by forcing a code of conduct. He did it with His positive example. He regulated his own conduct. So if you are trying to force your morality on others, then with all due respect, you're doing it wrong. You see, the freedom of religion is one of those "inalienable" rights "granted by their Creator". Who are you to deny it?

Christianity offers people a choice, and the freedom to choose. A "Christian nation" can do no less.

Back to the Subject

The distinction between my religion and politics does NOT mean that I must support laws that are plainly at odds with my religion. It means that I favor no law in favor of bad law. Where something is a matter of private conscience, the State has no business being involved. This is a plain interpretation of the First Amendment. And where both religious and secular reasons exist for law, the secular arguments must stand on their own.

The point here is that I don't care if you try to tug on my heartstrings or ignite my envy and hatred... I will not agree with unconstitutional legislation. And I won't agree with any legislation at all "from the bench" by the judicial branch (as that's unconstitutional, too!). Nor any "executive order" that opposes the laws, duly passed.

You can, if you are very persuasive, get me to agree to amend the Constitution, properly, as it has been done in the past. There are many amendments that needed to happen.... the abolition of slavery; universal suffrage; etc.  And at least* one that I think didn't... the prohibition of alcohol (later repealed). But to support a change, I'd have to know that it was a positive change that was instituted to protect the rights of individuals rather than specific groups. That is, I'm more interested in what protects the interests of every American rather than my own.

However, I've come to despise the game of adopting whatever position is convenient to "gain the support" of whatever voting bloc is required to gain power for power's sake. Sadly the rally cried in the game of political football is "come and get it!"

* (I have mixed feelings about the direct election of Senators. Originally, Senators were elected by the State legislatures. They represented the State governments, and the House of Representatives represented the People. I think it was a useful distinction, but it became tense in the time surrounding the Civil War. Now there isn't any real difference in character between the Houses, other than the length of their term and their enumerated powers. I also feel the 14th Amendment wasn't intended to create "anchor babies"... rather, it was intended to define "natural born" citizens, and would benefit from revision.)

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