Truth and Totems

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Obama Administration

Ben Evans writes about the hypocrisy of conservatives on Constitutional issues. The people who go about waving copies of the constitution as badges of their patriotism and call themselves as “constitutionalists” are the same ones pushing for the biggest changes to the document. They not only want to repeal the 14th Amendment, but they also want to revise a lot of the provisions in the main body of the Constitution. They want to require a two-thirds vote to raise taxes, for example (the same provision that is killing California).

Weirdly, some of them are saying they want to change the Constitution to make it closer to what the founders originally intended. The original provisions don’t express what the founders originally intended?

[Republican Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia] who is among the most conservative members of Congress, said he sees no contradiction in his devotion to the Constitution and his desire to rewrite parts of it. … “It’s not picking and choosing,” he said. “We need to do a lot of tweaking to make the Constitution as it was originally intended, instead of some perverse idea of what the Constitution says and does.”

This reminds me of the folks who want to erect monuments to the Ten Commandments at schools and courthouses but who cannot name all ten of the commandments if put on the spot to do so. And of Bible-thumpers who evoke the Bible as their bulwark against Evil but who don’t know the Beatitudes from a McDonald’s dollar menu.

I’ve written before that righties tend to interpret events through myths and symbols rather than facts. Just so, I think they also tend to regard documents such as the Bible and the Constitution more as totems than texts. The documents are cherished as icons of whatever it is they think America or Christianity is, not for what they actually say.

And if you understand that, you can see how it isn’t inconsistent for them to, say, claim they believe in religious liberty while forming a mob to stop the building of what they think is a mosque. “Religious liberty” is something iconic to them, but they don’t understand or appreciate how it is applied to real-world situations.

Along those lines, there’s a “small government” teabagger running for governor of New York (no chance he’ll be elected) who not only promises to use the power of his office to stop the building of Park51; he wants to convert state prisons into work camps for welfare recipients. Apparently “small government” is just another totem, a meaningless phrase that commands loyalty but doesn’t have any fixed meaning.

Sorta kinda related must read: Paul Krugman’s column today.

… our political culture has become not just dysfunctional but deeply corrupt. … What’s at stake here? According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.

And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that’s the least of it: the policy center’s estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent

He goes on to say that the same kind of campaign of lies and deception that sold America on the Bush tax cuts were then used to sell America on invading Iraq, and now the same kind of campaign is being used to sell America on reinstating the Bush tax cuts for the rich. As I wrote earlier, the Usual Rubes are being scammed into thinking that the Dems want to raise everyone’s taxes.

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9 Comments

  1. Diane  •  Aug 23, 2010 @9:55 am

    They do not know the New Testament. They only say they know Jesus Christ. They do not want to follow him because they would have to give up the hate and work really hard. They would have to love and take care of their neighbor. They would have to pay taxes to do that.
    They live, breathe and quote the Old Testament because they can condemn and hate others, start wars and do all the things that Jesus Christ came to change.
    So they have the best of both world now.
    They can say they are doing all of this in Jesus name.
    And God help the rest of us!

  2. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 23, 2010 @10:11 am

    This is how Krugmans piece on the tax cuts ends:
    “So far, the Obama administration is standing firm against this outrage. Let’s hope that it prevails in its fight. Otherwise, it will be hard not to lose all faith in America’s future.”
    maha, I agree with what you wrote about myths and symbols. Here are some of their totems of faith:
    Faith in The Bible – but only the parts you want.
    Faith in The Constitution – but only the parts you like.
    Faith in American Exceptionalism – despite evidence of the harm it’s done, and continues to do.
    In Faith v. Facts, ‘faith’ will win. And I’m not sure that ‘facts’ will even be heard at the trial.
    Because of this kind of ‘faith,’ I’ve pretty much lost all faith in this country’s future.
    The stupid people are winning.
    I’ll gladly listen to anyone wanting to talk me off the ledge.

  3. Felicity  •  Aug 23, 2010 @1:36 pm

    What should alarm us all about the latest Right Wing rants is that they sanction tyranny – the road which is taken when men begin to rule above the law.

    As to the tax cuts, the facetious arguments being spewed in support of keeping them in place have absolutely nothing to support them. Tax cuts stimulate the economy – oh really – they’ve been in place for 10 years and we don’t exactly have a ‘stimulated’ or even half-way functioning economy. And then there’s the bizarre statement that they ‘pay for themselves’ – oh really – that’s taking its own sweet time given that we have accrued a $1 trillion and counting deficit.

  4. Stella  •  Aug 23, 2010 @1:45 pm

    Come in, gulag, I’ll give ya shelter from the storm. The stupid people aren’t winning anything, except a spotlight.
    Great post, Maha – right in line with my political mantra: “It’s all showbiz.”

  5. c u n d gulag  •  Aug 23, 2010 @1:56 pm

    Thanks, Stella!
    The weather’s crappy in NY today, and my mood is kind of matching it.

  6. Swami  •  Aug 23, 2010 @8:14 pm

    What’s with Paladino and the personal hygiene issue? He’s the second politician I’ve heard who has referenced the need for government to teach personal hygiene to people on assistance. Is this some sort of plot to stigmatize low income people, or am I out of touch with reality? I mean, I’m a construction worker in Florida, and if there was a place and a trade where a personal hygiene issue would be evident..I most likely would get a front row seat to view it.

  7. Pat  •  Aug 23, 2010 @8:24 pm

    The far right wants no government except when they are at the helm. They want the Constitution as long as they can twist it from what it is into whatever they desire it to be. This mirrors the “originalist” doctrine espoused by the right on the Supreme Court that handily dismisses the entire history of law as we know it which relies on legal precedent and makes its interpretation as mushy as whatever convenient interpretation they can come up with regarding what they would like the founding fathers to have believed. With this pseudo-scholarly load of bull they’d feel justified at any time to turn decades of civil rights progress or just about anything they want back around 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

    They hold high the most ephemeral aspects of patriotic icons completely devoid of the meaning that’s been associated with them for centuries.

    It’s thinly veiled anarchy in my opinion and it won’t help a thing. It’s not even conservative because there’s nothing traditional about it aside from them saying there is, history be damned. These fools are dangerous.

    Maybe we could just give them their own state, where they could practice a pure form of these ignorant ways then live with the mess they made. OK, it won’t happen but it’s a wonderful thought isn’t it? Deep down the last thing they want is accountability.

  8. uncledad  •  Aug 24, 2010 @12:05 am

    “What’s with Paladino and the personal hygiene issue? He’s the second politician I’ve heard who has referenced the need for government to teach personal hygiene to people on assistance”

    The neoconsuperfratboys may have to downshift and hit the “people on assistance” also known as “if the president say’s he’s a citizen I have no reason, to be compelled, or to believe that he is not”. I mean have you ever really met him? How can we know anything? They say he’s Christian, but Reverend Wright always wore colorful, Islamic type robes. Plus he(Rev Wright) was black so most likely he was Muslim, sure why not?. We Christians have won the “spirit war” what we need is Jesus jihad. How can Jesus be more offensive than Mohamed and how can we end the threat of considering anything else. If you can Answer those questions, we need you in the fight. Cause if 80% of us Jesus folk are exposed to as little as 0.6 % of you rag-heads, something bad will most likely happen. And most likely won’t end well.

  9. Tulsan  •  Aug 25, 2010 @4:10 pm

    This is such a good point. It explains why would-be Ten Commandment erectors can rarely remember more than a few of them.

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