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Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's A God Thing

"God gives us our rights, not government." 
-Janine Turner, actress, Tuesday August 28, 2012, addressing the RNC

My initial reaction to some second-rate actress making such an outrageous declaration was, "Oh for the love of fuck. The chick from Northern Exposure? Seriously?" As is our wont these days, that's just what I posted on Facebook.

An old friend and staunch conservative from small-town Connecticut replied to my post with this gem:
"that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" -Thomas Jefferson (just saying) :)
Hey, old friend from Connecticut, guess what? You just made the blog. Sit down. Park your mouth. Put your brain in drive. I'll take you through it.

You gave me a fragment -- utterly meaningless -- that invokes the name of God in the same rudderless way that "Oh my God, tomatoes are good" does. Which is at least true. Tomatoes are delicious. You neatly excised not only the beginning, but also the end of Thomas Jefferson's quote.

Calling upon a choice nugget from a considerably longer text to "prove" a point in this manner falls right in line with the tactics of every conservative I have (*)recently met, and it's insulting. You gave a smug retort, suffixed with that half-conciliatory implied shrug of "just saying" with the smiley emoticon to show what a great guy you really are, and your sole intent to prove me, a liberal, wrong. 

You do know that you're quoting the Declaration of Independence. This document admonishes anything but blind, unthinking devotion to a single entity unconditionally! To wield it in this way is cheap, and it's as asinine as invoking "freedom of speech" in order to make a speech recommending abolishing freedom of speech.

You want to get all Jeffersonian on me? Let's go.

In the 18th century, the British crown was getting greedier and more controlling year by year. The King of England was pissed off BUT also fearful of the people who had escaped his grip and sailed across the Atlantic to settle the thirteen American colonies. And the way he was dealing with these sassy upstarts who had the balls to thwart his oppressive rule was to squeeze them tighter and tighter until they all said "enough." In 1774 the colonies agreed to form something called "Congress." They had this super-duper great idea that if they declare their independence very clearly, in writing, that would get the royalty off their backs for a change. It took two years, but "Congress" wrote it out. The delegates from all thirteen colonies put their John Hancock on it, including John Hancock.

They declared their independence.  It begins,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
In other words, when shit gets totally out of control and the ruling elite loses all sight of reality, to the point where they haven't got the slightest clue what it's like to NOT be part of the ruling class, then the rest of the people must take a stand, declaring the reasons that they are unhappy.

The clause "to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them" means that every person, no matter what "station" in life they occupy, be it rich or poor, land owner, store clerk or farmer, has a voice. Not just the ruling party.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
Here we find your sentence fragment, I used bold type for you, so that you might notice how it's nestled between "all men are created equal" and "...that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

The only word you care to pluck forth is "Creator." We'll get to that in a minute. That's not the important bit.

The important bit is what comes right after. Read it again, then maybe another time or two, please, it is massively important.

No no, we'll get to the God thing in a minute. Right now just focus on the government deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. They continue on,
-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
In other words -- wait, Friend, where are you going? Is all this "right of the people" stuff boring you? Come back, we're only halfway through the Declaration of Independence! I thought you wanted to talk about it? The next bit is the best part! The next bit is where they talk about despotism and tyranny and then there's that whole list of "Facts." Remember Facts? In this document...

...he's gone. It's just us now. It must have been the mention of "Facts." They hate that. Damn it, I was about to blow his mind! I was going to ask how his party officials haven't been put on trial for treason! This very same document describes and defines a specific list of criteria for when conditions deteriorate into "absolute tyranny." There's about thirty of these Facts.

These are the Facts that I personally like best, in no particular order, the bold type is my emphasis. It's an "absolute Tyranny" when:
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
Remind you of anyone?

Now, about this God thing. I wish my Friend didn't leave, this was his entire argument. Remember, the Northern Exposure chick stood up on TV and said, "God gives us our rights, not government." Then I called bullshit. And then my Friend opened his face and informed me, 

"that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" -Thomas Jefferson (just saying) :)

"Just saying."

Just saying.

You know, the more I think about it, the more that little "just saying" is pissing me off. It is not only glib, but frankly, it's an insult. In the 18th Century, yes, most of those Declaration of Independence signatories were Christians. Of course they were, this isn't news. You conservatives always act like you're bestowing a great wisdom whenever this topic comes up. You're not some great sage for knowing this fact, we all took seventh grade American History, too.

When was the mention of God in the first Congressional proceedings ever a point of contention? Harvard was founded by Christians, as were most of the first universities in the nation. I myself attended an all-women's college founded by Ursuline nuns at the turn of the last century. Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, all those delegates and pretty much all of the revolutionaries were all men of Christ.

They were Puritans, to be exact. If you want to know more about the Puritans than anyone ever compiled in one place, pick up Sarah Vowell's 2008 book, The Wordy Shipmates. It gets a little tedious in the middle but it's a good read (sorry Sarah).

Yes, the authors of the Declaration and all of the citizens of the first thirteen colonies were Christians.

They were also slave owners.

They also made sure that no woman would ever vote, become a delegate or hold any other political role, or decide for herself whether or not she wanted to bear children.

They also brutally massacred many innumerable thousands of Native American men, women and children and stole their land.

That was two hundred years ago. So when you stand up today and lay claim to the right to tell everyone else they must carry on just as the founders did, what kind of world view are you proposing, exactly? A few things have changed in the last two centuries, wouldn't you say? It is no longer the right of the ruling body to buy and sell another person as property. It is no longer the right of the ruling body to storm onto your land and butcher you and your family so that they can declare your land is their land now. Women have been recognized as citizens. Slavery is abolished. There's a constitution. There's separation of church and state. There's this whole equality thing.

And, perhaps most importantly, read that last Fact just above:

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither...

Your Christan forebears encouraged that we migrated hither. My family did, as did yours. Again, 7th grade American history -- the melting pot, the great nation of many creeds, colors and races, that whole bit? What it allows, Friend, is that you may proceed unchecked from believing in any God, any "Creator" that you want, and by definition that's what makes America a free country.

Or it was, until you began to step up the war that you are currently waging on every American that does not happen to attend your exact same church. People did "migrate hither" and with them they brought their kids, their customs, their recipes and their creed.

You are a tyrant, as defined by the same men you claim to emulate. You are crusading to perpetuate a private agenda of discrimination and supremacy. Your entire manifesto is based on an irrelevant social structure that has no place in constitutional law in the new millennium.

You cannot sustain this elitist theocracy. It cannot last. It hasn't worked for your forebears and it will not work for you. Everyone has rights. Everyone. Not just you.

"whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government."

Just saying.

____________________

(*) Conservatives didn't used to be like this, and neither did Christians. What we're experiencing right now is an alarming extremism, a severely polarizing sect of revisionists that are nothing but dangerous antithesis to the founding fathers' original intent. "Normal" conservatives and Christians, where are you? Please, please come out. We need you.