Saturday, July 20, 2013

When did the Fringe become mainstream?

      For starters, to move forward in any meaningful constructive way we will need to divest ourselves of the bias that any region is inherently more backward and insane that any other region. Yes, I'm talking about the Northern notion that "The Dukes OF Hazzard","Hee Haw" and "The Beverly Hillbillies" were documentaries. "Li,l Abner" was not a diary. "Petticoat Junction" was not a travelogue.The North has ceded any perceived moral superiority they may have ever had. They did so a long time ago.
Today America stands united in what at one time would have been seen as unthinkable insanity. What the hell happened?
American History has never had a shortage of  ill conceived  poorly reasoned political thought and agendas The Whiskey Rebellion should have throttled States Rights and Libertarianism as a viable political ideology in it's cradle. Aaron Burr planned an insurrection. The know Nothing Party. The Grange Movement. Communism. Fascism. The Black Panther Party. The White Panther Party. The historical American Political landscape is littered with the remains of radical, reactionary or single issue political movements
Yet American politics is still a two Party system, very minor aberrations not withstanding. The major political parties here are exquisite examples of Darwinism. They adapt and survive. The parties crush the upstarts by co opting any viable issue or idea they have. The carcase is then picked clean of any original thought or approach. American political thought evolves. A lot of what was once considered politically impossible is now commonly accepted social norms. Slavery is gone. Voting rights have expanded beyond White Male Landowners. Women are supposed to be full citizens, as are African Americans and Native Americans. Homosexuals are being acknowledged as being actual citizens with the same rights as the rest of the Country.
Our problem occurs when the absorbed ideas are antithetical to our history. The trends over more than two centuries is an expansion of the concept of liberty and equality.
Once it was common practice to discriminate not only by race but by religion, national origin , sex and any factor unpopular with the majority. Hence, Irish need not apply signs. The idea John Kennedy could not be elected President because he was Catholic. There are only a few jobs suitable for women. Single women at that. Everyone knew once a woman was married her job was to manage the home, bear and raise children and stop any thought independant of her husband's. Blacks were less intelligent and inherently inferior. Caring for them was the White Man's Burden. The common wisdom is that we have evolved and moved past such primitive notions. It now seems the common wisdom is treated as the ramblings of a fool. The performance of a court jester meant for only ridicule. disdain.and outright loathing.
Regression instead of progression. Today battles are being fought again when we thought the war was won.
The concept of self defense is rooted in English Common Law. A person has the moral right to protect their life, their family and others from mortal threats. Also you can defend your home. The Castle concept. In a confrontation the idea has always been disengagement when possible. If it can be done one should move away from the threat. Deadly force was only acceptable in very limited circumstances. To protect your life and the life of others from an obvious threat. Then came stand your ground.
Somehow the idea of confronting a perceived threat became a perceived right. The notion everyone is John Wayne or Dirty Harry. Disengaging from a threat became cowardice and somehow Un American. This concept seemed to grow hand in hand with the view that gun ownership was the only sacrosanct Constitutional right.
As more and more States liberalized concealed weapons laws (usually over objections of law enforcement) there became a feeling of entitlement. If you had a firearm you should not be told where and when you could carry it. After all that is tyranny. There also came the belief that deadly force was not only a viable option but should be a primary option. A confrontation that once would have resulted in a fist fight now has the ability to escalate into a frontier justice moment. Judge. Jury. Executioner.
The feeling has grown there should be no consequences when lethal force is used. Even if the the person was mistaken about the threat level. There should be no charges. In fact one should be lionized for standing against crime.They dealt decisively with what they thought was a threat.The obvious problem with these concepts is assuming everyone who carries a firearm is a reasonable human being with good judgement and respect for life. At best that is a flawed premise. At worst? Open season for overt racism and violence.
One question. had an adult African American man followed an unarmed white teenager and shot him during a confrontation would the result be the same?  I think he would have been convicted long ago and in Raiford on death row now.
At the beginning of the American experiment in a new form of government the only ones with the right to vote were free white male landowners.By modern standards this is awful. By 18th century standards it was unprecedented. A system of government with a set Constitution and representation to enact laws that could not be changed on a whim by a divine right ruler.
As America grew the right to vote was expanded also. All free white males could vote. Again revolutionary. A system not class based by law and tradition.
 Following a brutal bloody Civil War African Americans became citizens and able to vote. Unfortunately it took a century to end Jim Crow. It took the power of the Federal Government to push the Old Confederacy into the 20th century against their will. It has taken fifty years but the South has changed. Blatant racism is no longer the dominant way of life. If anything they are now more like the North with the racism being covert and insidious.
In the Voting Rights Act the States of the Old Confederacy were forced to have any changes in voting laws reviewed and approved by the Department of Justice. After all there was ample evidence of concerted suppression of the black vote.
Following the election of Barack Obama President, with overwhelming support from minority voters, there was a new push by conservative Republican Legislatures to enact voting laws and regulations to suppress the votes of groups they felt were the Democratic base. Minorities. The young. Newly naturalized citizens. The attempts in the South were beat back by DOJ. The attempts in the North had to be stopped in court. The Northern States trying to pull this off outnumbered the Southern States. Yet it is still decried as a regional problem. It's not. It's an ideological problem. Some have decided America's tradition of expanding liberty is wrong and destructive. An unprecedented, in modern American History, drive is on to strip segments of the population of rights.
This effort is using Evangelical religious belief, flawed Constitutional and discredited States Rights arguments.
They have found and promote so-called historians to validate their fictional version of America. There are those on the reactionary right who feel extremist dogma should be codified as the basis of American law. They are convincedl they have been called by God to establish a Christian theocracy. An extremist Christian theocracy. Their most visible target? Women.
Across the country in conservative Legislatures there has been a rejection of the 21st century. Women are blamed for the collapse of the family, the destruction of morality by wanton behavior. They defy God by not relegating themselves to serving their husbands, being pregnant for most of their reproductive years and daring to be independent and educated. It is their fault rape is an epidemic.
The only recourse is to make life altering decisions concerning their health and future. Everyone knows they are unable to be rational. They are unable to behave in a responsible manner. They refuse to accept the consequences of having sex for non procreational purposes. Thus they can't be treated as fully equal citizens. They are after all walking incubators.
America has always been at the forefront of scientific discovery, innovation and technological advancement As territories were settled land was set aside for schools. Publicly supported schools. Education was recognized as needed for the future of a great nation. American thought, education and sense of unfettered exploration drove scientific and technological advancement in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Now, scientific literacy and ignorance has become something to aspire to. A badge of honor. Mainstream political leaders deny evolution. They deny evidence climate change is a real and present danger. A member of the House Science and Technology Committee decries science as lies of Satan spawned in the pits of Hell. There was a time such an individual would have been laughed out of office. Now he'll be reelected.
School boards are being pressured to teach evolution as simply another theory and present creationism as a scientifically valid alternative. They are pressured to rewrite American History as a Christian triumph  The teaching of critical thinking is vilified as undermining the beliefs of the parents.
America can not survive and prosper if education is a knowledge a la carte. Facts are facts. Scientific and cultural progress is built on empirical knowledge. Not myth. Not suppersition. Not willful ignorance. Not that long ago education was a noble calling. We entrusted educators with our childrens futures. Now they are union thugs indoctrinating students in godless secularism. These ideas I've touched on were once considered so fringe they couldn't be taken seriously. Now they are considered legitimate political thought. A coherent ideology. These ideas haven't changed. They are still crazy. The only difference is crazy is now respectable.
Our choice of action is limited. We beat back the coming Dark Ages, the sequel. We say no to the budding inquisition. We say no to codifying religious dogma. We stand for the thoughts and ideals that made America great. The alternative is to watch it devolve into a repressive intolerant dogmatic theocracy.  We stand with our ideas. Or fall under the flaming sword of reactionary Christianity and the bootheel of regression to the past of camps and witch hunts to preserve ideological purity.  The only real question is who is drug off in the dead of night first.

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