Posts Tagged ‘Constitution

23
Oct
10

The American Fundamentalist – Tea Partyism

More reading material. I found the article by Andrew Romano in this week’s Newsweek, America’s Holy Writ, a nice summary of the Tea Party phenomenon. http://www.newsweek.com/2010/10/17/how-tea-partiers-get-the-constitution-wrong.html Follow the link for the story (Newsweek needs the support).

Exploring the Tea Party through the lens of fundamentalism is instructive. While many of the Tea Party group may be religious fundamentalist, that is not the point here. Their fundamentalism is based on the “scripture” of the constitution. It goes beyond strict constructionist thought or even the worship of the document. It is that there interpretation is correct and static. Or, as the article puts it: “Like other fundamentalists, they seek refuge from the complexity and confusion of modern life in the comforting embrace of an authoritarian scripture and the imagined past it supposedly represents. Like other fundamentalists, they see in their good book only what they want to see: confirmation of their preexisting beliefs. Like other fundamentalists, they don’t sweat the details, and they ignore all ambiguities. And like other fundamentalists, they make enemies or evildoers of those who disagree with their doctrine.”

That is the aha moment for me. It is like any religious fundamentalist. We know best. We have the answers. If you don’t understand, we will explain it to you. When you talk to a fundamentalist Christian, you are not going to change their mind, or even have a discussion on any issue. They have the answers right in the book in their hand. The earth is 6,000 years old. God just planted those dinosaur bones as a joke on scientist. They can tell you that their God is love while Allah is hate – while holding a book that expressly tells stories of their God telling his people to go and slaughter everyone in a city. They eat shrimp, they don’t own slaves nor do they stone anyone. But, they know that every word is the word of God. In the fundamentalist world, they don’t have to think about it anymore.

In this view, I can see the Tea Partiers as filled with fervor rather than just hate. It is no less alarming, though. They are a loud and offer something soothing: black and white answers, absolutism, a romanticized vision of the past. But, just as god, any god, would not create a human with a brain and then ask them not to use it, I don’t think the Founders thought they had created the end all, be all of a constitution. If they had, they wouldn’t have made room for amendments. Mr. Romano ends his article by quoting several lines from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Samuel Kercheval in 1816. While in the confines of an article his clips serve, I think a fuller quote is even more interesting. (My emphasis added.)

“Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.
As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors. It is this preposterous idea which has lately deluged Europe in blood.”

I

Advertisements
17
Sep
08

Happy Birthday

Happy Constitution Day and Happy Birthday to the constitution. 

http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html

In a time when it seems to be so battered perhaps it would be a good time to take a look at it and regain some appreciation for it.