02 July 2006

The Rape of the Locke, or The Real Fourth of July during the Fake Presidency

Today is the real "Fourth" of July. The Declaration of Independence, after an astonishing series of debates, parliamentary maneuvers and every crass, bizarre dodge and stunt that we associate with our modern legislative bodies, unanimously approved the Declaration (the demand for unanimity was a precondition passed through by those who didn't want the matter of "independency" debated in the first place) on July 2, 1776.

And here's a little bit of it for the ADD-afflicted:
"But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security."
Make no mistake. I love my country. I just hate a lot of its history. It is often shameful, filled with greed, hatred and naked lust for power. The same system and generally held beliefs in "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" have produced Ben Franklin and Joe McCarthy. Clara Barton and William Quantrill; Abraham Lincoln and Richard Nixon; Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt and George and George Bush.

A large chunk of that Declaration is cribbed from the writings of John (sometimes called "The Father of the Enlightenment") Locke*, who, with Henri Rousseau successfully midwife'd the transition from the rule of kings (by "divine right") to the rule of the people (the "social contract"). But, as 2004 passed, and the Tricentenary of Locke was ignored, something else that he said, critically, came to light.
[* ... And being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours. Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station willfully, so, by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind and not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.]
You have to remember that Locke, though an Englishman, delineated his philosophy from Holland, which was -- and remains -- a haven for free-thinkers since the Renaissance.

Why? Because Locke would have been at a minimum imprisoned, and probably beheaded for his challenge to the idea that the king rules because God put him in charge.

It is a tautology, of course. Saying that the king was appointed by God says nothing of the king's morality or fitness. It just says that anyone holding the office holds it because God said so, and therefore, his most vicious depredations are divinely sanctioned.

Which is like saying that because I successfully robbed a bank, God must have meant for me to be successful. Or if I killed someone, why, that was just "trial by combat." Oddly, two of these three positions have been held as venerable truth during the rise of Western Civilization.

No one has ever maintained successfully the divine right of thieves.

America -- the United States of -- is not necessarily a place, or even an ethnic group. It is a series of ideas, many of which are idealistic: the 'free speech' clause of the First Amendment had never been fully implemented, for example, until the advent of the internet, and that's being rolled back as rapidly as possible. Witness the attempt to muzzle the New York TIMES -- but not the WALL STREET JOURNAL, which ran the same story -- that rages on Sunday Morning TeeVee on THIS, the birthday of our democracy, invaluably and inseparably aided and protected by our free press. Faux News' William Kristol was particularly vile this morning -- a publisher who is against freedom of the Press. (Well, any but HIS, one surmises).

And it is those very ideas that ARE the USA that are currently under relentless attack. The Bill of Rights. Articles 1 and 3 of the Constitution. Etcetera.

It is disheartening to see these things, on our birthday: the justification of rule by divine right, the muzzling of the press, of free speech, of the right to peaceably assemble, to petition for redress of grievances (you can protest, but not anywhere that anyone can see you, you can petition, but they are simply tossed in the wastebasket). And freedom of religion has rapidly been turned into the tyranny of biblical literalism.

[Hmmm. I wonder how the fundies interpret "The Song of Solomon?" Are her breasts REALLY two female deer? Must be hell buying a brassiere, then.]

The past five years (and the political assassination of Clinton's eight years) have been an auto da fe for those truths that we hold to be self-evident. Locke must be weeping that his plagiarized words in the Declaration have been thus mistreated (by a hypocrite who keeps telling us that we have to "spread freedom and democracy" abroad while acting as its foremost and implacable enemy within our own borders).

But "Enlightenment Daddy" Locke said something equally profound that bears remembrance on July 2, 2006, our 230th birthday.

What he said was that he noticed that no matter how deeply held and cherished, ideas lose their potency over time. They fade away like old photographs in the sun.

And on the 230th Birthday of the USA, we cannot refute him. Poll after poll finds a majority of Americans against fundamental truths of the Bill of Rights (unless they are identified as such, in which case flags are waved vigorously). The Senate came within one vote of enshrining a piece of cloth as a secular religious icon. "Desecration" literally means:

TRANSITIVE VERB: Inflected forms: des-e-crat-ed, des-e-crat-ing, des-e-crates

To violate the sacredness of; profane.

ETYMOLOGY: de- + (con)secrate.
OTHER FORMS: dese-crater, dese-crator -NOUN
dese-cration -NOUN

[The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.]

TRANSITIVE VERB: Inflected forms: con·se·crat·ed, con·se·crat·ing, con·se·crates

1. To declare or set apart as sacred: consecrate a church. 2. Christianity a. To produce the ritual transformation of (the elements of the Eucharist) into the body and blood of Jesus. b. To sanctify (bread and wine) for use in Communion. c. To initiate (a priest) into the order of bishops. 3. To dedicate solemnly to a service or goal. See synonyms at devote. 4. To make venerable; hallow: a tradition consecrated by time.

ADJECTIVE: Dedicated to a sacred purpose; sanctified.

ETYMOLOGY: Middle English consecraten, from Latin consecrare, consecrat- : com-, intensive pref.; see com- + sacrare, to make sacred. [ibid]
Now, you can argue from 3 and 4 that 'consecration' has been taken from the churchiness, but you can't argue that the churchiness has been stripped from 'consecration.' A majority of the United States Senate voted to make a piece of cloth a sacred object. Is it so far then to a (semi-divine) Emperor? To a theocracy somewhat like Constantine's Rome, or Pharoah's Egypt?
I don't think so.

How could a piece of cloth representing a secular nation of laws be "sacred"? The symbol has been raised to an idol, invested with divine powers, consecrated. (Athiests and agnostics are S.O.L. evidently, since both ideas are antithetical to their beliefs and values.)

This has been a lousy week for democracy, frankly.

Finally, we must recall what John Stuart Mill said in his seminal 1848 essay, "On Liberty" Chapter 2.
But, indeed, the dictum that truth always triumphs over persecution, is one of those pleasant falsehoods which men repeat after one another till they pass into commonplaces, but which all experience refutes. History teems with instances of truth put down by persecution. If not suppressed forever, it may be thrown back for centuries. To speak only of religious opinions: the Reformation broke out at least twenty times before Luther, and was put down. Arnold of Brescia was put down. Fra Dolcino was put down. Savonarola was put down. The Albigeois were put down. The Vaudois were put down. The Lollards were put down. The Hussites were put down. Even after the era of Luther, wherever persecution was persisted in, it was successful. In Spain, Italy, Flanders, the Austrian empire, Protestantism was rooted out; and, most likely, would have been so in England, had Queen Mary lived, or Queen Elizabeth died. Persecution has always succeeded, save where the heretics were too strong a party to be effectually persecuted.
Of course it's not about "The Holy Catholic and Universal Church" these days (unless you count the Supreme Court), but, rather, about NeoCon ideology. Mr. Mill wrote of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News:
Not the violent conflict between parts of the truth, but the quiet suppression of half of it, is the formidable evil: there is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend only to one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood. And since there are few mental attributes more rare than that judicial faculty which can sit in intelligent judgment between two sides of a question, of which only one is represented by an advocate before it, truth has no chance but in proportion as every side of it ... (ibid.)
He didn't know their names at the time, of course.

PS: The continuation by other means of 'Operation Mount and Thrust' was scrubbed for today. The new tentative space shuttle launch (the thrust) is now scheduled for the Fourth of July. Hmmm. What a coincidence!


Blogger Cap'n Crusty said...

Be it known, that I, Crusty, do hearby declare, from this day hence, will ignore any "news" report that states the following:
"He/she/they has/have TIES to terrorists/gangs/etc", unless the nature of those alleged "ties" is explained with reasonable thoroughness.

"Ties" can mean just about anything, from the weakest of links to the most intensely personal relationship imaginable. And of course, it is usually the latter that the M$M is trying to suggest, IMHO, as with the hypothetical statement, "Abdul al-Hazred has ties to Osama bin Laden"--meaning, "terrorists is more common than you thought, and they're all in it together, so don't challenge the Shrub".

Or, take the following AP article (which is admittedly what set me off this time):

"CANBY, Ore. Police say a man with ties to gang activity has been arrested in the rape of a 42-year-old Canby woman.

Authorities arrested 30-year-old Alejandro Ramos-Gonzalez of Canby on accusations of rape, kidnap and burglary.

He is lodged the Clackamas County Jail.

The woman, a veteran of the Gulf War, told authorities that five men entered her apartment late Friday and two of them raped her during a seven-hour period.

The woman had left her front door open to allow her apartment to cool."

Emphasis--and outrage--is mine.

Notice, not once are these "ties" spelled out. If he was a gang member, say so! If not, then just what are these goddamed ties? Is Mr Ramos-Gonzalez an intimate with Mr Big-time Gang-thug", or is it just that both are Latinos? After all, ethnicity is a genuine, if weak, "tie".

Furthermore, how many times have we heard grafitti--although in this case, "tagging" is the more frequent buzz-word--referred to as "gang activity", when it could just as easily be, and probably most often is, the efforts of nothing more than some teenage wannabes: kids whom still make damn sure afterward that they're home before dark, especially on a school night, and by god they'd better have their homework done.

So...be forewarned, Nuze Meedja. Explain, for be ignored. Or worse yet, be accused of having "ties" to the power structure...which in this case, is probably pretty close to the truth.

That I'll believe.

7/02/2006 07:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Marguerite said...

God, I"m so glad I found your blog.

7/03/2006 04:25:00 AM  
Blogger ed waldo said...

Thanks, Cap'n for expanding on the comment from Friday that anyone who opposes the occupation in Afghanistan is "Taliban." They did the same in Iraq (successfully for months) with every "insurgent" an "Al Qaeda" foreigner.

Until, of course, the sheer magnitude of the lie forced its withdrawal.

Thanks Marguerite. There are half a million words in the old blog archive, Skiing Uphill, as well.


Your kind words are most appreciated. -- HW

7/03/2006 10:52:00 AM  

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