Thursday, June 05, 2014

American Democracy 101

After the post about Gitmo, I got to thinking.  (I know, that's dangerous, but I like to live on the edge!)

Besides the Gitmo thing, and the whole 1% vs the 99% thing and the NSA massively spying on our electronic communications thing (Hi, guys!), and well, all that other shit, there seems to be a pervasive, growing feeling among the American people that we've somehow lost control of our government.

No, I didn't just crawl out from under a rock.  I've been just kind of keeping my cool.

But now, I'm sorta over that.  My point of view is kind of specific, though.

Let's examine for a moment, what the basics of our form of government are.  I'm not a civics teacher, (but I did pay attention, Mr. Green & Col. Morehead!) so please bear with me.

I could go into the Constitution, and that would be theoretically correct, as it is the blueprint for the form our government takes, and governs the powers it has and is restricted from wielding.  It would be pretty instructive for a lot of people, but it would also take a while.

I'm not a patient guy.

So, let's talk about something else.  How about the Declaration of Independence?

That's a favorite of the Tea Party, isn't it?  Particularly the religious right's portion of it.  They love to point at the Preamble and the use of the word "Creator" that you find there.  Yes, it's there, and I won't bore you (again) with the well known point that it is there as a Deist term favored by the Founders who were followers of that particular philosophy.

I'm going to point to another well known but oft neglected phrase which comes later.  Right in the next clause, in fact, immediately after the terms "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" we all know and love:
— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —
Emphasis mine, of course.  The Founders didn't think it would be necessary to embolden that one.

It is, in fact, in spite of its inclusion in a whole line of famous clauses, the very foundation of American Democracy.

It is the very principle upon which the Founders based their blueprint they called the Constitution of the United States.

Look at that phrase again and let it roll off your tongue.

"...deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,"

That's us, in case you didn't realize it.  The American people.  You, me, Barrack Obama, John Boehner, every single one of the 350 million plus of us.

Not a word about deities, churches, religion or cults.

The People.  We, the People delegate the power to govern ourselves to a government which we have instituted under the Constitution - a document which contains exactly two references to religion. (if you count the First Amendment and not just the original document)  Both are restrictions on its power to affect religion, or to involve it in government activities.

One of the restrictions placed upon the government is to deny the use of a religious test for office.  The other is the famous First Amendment, which restricts the governments ability to pass laws which could govern religion, or in effect, make people obey specific sectarian religious rules, called the Establishment Clause.  It also prevents the government from passing laws which prevent religion from doing its thing. That is the Free Exercise Clause.

Together, they are intended to prevent religion from being a part of our government, either to promote it or to impede it.  The government is to remain neutral.   It cannot be partial, either for or against.

These are not just philosophical or esoteric ideals to be discussed in a classroom.  They are LAW.  A law (the highest law of the land - it says so, right there in the constitution) that trumps all others.

Anyone who would override these things is not a patriotic American.  They are not patriots at all, but are either traitors or seditionists.

You see, the First amendment is a protection for ALL Americans, even the most religious.

Imagine for a moment, the Dominionists win.  The Constitution is overturned, and Christianity becomes the Law of the Land.  ::shudder::

Which version?

The Roman Catholic Church?  The Southern Baptist Convention?  The Presbyterians?  Joel Osteen's group?  How about Billy Graham?  Would he get a say?  How about the Mormons?

Or the church of Scientology?

How are they going to decide?  Even the group known as Dominionists constitute differing versions of fundies.  Do ya think they're going to sit down nice and quietly after the Second American Revolution and just decide who get tossed under the bus like gentlemen?

Somehow, that scenario just doesn't sound exactly right.  Historically, religions don't share power very well.  When the Protestants and Catholics in Germany contended for power, it took thirty years and hundreds of thousands of dead to settle the issue.

Would the RCC take a Protestant takeover of the US sitting down?  Would the mainline Protestant churches accept a fundamentalist takeover gracefully?

The Founders knew what they were doing.  They'd seen what religious power in the hands of governments could do in recent European history.  Many of the previous generation of their families had immigrated to the US under religious pressure.  The strife regarding differing religions was intense even in differing States of the Colonies!

To prevent it from getting worse, their solution was to end it completely.  To keep government totally out of religion, and religion totally out of government.

Sounds about right, wouldn't you say?

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