Thomas Jefferson

If you’ve ever wondered why we can’t have a nice world. One that runs well and works for most everyone most of the time. It’s because of partisan bullshit. This deeply seated need too many of us have to pick a side and stick to it right, wrong, whatever because “GO TEAM!”

I have meandered all over the partisan map.  At some points half of my beliefs have been in opposition to the other half even.

However, most of the time I straddle the center line with the occasional tight-rope walk just to spice things up.

So when I am confronted with blind lemming followers of this or that, the best I can muster anymore is “Well, good for you. At least you care enough to sort of pay attention.” Seldom do I add “If only you’d bother to think for yourself and apply a bit of pragmatism and common sense.”

But you can’t have everything, right?

There are people who want to be involved and immerse themselves in doing their little or lot bit for the cause, and so what if they mostly don’t understand how their cause fits into the bigger picture? They care. Deeply. That matters. Right?

And it’s better than apathy. Right?

I’m not so sure.

Last night my Twitter feed was inundated with retweets about Ayn Rand’s personal failings.

The tweeter is not someone I follow. He’s a pompous ass. He only interacts with the adoring throngs because he isn’t interested in any sort of conversation that might show him up or disprove his preferred view of reality.

That’s fine. Twitter is kind of about building your own little tunnel vision and sharing it with those who are similarly blinkered.

But the gist of his argument boiled down to “Ayn Rand took amphetamines and had serial killer fetish, therefore her theories about capitalism are bullshit.”

I got a D in Logic and Reasoning back in the day. In retrospect I should have gone to class more than I wouldn’t have had to pull an all-nighter to get a B on the final and hold onto my pathetic D.

However, poor background aside, I am fairly sure that Ayn Rand’s rambling nonsense on all things the far right-wing loves is crap because it’s crap and not because she was a questionable human.

If you wanted to apply the questionable human equals someone who is full of shit logic, it just so happens that Thomas Jefferson, that great American Founding Father, would tumble off his pedestal too.

After all, how can the father of personal liberty hope to escape judgement given that he was not only a slave owner but he forced his 15-year-old sister-in-law into a sexual relationship with him because he owned her.

Yes, Jefferson’s long-time intimate companion Sally Hemmings – who bore him six children – was not only his sister-in-law and his slave but, according to some accounts – was the doppelgänger of his dead wife.

Creepy and worlds of wrong barely begin to cover this situation and yet, Jefferson is revered. His ideas are seminal in terms of American political world building.

Personally, I think Ayn Rand’s appeal is that most people who bother to read her dirge of a novel, Atlas Shrugged, are young adults or teens when they do. The themes are appealing to the young, and who really ever goes back and re-reads the “great” novels of their youth? Hardly anyone. The fuzzy memories are always better.

Randian love and worship is a sign that you’ve not quite grow up yet. At least in your political world view anyway. It’s like people who cling to the idea that pure socialism will save us all. An immature idea that refuses to incorporate the reality that life is complicated because “people”.

Even though Rand’s idea are simple-minded, her personal failings and quirks are just human. Humans can be awesome. They can completely suck. But for the most part, they are somewhere in the middle. None of these states of being detract from the things people can accomplish.

For all Rand’s faults, she wrote a novel decades ago people not only still read, but they find things in it which push them to think and learn, and let’s be real, not everyone who reads Atlas Shrugged gets stuck in the limited world view.

I fear there is no way to cure for the world of side-taking or the inevitable outliers who live and die in the absolutism that makes the world a less nice place for us all.

Personally, I am done pretending to care about the fringes. Feigning politeness rather than rolling my eyes. I am part of the problem if I don’t.

Sometimes the other side is right. Sometimes the middle path is the best way.

And sometimes people need to calm the fuck down, grow up and spend some quality time in the real world with real people who don’t reinforce every blind prejudice they learned as a child.



Philadelphia - Old City: Independence Hall - T...

Image by wallyg via Flickr

Seems like a contradiction given the mythology of the Right that the United States was founded on Christian doctrine, but the Constitution is one of the most religion neutral documents in our history. The Founders’ religious beliefs ranged from very to not at all, but the majority were in agreement on the necessity of separating church (of any ilk) and state. Their handiwork was meant as a framework for a democracy and the idea that it would be used as some sort of stand in biblical text would have appalled them.

Newsweek published a rather good article on the complexity of the Tea Party and their relationship and mostly misunderstanding of the Constitution. Tea Partiers, it seems, are no different from other political folk in their ignorance and willingness to use this in promotion of their pet causes.

These causes are primarily money and power-driven. Tea Party leaders know how to use Americans’ greed in the form of “no taxes” against them as well as Republicans and Democrats. Americans are some of the least taxed people on the face of the earth. They are also – aside from health care for those under 65 or who aren’t disabled – some of the most privileged in terms of government sponsored/maintained amenities. Americans truly get something for next to nothing in ways that astound the rest of the world.

For the record, the Constitution was in fact intended to strengthen the federal government because an earlier stab of pulling together as a country – the Articles of Confederation – allowed the states too much wiggle room. The Articles was a weak document and the Founders purposely gave the Constitution muscle as a result.

The Constitution, for those who weren’t aware, is strident in its secularism. Not once does it mention God or Jesus. Not to invoke them or praise them or ask their blessing. It is a legal document that spells out the rights of the people and the duties of the state.

Literal adherence to the Constitution that Tea Partiers naively pound the drum for would upend most of the last hundred years or so of civil rights, worker’s rights, women’s rights and would give businesses the same kinds of overlord privileged status they had in the Gilded Age. I doubt many Tea Party enthusiasts even realize what they are in for if their wish was granted.

Though many look back at the Founders as sages guided by the Lord’s hand, Thomas Jefferson best summed up the reality in a letter to a friend in 1816,

he mocked “men [who] look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched”; “who ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment.” “Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs,” he concluded. “Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before.”

Good Ole slave-owning Tom was not blind to his, or his peers, shortcomings or human failings.

What I find most interesting in the Constitution worship is that those who champion its place as another book in the Christian Bible aren’t the least bit alarmed by the fact that it’s used to control and limit more than it is to uphold our freedoms.

When you go to the polls in a few weeks, think seriously about your freedom and who is most likely to vote in favor of maintaining that and who is most probably going to throw you, your family and your rights under the bus in the name of their idea of what your freedoms should be.

Just Saying.