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Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Set Of Beliefs Pt II: The Declaration Of Independence

Here is part two to my series about what I believe. And it's something that I think really strikes at the heart of what the modern conservative movement pretends to be concerned about and what the Tea Baggers like to pretend they understand.

The key portion of the Declaration of Independence is this section:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


It's the most quoted section of the Declaration, and also the most misunderstood amongst the broader cross-section of the Right in America.

- We are created EQUAL:

There is a verse in the Bible - you know, that book that religious conservatives claim to hold dear - that speaks of being "my brother's keeper". To this, both liberals and progressives in the modern era would claim an emphatic "yes". We are charged with ensuring that one another is cared for - even those with whom we may disagree with on a variety of ideological grounds.

Conservatives call that "socialism", while we see it as ensuring the safety and well-being of our community.

But more to the point of "equality" is that liberals/progressives don't feel that a person should be immediately identified based on their station and status in America, as we are all born with the same thing - nothing. And while some of us have to struggle and fight to survive in modern day America - something that conservatives seem to have forgotten - others are gifted everything at their every whim. Those people, although born with the same empty slate as the rest of us, are far too often brought up to see that those who don't have such luxuries at their fingertips are somehow less of a person, un-equal. We see this played out day in and day out. We see class-warfare propagated by the Right, all the while claiming that it is the opposition that does so.

- We are endowed by our "creator" with unalienable rights:

Here's where virtually all religious conservatives get the poorly conceived notion that the Founders were "Christian", that they believed in Jesus the way modern religious conservatives do. In point of fact, the Founders were made up of a broader coalition of religious perspectives that would likely not be smiled upon in modern times, should these same men be charged to govern our country. To put it another way, the religious practices of the Founders likely does not mirror the religious practices of most of Americans today.

That being said, the word "creator" could mean anything really. Is it the modern equivalent of "God", or Gaia, or perhaps some other deity? The answer is likely none of these, as the use of the word "creator" implies that we all have an individual belief in where we came from, why we are here, and who placed us here. We aren't a Christian nation, but a nation of various beliefs and faiths.

- We have a right to "Life":

The Right utilizes those last three words in order to claim that all people have a "right" to be born. The ultimate irony of this is that once you are born, those some people would, could, and can malign you simply because you don't conform to their short-sighted ideals. They think that once you are born, you should become not an individual, not a person who thinks freely, openly, and passionately, but a person that is part of the conservative collective - a faceless automaton that adheres to the script.

Why does this "right" suddenly disappear in their view once you are born? That is the question that has troubled me for many years. Why does the right to a healthy life not exist outside the womb? For myself, and many others, this is at the crux of the healthcare debate - that we all have the "right" to it.

Presented to anyone outside the liberal/progressive realm, this is a preposterous notion, that all American born citizens do not have the right to see that their sickness is cured, their broken bones mended, their wellness maintained. Certainly, a fair portion of this is the responsibility of the person in question, as we should all see that we eat healthy and not be lazy when it comes to the basics of our physical nature. But of those things outside our control, are we to leave those to the whim of insurance corporations that are more concerned with profit over the prosperous nature of the average American? Is one man or woman's cancer, arthritis, nerve disorder, or heart defect more important than another's? Sadly, in today's world, it is that way.

- We have the right to Liberty:

In essence, this means that we have a right to behave in accordance with our personal responsibility as our own free will dictates. To put it simply - we should be able to behave as we want.

This is something that conservatives - the Tea Bagger set in specific - seems to think has been eroded of late. To that, I would ask how it is they have been able to stumble around on public property all over the nation with signs, banners, bullhorns, and pamphlets all announcing with great bluster - and little intellectual integrity I might add - that there liberties are being usurped and their rights are being trampled on by a man that could very well be something that he's not. Again, conservatives complain about losing something that they have been completely free to express.

Yes, I believe if you want to action in a completely reflexive and intellectually devoid way, you have that liberty - it hasn't disappeared. But what has happened is the questioning of and degrading of the liberties of liberals and progressives. This isn't to say that we don't have them, it's just that our liberties take a back seat to those whom identify with the fringe conservative ideology that has taken center stage of late within the Republican party.

- We have the right to The Pursuit of Happiness

This final right enumerated in the Declaration is one that conservatives in America think is quite subjective; is based solely on who you are, where you are from, if you worship their God, or behave in any manner that does or does not reflect their particular bent.

In other words, if you fall into the following categories, your "happiness" is subject to the amending of laws, criminal and civil suits, and general and specific attacks from a whole host of conservative groups:

- minorities
- non-Christians
- non-conservatives
- gays
- lesbians

These are, from studying the landscape of modern America, are those whom are most vilified and whom are targeted for having the most basic rights of "happiness" removed.

We have seen the highest levels of government under Republican control try to amend the Constitution to prevent gays/lesbians from marrying. We have seen Republicans implement the most vile and fact-free attacks against non-conservatives. We have seen minorities ridiculed, blamed, violently assaulted, and maligned in all forms of conservative media. And we have seen the use of religion to rewrite our nations history and seen non-Christians attacked as if they were not even human.

To Republicans - particularly conservative ones - we are no longer a nation of many, a melting pot, a place where the poor, the tired, or the huddled masses yearning to breathe free are welcome. They see a nation where life, liberty, and happiness - even the pursuit thereof - is predicated on a set of rules and regulations dictated by the likes of Limbaugh, Beck, and Palin. To them, you are not allowed to be an individual, to be independent. You must be part of the collective.

1 comment:

Troy Camplin said...

First, you make the mistake of equating society with family. Families are rigidly hierarchical. A healthy society in no way, shape, or form looks like a family (nor should the family look like a society). This is the basis of the error in your example of being one's brother's keeper. If I don't take care of my brother, that makes me a bad person; but if you rob me at gunpoint to give my money to my brother, that makes you a bad person. (Obama, coincidentally, doesn't take care of his actual family, but insists on forcing us to "take care" of everyone -- which is really a euphemism for government control and the destruction of liberty.) Now, I think we certainly agree that the best society is one that takes care of the least among us -- but there is no historical evidence that government is the best way to do this; quite the contrary, in fact. History shows that governments destroy the social bonds that improve peoples' lives. We in fact see an inverse relationship between private giving and government "giving" (government doesn't give, as it first has to take from others to "give"). The least generous populations have the most generous governments, while the U.S., with one of the "least generous" governments, has the most generous population by far. As a result, the U.S. is the most generous society on earth.

The blank slate theory is wrong. It has been known to be wrong for a long time now. If your liberalism is based on the blank slate theory of the mind, it is time for you to learn about how the mind actually works and the strongly heritable nature of intelligence, disposition, etc.

There are different kinds of equal. There is the idea that people are equal in fact (also known as egalitarianism), which is demonstrably wrong. But there is also equality under the law (equal before God, if you will). Under equality under the law, no amount of money, intelligence, or social status comes into play when determining innocence or guilt. Here you treat people as equals. Under egalitarianism, you have to treat people unequally in order to get equality of outcome. This destroys equality under the law, and liberty with it.

Does your right to life mean you have the right to demand something from another, potentially depriving them of their life? Does your right to life mean you have the right to demand anothers' right to liberty be curtailed? A right to something like health care means you are demanding that someone -- doctors and nurses -- hand over the life and liberty to you. Thus, a right to health care cannot be a right, because it necessarily infringes on the rights of others -- and no right can infringe upon another right. Feel free to argue for socialized health care if you want, but don't sully the definition of rights to do so. What you are really saying is that you value free health care over the rights of doctors and nurses. You never have a right to demand the actions of others.

One has a right to pursue happiness, not to achieve it. Otherwise, for the most part, I agree with you. Live and let live. So long as you don't use force or fraud, do as you wish. Of course, this attitude against force and fraud are precisely why I'm anti-left/liberal and anti-conservative.

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