In Defense of The Constitution

My Dad has always told me “you may not get your way but you can get your say”. It’s wisdom along the same lines as “well, the worst they can do is say no” and closely related to “an opinion is like an @$$^*!#…everyone has one”.

 

In fact, The Constitution of the United States guarantees that everyone can “have their say”, express their opinion, etc. It’s called The First Amendment. However, like other parts of The Constitution, there are folks in 21st Century America that want to cherry pick the parts they like and discard the ones with which they do not agree (much like how The Bible is treated). There is a not insignificant minority of people who would like to see guns banned, even though The Second Amendment guarantees our right to keep and bear arms. Christians have stood by and watched as God has been pushed aside in the most asinine of ways over the course of the past few decades, with the PC crowd citing The Establishment Clause of The First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”), while conveniently forgetting the second half of that sentence that says “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof “. All manner of controversial issues…taxation, same sex marriage, abortion, capital punishment, affirmative action, etc…are, at their core, a tug of war wherein The Constitution is used and misused, bent, twisted, and shaped to fit whatever argument is being made by any particular side.

 

The question becomes, is The Constitution really that difficult to understand?? I don’t think it is.

 

There have been two things in recent weeks that have grabbed my attention in relation to The First Amendment, and more specifically, peoples’ understandable but troubling disregard for it. But before I dive into those issues in particular let me refresh the collective memory of the masses by spelling out exactly what The First Amendment says. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” There is a lot of good stuff in there ladies and gentlemen. I already mentioned how Freedom of Religion has become Freedom from Religion, especially if that religion is Christianity. But my focus now turns to the Freedom of Speech.

 

Freedom of Speech” is admittedly rather vague terminology, but essentially it means that we all have the right to say anything about anyone, even if it is critical or negative, so long as it isn’t slanderous, obscene, or may insight violence. And even those exceptions are so narrowly defined that a lot of things may be offensive but still within the realm of legality. That very restricted piece of no man’s land…offensive vs. unconstitutional…is the battleground that brings about this particular diatribe.

 

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled on a case involving the Westboro Baptist Church. This is a church in Topeka, Kansas that has gained a certain amount of infamous notoriety in the last couple of decades for traveling around the country to protest at funerals and other gatherings, expressing very clearly their anti-homosexuality beliefs. Basically they hate everyone, including every other religion and all Christian denominations and churches except their own, and believe that President Obama is The Anti-Christ and Pope Benedict XVI is The False Prophet. Obviously they have not been informed that Oprah is The Anti-Christ. Anyway, I think it is safe to assume that an overwhelming majority of Americans from every corner of the sociopolitical spectrum and all religiosities would likely find the activities of this “church” appalling. I don’t feel like I’m stepping too far out on a limb by saying that there might be more unanimity on this than just about any other topic, including the relative merits of Justin Bieber’s career or the entertainment value of Vin Diesel films. The Court ruled in favor of Westboro, saying that their protests are protected free speech. Not surprisingly this is a tough pill to swallow for many, but it gets to the heart of the matter. The Constitution protects (almost) ALL speech…not just the stuff with which we agree.

 

Another situation is more local. A few weeks ago here in northcentral West Virginia a young U.S. Marshal was shot and killed by a suspect on whom he was trying to serve a warrant. I did not know the young man, but we apparently had a lot of friends in common. The overwhelming sadness of the tragedy cast a pall over this area for days. The outpouring of love and respect for the fallen hero and his family was amazing. However, there are always a few dissenters. One of the local TV stations had an article on their website about the shooting, and the vast majority of the comments after the article were supportive, sympathetic, and respectful. Unfortunately a few weren’t, and not only called into question the tactics of law enforcement in general and this deceased officer in particular, but were downright repugnant and insulting on a variety of levels. The whole thread got really ugly, and was made worse by the response of those who were, undoubtedly in good faith, coming to the defense of the officer, his family, and the police as a whole. Was there good reason to be upset and even disgusted?? Absolutely. But there were demands, both on the station’s website and its Facebook page, to delete the comments. Someone even blamed one of the news personalities who hadn’t done anything wrong and by all accounts is a genuinely good guy. A tragic story was made worse by idiotic fools who seemed to be getting their jollies by stirring the pot and making inflammatory statements, but it wasn’t helped by well intentioned yet misguided individuals seeking to spit on The Constitution and suppress free speech.

 

The theme song for an old 80’s sitcom said “you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have The Facts of Life”. That is a good summary of freedom, justice, The Constitution, our government, and our nation. Is it all perfect?? No. With gun ownership comes the unfortunate result that sometimes people are going to get shot. Democracy doesn’t mean that we will always agree with everything our elected leaders do. Sometimes an innocent person will be sent to prison and the guilty will go free. We take the good with the bad because most of the time things go right and in comparison with every other nation in the world America has far and away the very best system available. The opening words of The Constitution say “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Notice that one of the goals is not to form a perfect union but a more perfect union. The Founding Fathers knew that nothing is perfect, but that there is nothing wrong with striving for perfection. We cannot have freedom a la carte, picking & choosing what we like and what we do not. Freedom of Speech means that sometimes we might not agree with what is being said, but we must find some way of dealing with it besides trying to squash the freedom itself. It would be great if everyone was polite, courteous, and appropriate, but it is an irrefutable fact that there are a lot of people who are either stupid, mean, or both. And sometimes two people are just going to disagree about something, whether the issue is big or small, with neither individual necessarily being right, wrong, or evil in any way. In America even the folks who are wrong and not very nice about it have the right to be wrong and not very nice. We must be extremely cautious not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

 

I wish groups like the Westboro Baptist Church didn’t exist, and that everyone who decides to express their opinion would do so in a manner that was respectful and gracious, but that just isn’t realistic. Utopia, Paradise, Eden, or whatever you might refer to it as went out the window the second Eve was beguiled by Satan and nibbled on The Forbidden Fruit. So we must deal with the world the best way we know how. The Founding Fathers…although not perfect men themselves…established freedom & liberty as the bedrock of these United States, and it works better than anything else out there. We should never stop seeking a more perfect union, but we also need to stop being so cavalier toward the level of excellence we have already achieved.

 

 

Defining Conservatism

I make no secret about my political ideology and my strong opinions on socioeconomic issues. I believe we are living in a society with an emergent laissez-faire “anything goes” attitude, and I find it disturbing. I’m not intolerant or narrow-minded by any means, but I do have standards and believe that, while most everything does have shades of grey, there are still some absolutes that should not be so casually thrown on the brush pile.

 

The problem that we run into, not surprisingly, is politics. Much like faith and God that is pure and pristine until we pesky humans insert our…well, humanity…into the process, many of the issues we face in our world are straightforward, with obvious boundaries, until selfishness and greed enter the picture. When so-called public servants and special interests become involved their egos and craving for power seem to muddy the waters and blur that delineation between right and wrong.

 

Fortunately for me I have no such elected position nor do I crave any sort of power or prestige. I am what I am, know what I know, and think what I think. I am past that stage in life when others’ opinions matter all that much. Therefore, while the politicians are busy doing whatever it takes to get re-elected and the “mainstream” media is sticking to their script and duping the masses, I can be honest.

 

The first thing we need to do is throw two terms, maybe three, out the window. Those words are Democrat, Republican, and I would include Independent. They are all political titles, and they are meaningless. The assumption is that one can assume what an elected official believes and how they will conduct themselves based on party affiliation, but that assumption just doesn’t hold water. Make no mistake, politicians are in business for only one person…..themselves. They do not truly represent you, and if you are under the mistaken impression that they do you are naïve. And as far as Independents go, well…..I have no respect for anyone who is too weak to take a position, to declare what they, atleast in theory, stand for. All these hacks try to have their cake and eat it too, but Independents aren’t even smart enough to pretend to represent anything specific.

 

I am not recommending withdrawal from the political process at all. It’s the best we have, the best in the world as a matter of fact, and we must deal within the system to shape and mold the country. I’m not even a fan of third parties, as they have proven to be ineffectual and a waste of time. For the purpose of full disclosure I will happily acknowledge that I am a registered Republican. But my point is that it is an ever increasingly empty association.

 

Devastated by the double whammy of losing Congress and the White House, the Republican Party is now busying itself with trying to re-brand, remake, re-image, etc. What that truly means is that they are willing to sacrifice their principles and do whatever it takes to achieve victory and regain their power starting in 2010. However, the folks in charge of this rebuilding effort need to exercise caution. They have been fooled into believing that they need to shift to the center, that the country is closer to the left than the right. I do not completely disagree. As I said, we are living in an anything and everything goes culture. But I also believe that this shift has been skewed by population disparities, substantial manipulation by the undeniable force of the pervasive entertainment industry, and a growing detachment in Average America where people feel disenfranchised, overlooked, and underappreciated and have therefore just withdrawn from the whole process. All a Presidential candidate has to do is win the extremely liberal northeast U.S. and California and they are nearly a lock to win. So why would anyone in Tennessee, The Dakotas, or Missouri give a damn?? The politicians don’t care about them anyway.

 

I believe that conservatism is still alive and well in America. It’s just confused and hurt and hiding, like a child that has run away into the woods after catching Mommy having some play time with a strange man while Daddy is out of town on business. I am here to woo that child back, to say it’s okay and that Mommy just made a mistake that she’ll regret but that it’s not your fault. In order to make sense of the confusion and hysteria we need to clearly define conservative principles.

 

Conservatism is often misinterpreted as narrow-minded, stuffy, old fashioned, and stuck in the past. This is an unfortunate obstacle. Even more regrettable is being thought of as racist, homophobic, arrogant, and greedy. I have never really understood these stereotypes. I do not know one single conservative that fits that description. That’s not to say that we are perfect, but rather to point out that the success with which the liberal media has painted conservatism with such a broad and malevolent brush is astonishing. I don’t claim to speak for everyone everywhere, but I do feel confident in outlining my beliefs and asserting that they represent the core values of the average conservative. While I think it is wrong to say we are against progress and dislike change, I do believe it is accurate to assess that we have respect for tradition and seek to defend the boundaries of common sense, liberty, and the basic foundations upon which America was built.

 

Conservatism stands for limited government. Government has its purpose. Unfortunately that purpose has been exceeded a thousand times over. I realize sometimes people need a little help, some assistance to get back on their feet. But the welfare state that currently exists is unbelievable. If government would get out of the way and let people figure things out themselves we’d all be better off. Giving people handouts their whole life is not helpful, it’s destructive. By extension we also realize that nationalized health care would be an unmitigated disaster and that education would improve dramatically if government bureaucracy was not involved.

 

Conservatism is NOT racist. The spin that has been put on this issue is amazing. Liberals are the true racists, holding minorities down by tricking them into believing that they need help, that they cannot achieve success on their own merits, that anyone not willing to give them that which they have not earned hates them, that the world owes them something because of how their ancestors were mistreated. Liberals have used social programs as a pawn to buy the votes of minorities for decades. Conservatives are the ones who have faith that people can build a good life for themselves through hard work and effort no matter what the color of their skin may be.

 

Conservatives believe in capitalism and lower taxes. I grew up with a typical liberal family in a typical liberal small town and state. The class envy and hatred of anyone who has “more” is mindboggling. There is instant jealousy and disdain of “rich people”. This type of resentment has lead to the quasi-socialism that Americans are lapping up like deprived wild animals right now. But the bottom line is that lower taxes leads to economic growth, which in turn leads to job opportunities, which then provide a better quality of life all the way around. I know that is a simplistic explanation. I don’t claim to be an economics sage, but I know that things like redistribution of wealth and leveling the playing field backfire in the long run. Life isn’t fair and so those who constantly lecture about equality and fairness just need to shut up.

 

Conservatives believe in God. I talk about separation of church and state in another discourse here at The Manofesto. However, suffice to say that conservatism believes in freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Contrary to some opinions there are rules in life, there are limits. It’s shocking to me how some of the most extreme views have become not only accepted but are lovingly embraced. I will also say that some of these sorts of issues, like gay marriage and abortion, are probably better left to individual states to decide. That gives people some choice as to where they may or may not prefer to live depending on how strongly they believe in or are affected by something in particular. This seems to be what is happening with gay marriage, but unfortunately was not done with abortion.

 

Conservatives interpret The Constitution as it is written. That means we support the right to keep and bear arms and the due process of law, among other things. The Supreme Court has taken it upon itself to “loose interpret” The Constitution, and that has lead to many of our current problems.

 

Conservatives don’t hate the environment or animals. We do tend to look at those issues pragmatically. Animals do not and should not have human-like rights. Some, like cats and dogs, were meant to be faithful companions. Others, like chickens and deer, were meant to be killed and eaten. If someone has the means to buy a mink coat then why shouldn’t they? What else are minks good for? As for the environment, there is evidence to support some of the climate change concern, but far from enough to give credibility to the hysteria that the left has had unfortunate success creating. God made this planet and He won’t allow us to destroy it. It is arrogant to believe we have that much clout. Environmentalism, much like race politics, is just another way of controlling people who aren’t wise enough to realize they’re being duped.

 

This is far from a comprehensive analysis of conservatism. It’s just a small but focused overview of what it means, atleast in theory. So while the Republican Party is wringing their hands trying to figure out a way to win elections and gain back their beloved power, maybe they should try to remember what it is they are instead of what others are trying to force them to become.

 

 

Separation of Church & State

Little White Church

How much longer until our churches are deemed illegal??

It all started with some well meaning church folk and a big hunk of cheese.

Let’s jump right into this controversial issue by stating as fact that “separation of church and state” as applied and attributed to The United States of America is a complete myth. That phrasing is never used in The Constitution, Declaration of Independence, or any other official document. When Thomas Jefferson made a passing reference in a letter to “the wall of separation”, he was specifically referring to The 1st Amendment to The Constitution, which simply says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Of course it goes on to talk about the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly. But the part that we’re specifically concerned with is what’s commonly known as The Establishment Clause.

There are two things that jump out at me when I read The Establishment Clause. First, the main focus was anxiety about the federal government declaring an official religion. The people that came here from England had gone through a lot. Britain was a place that went back and forth between Protestantism and Catholicism, depending on who was wearing the crown. The prevailing religious doctrine changed merely on the whim of a monarch, and the people had no choice in the matter. Not following the rules set forth by The King or Queen had dire consequences. The founders of the New World, what became The United States of America, wanted freedom to worship God the way they chose, not the way the government dictated. Secondly, the latter part, the part that seems to be so conveniently ignored these days, specifically says that the right to freely exercise this freedom to worship God shall not be prohibited. So why is it that our government, and more specifically The Supreme Court, has done nothing but try to prohibit (or at the very least inhibit) the free exercise of religion?

When did freedom of religion evolve into freedom from religion? We’ve become The United States of the Offended over the course of the past couple of decades. We get ourselves in an uproar over the irrelevant issues but fail to defend the most significant of our freedoms. The “separation” battle has gone so far that we have people fighting to eradicate any and all mentions of God, such as “In God We Trust” on our currency and the phrase “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. It’s insanity, and most certainly not what our Founding Fathers intended. They wanted the citizens of this country to decide for themselves how to worship God.

There is no disputing that nearly all the men that laid the foundation of this country were Godly men. They may have followed an assortment of doctrines, but generally speaking all believed in God. For the most part these gentlemen were deists or Unitarians. I will not go in depth on either subject, as I trust my readers’ ability to research such topics if they so choose, but suffice to say that our Founding Fathers believed in God even if they weren’t followers of Christ and were somewhat suspicious of organized religion and “church” as an earthly construct.

So if it can be agreed upon that men like Washington and Adams and Jefferson believed in God and that any philosophical departures were more dogma-centered, why then should God be eliminated from our daily lives?? Christians believe in God. Muslims believe in God. Jews believe in God. Even Eastern religions believe in God in some form, though they may define it differently than what is generally accepted in our hemisphere.

The only people who don’t seem to believe in God in any form are atheists. Depending on what source one chooses to rely on, atheists are about 10% of the U.S. population. Consider this…..about 7% of Americans are vegetarian, yet every town big and small has a McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, etc. If someone is a vegetarian they simply don’t eat at those places. Or maybe the more tolerant among that group are able to sit in a restaurant and have lunch with a friend or co-worker who is consuming meat of some sort while they stick to fruits and veggies. Why can’t atheists practice this broadness of mind??

Now I know what some would say…..it’s easy to avoid meat because there are other choices on the menu, but this circumvention isn’t possible when it comes to God. I will concede the point only when it comes to money. Everyone, atheists and believers alike, must make use of the same currency that evokes the name of God. But this is where my indignation kicks in. First of all, it’s ONE thing. That’s it atheists?? That’s all you got?? Secondly, I once again reiterate that we are talking about 1o% of the population. We are a democratic society. And while that does mean that every vote theoretically counts, it also means that the majority rules. I am sick and tired of kowtowing to people who are outnumbered more than 10 to 1. Get over yourselves. If you’re in any kind of contest imaginable and you are over-matched by those odds, you lose. Life isn’t a Rocky movie. Not all underdogs are lovable and most really don’t stand a chance.

Why then have we gotten to the point in 21st century America where The Ten Commandments are not allowed to be displayed in a courthouse and employees are told to utilize the term “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”?? The answer is easy: The Supreme Court. The Court’s job was meant to be interpretation of the law, but somehow it has evolved into actively making law, sometimes even superseding The Constitution. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the issue of separation of church and state. As previously stated, the only thing in the original documents that formed the framework of the country that even alludes to the issue at hand is the 1st Amendment to The Constitution, and we’ve already examined this so called Establishment Clause. It clearly was meant to prevent a national religion and ensure each individual’s right to worship God without government interference. However, The Supreme Court has taken it upon itself to loosely “interpret” this clause to justify all kinds of lunacy. In direct contradiction to what our esteemed forefathers meant to happen, religious freedom is being hindered, not supported.

I fear that this is a Pandora’s Box that we will never be able to get under control. Things like eliminating prayer in school have stretched beyond the school day to the point where invocations are no longer allowed at events like graduations and football games. Christmas trees aren’t allowed anywhere near government buildings. The mere mention of God or allusions to anything remotely religious in any type of public setting seems to create a paranoid hysteria, albeit among a decided minority. Of course, as was mentioned, our society seems to bend over backward to please these vocal fringe groups, and therein lies the problem.

Whatever happens, however far we spiral downward into the abyss of Godlessness, just know that it wasn’t supposed to be this way, no matter what anyone says.