Other bits and pieces

Saturday, November 20, 2010

God's Lovely Turnip


Last week Big D and I had the opportunity of visiting Monticello.  For those that don’t keep up on the large houses of old dead rich white dudes, Monticello was the home of Thomas Jefferson back when he was writing really wordy things and making mulatto babies.  The house and grounds are both impressive and T.J. was an impressive man.  That said, there was still a glaring contradiction about his life that no one during the tour was able to completely reconcile.  How could the man who wrote the operating system for the freedom of all people own slaves his whole life?  The tour guide (who was actually quite knowledgeable) attempted to speak to this, but didn’t really have any answers.  And there’s something else.  How is it that 250 years later we still haven’t learned a damn thing from it?

The efforts behind the Declaration of Independence were a grass-roots movement to break from one of the longest held traditions in human history: The idea that person’s worth and station in life was issued at birth.  The American soon-to-be traitors to the crown had an interesting idea; that everyone born into this world should be afforded the right to go about their life in the manner of their choosing, and so long as they don’t try to hinder someone else from doing the same, make their way however they saw fit.  T.J. penned a document clearly stating that people should be free to practice any religion tickled their nipple, adhere to whatever values enriched their lives,  and basically get their business done without the government putting it’s wiener in their chili about what god they pray to, what color is their favorite, or whether they like to date fat women or not.

As most people are aware, approximately six seconds after the ink dried on the Declaration, the sky opened up and started raining big fat turds of hypocrisy as more than 80% of the old white dudes drafting up these lofty notions of utopia owned and mistreated human beings, and beat their wives for not cleaning the microwave oven after cooking ox tales. (That really messes up the nuke)  But we managed to evolve beyond  this contravention…eventually and with a bit of a skirmish in the mid-late 1860s.  So smooth seas on the good ship Freedom after that right?  Yeah….no.

Freedom of religion was a major tenet of the DoI. (Most people don’t know that John Adams tried like hell to include verbiage decrying Jefferson as “A giant doosh.)  Religious values go with religion (Yeah, I know, it didn’t take a rocket surgeon to come up with that)  The majority of colonists at the time were puritanical Christians who’s morals and values led  them to lead exciting lives wrought with adventures like “Missionary Position” and  rumpus sex for the sole purpose of procreation.  They were expressing their religious freedom. And what’s the first order of business when celebrating religious freedom:  Organize the government around your idea of God and hammer out a 36 volume set of laws establishing protestant values as a legal framework for America.  Okay, something doesn’t match up.

Why is polygamy and bigamy against the law?  Why are we having legal battles over whether gays and lesbos can get married?  Why is prostitution illegal?  Who decided that the nuclear family of the 1950’s was the only unit of ménage acceptable within our legal system?  These laws come from the moral underpinnings taken from a snapshot through a window of time in human history.  They reflect the values of Puritan Protestant Christians between 1600-1800.   In fact, all of these practices (and a lot of others) existed for centuries under Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and were perfectly acceptable.  So how did the greatest endeavor for freedom and enlightenment turn right around and impose a singular religious will on society and its legal framework?  But, more importantly, why are we still freaking doing it?

If one man is crazy enough to think that it’s a good idea to have ask for a kitchen pass from three nagging women (I mean, beautiful maidens of goodness and virtue) what do I care?  Does their goofy 4-person marriage somehow stand in the way of my life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness?  A couple of years ago the feds and local cops in Texas (pronounced ’Tayhas’)  raided a compound of polygamists, took their children away, threw the men in jail, and basically up-ended their entire apple cart and made a hot mess of it.  And what evil did they uproot?  What pestilence of human misery did the stalwart do-gooders save us all from?  These people were just living their lives in accordance with their values.  Their children were loved, cared for, and educated.  While their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness was unconventional, it worked for them.  Were their kids likely to grow up and rob convenience stores to buy meth?

People make the argument that a gay couple can’t  raise well adjusted children.  Because, yeah, heterosexuals are doing a bang-up job of that lately.  I’d hazard to guess that a loving couple of flamers or lipstick lesbians has a much better shot at raising a rug-rat to become a productive member of society than a single hetro-mother of six on welfare with a cocaine habit.  And that’s not even the real point.  Does their way of life get in the way of yours?  What are they taking from you?  How is it that a polygamists values are criminal because they differ from yours?  How does some dude paying for sex impact your financial future?  What do you care?  I may not like your way of life and you may not like mine.  That’s the beauty of this place…or at least it was supposed to be.

This country was founded on the principle that anyone should be able to go about their life in the manner of their choosing, so long as they don’t hurt the poor saps around them trying to eek out a living of their own.  Yet still, 200 years later, as the fabric of American destiny includes threads that follow religions ranging from Scientology to Eckankar and the whole VHF spectrum of values, we continue to allow our laws to reflect the values of one religion…and even that one only selectively.   This is America, the land of the free…so long as you prescribe to the values of Christian European dissidents of the 1700’s.  If you want to celebrate freedom, try just living your life and letting someone else do the same.  Because that, my friends, is America.

© Raymond Smith 2010

10 comments:

M40 said...

Ray, you KNOW I like your writing but in this case, I've got to cry foul.

The constitution was intended NOT as a means of granting power to the federal government, but to limit its scope and reign in any

quest for domination over the individual states. It was set up such that if the constitution doesn't say it... the feds aren't

supposed to do it.

After enumerating the specific duties of the various branches of government, the framers of the constitution decided maybe it wasn't

clear enough to simply tell the future occupants of federal office what they COULD do. Whereas most politicians are power-hungry,

narcissistic assholes, the framers wisely decided to ALSO list what the feds COULDN'T do (just in case they got any crazy ideas). Thus

was born the 'Bill of Rights'. They made it short and sweet... a 'ten commandments' of sorts for anyone who got too big for their britches.

In short, the Bill of Rights says the fed has to let people live, speak, believe and write what they please. The people can own and

use guns. The fed can't put soldiers or cops in peoples homes, nor can they bust in the door and go through your stuff. If you're

'busted', there's no holding you without a trial and no third world dictator style show trials. They gotta play fair... due process,

juries, etc. If you're convicted, there's no pulling fingernails, drawing and quartering, cutting off junk, etc. The final bit as

written by the framers (the tenth amendment) is perhaps the most important point when it comes to understanding your rights.

The tenth amendment says, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." That means that if the constitution DOESN'T SAY IT, the fed CAN'T DO IT. This is why ANY federal law governing marriage, abortion, health care, and ALL other matters not mentioned in the constitution... is ILLEGAL. These are NOT within federal purview. These are matters for individual states. Everyone should familiarize themselves with their state's constitution.

If Alabama decides that abortion should carry the death penalty for both mother and doctor... it's PERFECTLY within their rights. Likewise, if California decides that they will give free partial-birth abortions every Tuesday, and then feed the still-kicking fetuses to hungry wolves... it's within their rights. About the only role the feds would have in all this is to make sure that there's a highway between Alabama and California. That way, pre-teens in Alabama have a means of getting rid of incestually deformed pregnancies, albeit with a lengthy bus ride.

My point is that ANY state where a majority of the populace wants 'non-traditional marriage' (same sex, multiple partners, or the family dog), is within their rights to legalize it. There ARE already several states where same sex marriage is now law, and I suspect there's a couple that may eventually legalize polygamy. One thing about democracy is that it can suck when your opinion is in the minority. I personally don't give a crap who marries who or what... but about 2/3 of Americans DO seem to care, and vote as such. I may not agree, but I would NEVER want to cede control of this to the fed!

After they finished the constitution, the framers didn't sit down and write our law books. They simply kept the laws of the day, most of which date back to Roman common law (thus all the Latin verbiage in modern day legalese). Blaming the founders for individual state's laws is like blaming hurricanes on Bush. It might make you feel better, but it's a silly stretch.

Chesapeake Sailor said...

Ray,

Gotta agree with M-40. Jefferson, Adams and Cronies were products of their age, albeit more ambitious and I suspect more intelligent that most. None-the-less, personal beliefs including religion was going to find its way into their writings. Many of the signers and writers of some of our most important documents were Deists, not Christians in the sense of the word.

Chino said...

@M40...This wasn't about the constitution. In fact, I had a hard time figuring out if you were even commenting on the right post. This is simply about the spirit and intent of the author of the Declaration of Independence stating people should be free to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Chino said...

But thanks for the primer on the Bill of Rights...I think the copy I carry in my pocket keeps me pretty current though.

Anonymous said...

One thing about John Adams, he refused to buy a slave and opposed slavery. That is something that I can respect. He not only talked the talk he walked the walk. He was not free from faults though; see the Alien and Sedition Acts that he signed into law.

Back to the main topic…. I think that Thomas Jefferson might have been more of a do as I say, not as I do person. He did have some great ideas as you stated regarding life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He however lacked the balls to follow through with those ideas when it pertained to his own life and slavery. One thing for sure is that many of his intentions have been published, but some have perished with him and will never be known.

Anonymous said...

I assume you have a copy on your phone of the Bill of Rights...or is it a laminated small print copy? haha...

Anonymous said...

Thomas Jefferson is a difficult person to truly describe. He may have been born into a wealthy white family, but he died broke over $100,000 in debt. His estate was sold off after his death to pay that debt. The only reason that we have Monticello today is that the Levy Family bought it & sought to preserve it.

Additionally it was recorded that John Adams & Thomas Jefferson later in life became good friends. This can be shown in their correspondences that should be part of the Museum at Monticello. They experienced huge differences over the course of their lives, but as each grew as a person, they came to realize that they each had valid points.

As for slavery & Thomas Jefferson, the subject cannot be fully covered by someone giving a tour of Monticello. He opposed slavery, yes, he also thought that colored were child like & inferior. He considered it contrary to the laws of nature that decreed that everyone had a right to personal liberty. He called the institution an "abominable crime," a "moral depravity," a "hideous blot," & a "fatal stain" that deformed "what nature had bestowed on us of her fairest gifts." For more information on the history of Thomas Jefferson and Slavery check out the website run by the Monticello Organization/Museum:
http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-and-slavery Thomas Jefferson’s life & slavery are the subject of quite a few publications & hope that you are reading up on the subject with great fervor & interest as only you can have.

Anonymous said...

As for slavery & Thomas Jefferson, the subject cannot be fully covered by someone giving a tour of Monticello. He opposed slavery, yes, he also thought that colored were child like & inferior. He considered it contrary to the laws of nature that decreed that everyone had a right to personal liberty. He called the institution an "abominable crime," a "moral depravity," a "hideous blot," & a "fatal stain" that deformed "what nature had bestowed on us of her fairest gifts." For more information on the history of Thomas Jefferson and Slavery check out the website run by the Monticello Organization/Museum:
http://www.monticello.org/site/plantation-and-slavery/thomas-jefferson-and-slavery Thomas Jefferson’s life & slavery are the subject of quite a few publications & hope that you are reading up on the subject with great fervor and interest as we know you can have.

Chino said...

To the last poster: You're right, and that's one the reasons the tour dude really didn't want to get into it. But one problem for T.J. was that it's one thing to deplore slavery, but in climate of the times, not all that practical, or even beneficial to the slaves you own to buck the system. What good would it have done for Jefferson to have freed his slaves? Would they be able to make it on their own? Would someone else just scoop them up? Slavery was just too pervasive. Etc.

Chino said...

Oh...and yes...Bill of Rights on my phone and small print copy. (Actually, the whole constitution) It's like having the game rules for a country in your pocket.

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