Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Friday, June 28, 2002

Pledge of Allegiance
I tried, really I did, but I just can't help it. Every bloviating blowhard on the planet is commenting on this, so what's one more tiny little voice?
First off, to the people threatening this man and his daughter (!!), you deserve a special place in Hell (of course, I don't believe in it, but you do) for that kind of behavior. What is he doing wrong besides exercising his rights to be heard in a court of Law, to stand up for what he believes in. If you don't like it, engage in civil discourse about it. This sort of bullying demagoguery is the worst, ugliest side of human nature, and there is no place for it in a civil society, period. Even worse, threatening the well being of an innocent child, no matter how angry you are about this decision is despicable.

There, I got that out of my system. On balance, I support the court's decision, although I think it may well be overturned by the SCOTUS. One thing that bothers me about the debate, however, is the tendency of many otherwise intelligent people to dismiss this guy as a crank. I think he is displaying a lot of courage to publicly challenge the theological status quo. One of the things that bothers me about the civil discourse in the US is the way people use the term "Judeo-Christian" as a synonym for "non-denominational" or "ecumenical". It is as if to say "Well, this is the most watered down version of Abrahamic religion possible, what could be wrong with that?" Well, for starters, how about Hinduism (As Apu would say "there are 800 million of us, you know"), Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Wicca and assorted paganisms of Europe, not to mention the various tribal religions of Africa, S. America, and Australia, and the Pacific Islands. Of course, the dominance of Western Civilization proves that Christianity is right, right? No, of course not, but that is in many cases the underlying assumption. And, of course, no commited atheist (yes, I agree with some "detractors" that it is a religion, in some sense) could feel good about invoking the name of God in an oath, however silly.

One interesting thing to think about is the way that "generic religion" infiltrates every aspect of government. What do we swear an oath on in court? Who do we ask to help us in that oath? (hint; its not Vishnu) What's on the back of a greenback? Many people have noted that the Declaration of Independence makes several references to God (or the Creator). Well, even allowing for the well documented Deism of the author of that document, we should note that many, if not all, of the same people who approved the Declaration of Independence (not a governing document, but essentially propaganda to convince fellow Colonials that this was the right thing to do), were involved in the drafting of the Constitution, a document that contains not one mention of God. It is inconceivable that this was accidental.

This doesn't mean that I think God should be entirely gone from public debate. A large number of citizens rely on God and the Bible for their moral compass and guidance, and their views should be respected. However, it is inconceivable that they don't have enough chances to pray, when they wish, and to put young children in a coercive environment (you try being the only kid in your 2nd grade class who stays sitting during the Pledge), and force them to say words they don't mean day after day? That seems, well, un-American.

I should note that lots of other people have said most of these things. Click any link on this page, and you will find another opinion on this matter. I must say, it makes for interesting reading, but aren't there more important things to be thinking about?

Incidentally, some readers (I'm looking at you, Bowen) might expect me to be up in arms about the voucher thing, too. Well, all I can say is, I dunno. I was initially disappointed in the decision, but after reading some thoughtful arguments by Eugene Volokh, "conservative law professor" (according to the LA Times), I have reconsidered somewhat. I am not sure what the effects of the decision will be, but I really don't see how it violates the Establishment clause, or the Free Exercise clause of the 1st Amendment (the Pledge decision is more clearly a question of Establishment). As I mentioned in Rand's comments, after reading it at Atrios, this opens the doors for public funds sponsoring kids going to Madrassa's, something the Theocrats are probably not in favor of all that much. Anyway, I think it is another experiment in Education, and hopefully not a disasterous one. One problem I see, though, is, suppose 1/2 the kids leave some public school; what about the other 1/2? Some expenses (books, teachers) can be cut on a per student basis, but the fixed costs (buildings, utilities, bussing) are, well, fixed. This seems like it could become a problem. The other problem, which has been pointed out in other places, is the likely strings attached to federal $$. This may make some parochial schools rather hesitant to take in students with these subsidies, if they then fall under federal or state gov't supervision to some further extent.

Enough for today. Have a good weekend!