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Monday, April 7, 2008

The Camel's Nose (updated)

Update: For those of you coming in from Bakersfield, read this post, then go here. Then, and only then, feel free to post comments. Otherwise I'll delete you.
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One cold night, as an Arab sat in his tent, a camel gently thrust his nose under the flap and looked in. "Master," he said, "let me put my nose in your tent. It's cold and stormy out here." "Why not? By all means," said the Arab, "and welcome" as he turned over and went to sleep. A little later the Arab awoke to find that the camel had not only put his nose in the tent but his head and neck also. The camel, who had been turning his head from side to side, said, "I will take but little more room if I place my forelegs within the tent. It is difficult standing out here." "Why not? Yes, you may put your forelegs within," said the Arab, moving a little to make room, for the tent was small. Finally, the camel said, "May I not stand wholly inside? I keep the tent open by standing as I do." "Yes, yes," said the Arab. "Come wholly inside. Perhaps it will be better for both of us." So the camel crowded in. The Arab with difficulty in the crowded quarters again went to sleep. When he woke up the next time, he was outside in the cold and the camel had the tent to himself.

I don't have to explain this story, that's the point of parables - they're self explanatory. And the lesson here is obvious, any answer that is based on the rationalization "why not?" is probably going to end badly.

Let's take a look at a real world example of the camel's nose, shall we?

In Kern County, California - the area surrounding Bakersfield - the county school system has put up copies of the American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States (and, according to the news release, The Bill of Rights- which I thought was actually part and parcel of the Constitution, but then what do I know?) in public high school classrooms. Supposedly 31 other Californian municipalities are doing the same. This was done "to promote a sense of patriotism in the students."

Good, right? Our kids should be exposed to these documents, and public schools are a good place to start.

Well, as usual when I start talking about a subject here at Stonekettle Station, there's a bit more to it than first appears.

See, the copies of the these documents have had a little modification. Nothing major, just a single line - in large bold letters - at the top of each document.

"In God We Trust"

Nothing earth shaking. In God We Trust is the national motto, adopted in 1956, when it was discovered that gasp! we didn't actually have an official motto. Other nations had a motto, but not us. E Pluribus Enum was the de facto motto, but never officially adopted - and by 1956 we had decided that we really didn't like the concept of 'from many one,' and the world was filling up with atheist communists - so Congress decided that "In God We Trust" would be a good way to close the motto gap and stick it to the Godless commies all in one fell swoop. Then they went around pasting their new official slogan on everything in sight, including the national currency.

Who knows? Maybe it worked. The Red Scare faded into history, the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States won the cold war whoohoo! And life went on pretty much as before, except now we had a cool motto we could whip out at parties to impress other less cool nations.

So, adding the national motto to the top of our founding documents doesn't seem like that big of deal. Bakersfield City Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan said the posters have a positive message and she can't see any negative impact from hanging them in school classrooms. She said the posters promote patriotism, and that schools are where students should learn about patriotism.

One of the things I've bitched about of late is the rather large number of folks in this county who have never read the either Declaration nor the Constitution, have little or no understanding of either document or why the Constitution in particular is so damned important. Now, I'm not happy that either document should have words or phrases added to them that were not put there by the framers, but truthfully plastering the national motto across the top doesn't seem like that big of deal to me. Get them up in the classroom, and more importantly talk about them, in detail. (This is the part where if I was the Arab, I'd be letting the beast stick its big fuzzy nose into the tent).

Now, as most of you have figured out, I'm not even remotely religious, in fact most things religious give me the screaming willies, but I don't get all spun up over the word "God," especially in the context of the National Motto. In fact, at first reading I was more disturbed over the use of the word "Patriotism." Patriotism? Schools are where students should learn about patriotism, according to the Bakersfield City council. Hmmm, who defines what that means exactly? I have a problem when state schools start defining God, I have an even bigger problem when the state starts defining patriotism. And when the words patriotism and God start coming up in the same sentence, especially in the classroom, yeah, that's when I start having a major fucking problem.

See Council Woman Jacquie Sullivan went on to say this: "I have passion on this because I think, 'Why not?' Patriotism is a love of God and a love of country," She also added, "people should love God first and then their country."

There it is, right there, the real agenda - and now the camel is shoulder deep and blinking innocently. What? I'm just trying to get in out of the cold.

Why not? I'll tell you why not, Ms Sullivan, because you're full of shit, that's why not. Because it's right there in that document you've defaced. Because this isn't even remotely about teaching the Constitution or about love of country. It's about your beliefs and your religion, first and foremost - by your own words, you deceitful disingenuous hypocritical camel. It's about teaching Patriotism as you define it. It's about getting your religion into the heads of other people's children.

This, more than anything else, is what pisses me off about fundamentalists - as long as you're doing it for God, lying and dissembling and deceit are OK. Lying to yourself is OK. Hypocrisy is OK. Operating under false pretenses is OK. Violating your oath to uphold the Constitution as a public official is OK, in fact giving your oath with no intention of keeping your word is OK. As long as you're, you know, doing it for God. I am sick to death of these people, these so called Americans, who simply cannot leave the rest of us the hell alone. It's bad enough when they attempt to foist their beliefs on me, but when they use the power of their elected office to further their own personal agenda in an attempt to mold the minds of children that's where I draw the line. I am fucking fed up these hypocrites who have decided that America means fundamental Christianity, and that only Christians can be patriots. I am sick and tired of these people and their nonsense.

I am not the only one, there's fairly widespread opposition to this bullshit, but I doubt it'll gain any traction. Kern County officials said they will finish hanging more than 2,000 posters with the modified Constitution, Declaration, and Bill of Rights in classrooms and libraries within the next few days - they're not just letting the camel stick his nose in the tent, they're actually outside pushing on his rump.

Let's just hope that those actually charged with teaching the Constitution point out the hypocrisy. Let's hope that the students are perceptive enough to spot it when they read: 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.

And while they're at it, maybe Kern County should post California's Constitution too. Particularly Article I, Section 4: Free exercise and enjoyment of religion without discrimination or preference are guaranteed. This liberty of conscience does not excuse acts that are licentious or inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State. The Legislature shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

And don't try to tell me that this is about freedom of religion - this is about state establishment of religion. Don't think so? Read Council Woman Sullivan's words again: "Patriotism is a love of God..." and "...people should love God first... ." She's not saying what she believes, she's saying very clearly what you should believe. If she was speaking as a private citizen then she's entitled to say whatever she likes, but she represents the state and and she is speaking in that capacity. Her intentions are very clear and so are the intentions of the Bakersfield City Council.

Why not?

Because it's a lie. That's why not. Because it's a direct violation of the concepts laid out in the very document it defaces.

Why not? Because the camel's intentions were clear in his mind right from the minute he poked his big smelly nose into the tent, and he deliberately didn't bother to tell the Arab about it. And this camel isn't any different.

14 comments:

  1. I've sent my requisite incensed e:mail to the City Council, along with a condemnation of Councilwoman Sullivan.

    Man, has she got some presumption.

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  2. Janiece, thanks, me too.

    What chaps my ass in these situations is the hidden agenda. These people are fundamentally incapable of separating their religion from their actions - they know it and they think they're right, but they always attempt to hide it behind Patriotism (with a capital 'P'). This just pisses me off. They always talk about truth, but they never live up to it in their own lives, I'd have a whole lot more respect for them if they'd just clearly state their agenda up front. But they never do - they always lie about their intentions. Always. I think their bible has something to say about that.

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  3. Jim, you've had a hellova last 4-5 days! I keep wanting to comment, but there's no way I can say it any better. Thanks for your posts. It makes me feel good that I feel the way you do, and it makes me feel better to hear you explain it so well.

    Thumbs up, sir!

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  4. Tom, just do what Nathan does when he doesn't have a relevant comment - hijack the post. :)

    flying monkeys is always a good hijack. Just saying.

    OH, and speaking of flying monkeys, howdy to the large number of folks reading this in Bakersfield. Great press you're getting today, ain't it?

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  5. Actually, this one should be a no-brainer regardless of your religious leanings. Adding those four words is amending the Constitution. Article V makes provisions for doing that.

    There's no mention of Kern County having any involvement in that process. They're breeding a generation who will think "In God We Trust" actually is a part of the Constitution. I would think that a suit to have it removed would be successful pretty damned quickly.

    Oh. And my flying monkeys can kick your flying monkeys' asses.

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  6. Well, yeah, your flying monkeys are from the block.

    See, I wouldn't have problem if Council Women Sullivan said that they have included the National Motto because it's the National Motto. And that they had included the motto specifically to teach students about where it came from (the act of 1959 and why Congress felt compelled to add both that particular motto and the Pledge of Allegiance when the original framers did not), but she didn't - and she didn't because that wasn't her intention at all. Her, and the council's, intention is to get their particular God into the public classroom, I'm not inferring anything - she said this quite clearly and without equivocation, whether or not she intended too. This is about Christianity and how Christians increasingly define patriotism - not about the documents. In fact, they are adamantly afraid of the Constitution and what it actually says. That's why they added the words that the framers specifically did not - and why they put them first.

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  7. Heh. The last time I tried to point out to a devout Christian liar that lying was against the ten commandments, someone else pointed out to me that no, lying actually isn't disallowed. All it says is "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." Which is apparently quite open to interpretation.

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  8. Well, if you're a fundie, truth is what you say it is - which is the foundation of Young Earth Creationism, isn't it? It doesn't matter if you're dishonest in your intentions, as long as it's for Jesus.

    It's right there in the bible, when they asked Jesus to renounce his statements he did and lived a long and happy life - oh, wait, that's not right. Well, I'm sure it's in there somewhere.

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  9. "Well, I'm sure it's in there somewhere."

    Jim, you are obviously a Catholic and have been hitting the Apocrypha too hard. ;-)

    / Southern Baptist

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  10. Catholic? No, not the last time I checked. ;)

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  11. Yeah, the question that's in my mind when I hear Ms Sullivan is "whose God?" Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Mormon, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Wiccan, or other?

    There is a scene from Christopher Moore's Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove that skewers that question perfectly. I'll have to find it and link to it.

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  12. MWT, I get around that by asking just whom the Father of Lies is, and that by lying they are follow and acting in his name,

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  13. Steve, ooooh you're a bad man :)

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  14. Jim, well, I've been prayed for by well meaning people all over this nation. Just like medical interdictive prayer, it hasn't changed me yet.

    Yes, I have my room reserved in Hell Hotel (well, there's always room for one more anyway) already.

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