Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Rest of the Camel

For those of you surfing in from Bakersfield, California due to the links posted in your local media - Good morning.

If you sent me hate mail and expect to see me discuss it here. Sorry, I'm not interested. If you plan on sending me hate mail, don't bother - it just goes into the spam catcher unread along with the Viagra adds.

If you've read The Camel's Nose and you've come to tell me what an asshole I am here on my blog, well fine, go ahead. But before you start, read the following:


1) I have nothing against any particular religion, belief in God or gods, Gaea, Witches, Warlocks, the Great Bird of the Universe, or other manifestations of faith. I also have nothing against atheists. I belong to neither camp; I cheerfully associate with people of both inclinations and have many good friends of both persuasions. REPEAT: I am not anti-religion. I am not anti-atheist. I subscribe to no agenda urging the eradication of either viewpoint. Clear?

2) I do NOT have a problem with the word "God" as it appears in the national motto, or in the oaths of allegiance sworn by public officials and members of the military. I do NOT have a problem with use of the bible or other holy books used to add solemn gravity to oaths of office or of the court. Again, I have no militant anti-Christian agenda, see paragraph (1) above.

3) I respect other's beliefs up to a certain extent (mostly the point where those beliefs become a house of cards rationalization based on denial, or to the point where they begin to hurt others or deny people their guaranteed rights), and I demand that you do the same. I have spent most of my life defending the Constitution of the United State specifically so that you and I may be free to believe as we choose. If you are a person of faith, and you wish to discuss your beliefs with me, I will listen - as long as you're polite and respectful about it. I have no problem with the young Mormon and Jehovah's Witnesses who come to my door and clearly identify themselves and state their purpose up front and who, when I explain that I am not interested, politely thank me for my time and leave.

4) Where I have a major problem is when those of faith, or no faith, attempt to force their views on me and mine. However, for those who truly and honestly believe what they are professing, I have some grudging respect as long as they are open about their agenda.

5) I cannot, and will not, abide those who attempt force their beliefs on me or mine or my fellow citizens through subterfuge and dishonesty. I despise those who attempt to pervert and subvert the rights I fought to defend in order to secretly impose their religion on others. I have no respect whatsoever for public officials who swore an oath to uphold and defend both the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of their own home state, who gave their word with their hand on the Bible that they claim to hold most dear, and then scheme and plot to violate that very oath. I consider those, and especially Christians, who attempt to impose their beliefs on others through subterfuge to be the ultimate hypocrites and I will NOT tolerate it. This hypocrisy is the ultimate form of disrespect. Respect is earned. Respect returns respect. You cannot demand respect for your beliefs when you yourself have so little respect for them.

6) The Camel's Nose was not a rail against Christianity or any other religion - I know, I wrote it. If you took it that way, that's your problem - and if you post a comment accusing me of some anti-Christian agenda, as some did last night, I'll delete your posts without comment as I did last night. My blog, my rules, if you don't like it - go somewhere else.

To clarify:

I think posting the Constitution and it's associated Bill of Rights and amendments in every classroom, library, court house, state and federal office in the country is a dandy idea. Personally I'd like to see that as part of a mandatory class for elementary, middle school, and high school students covering the Constitution in detail, including it's origins, framers, and it's impact on government, law, and the individual citizen. I think that there should be a separate section dealing with the Constitution and Government on the National Standardized Test Battery for public schools as part of the No Child Left Behind Act. Personally, I'd like to see even a tenth as much effort go into teaching the Constitution as goes into high school sports or cheer leading.

As to the Declaration of Independence, it's a great document. Magnificent even. It contains the germ of the ideals that became America. Though it has absolutely no weight as a legal basis or as guiding principles in our nation, it does command significant historical value. By all means post it in the classroom. Discuss it, and the events that led to its declaration - and more importantly, those that followed.

That National Motto. Again, post it. It is the national motto. Post it and discuss why it's the national motto, discuss why Congress in 1956 felt compelled to make it our motto, when the framers of the Constitution did not - and while you're at it, discuss why they also added a pledge of allegiance when the founding fathers were so adamantly opposed to such an oath. But post the motto because it is the national motto, and post it separately.

Post the Oaths of Office, and the Oath of Enlistment for both Officers and Enlisted of the US military (the oaths are similar, but vary by one very, very significant line - which has to do directly with the Constitution). Post the State Constitution. Post the Federalist Papers and the writings of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Post the writings of Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. Hell, as a citizen of the United States and as a retired US Navy Officer, I have no problem if you post the Articles of Confederation as a learning tool - those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, and that's a mistake we can ill afford to repeat.

I think all of these things are fine ideas. In fact I think that as educators, public officials, and especially as citizens of this nation we have a profound obligation to ensure that future generations are versed in the principles upon which the United States was founded. I think it is our duty, all of us.

But, public officials charged with the execution of a secular office took an oath to uphold the Constitution first. If you cannot place you duty above your personal beliefs, then you have no business holding public office in the United States. As a public official, you have a duty and an obligation to the Constitution first, period; your duties to office come before your duty to your God. That is the oath you swore. If as a matter of faith you cannot execute the duties of your office in this manner, then you should never have taken the oath to begin with - you're a hypocrite and a liar. And don't tell me that this is too high of expectation, public office is a voluntary obligation. This exact expectation of loyalty is demanded of every person in military service, and it is demanded by the Constitution of those in public office as well. Public Officials have no right, no right whatsoever, to filter public education through their own religion, they represent all Americans, those of their faith and those not, just as those of us in uniform are sworn to defend all Americans equally, those of faith and those of none.

The biggest lie of all is to tell half the truth.

The Bakersfield City Council stated that their goal is to educate and instill a sense of patriotism. As long as patriotism is defined simply "as a love of country" or as "a respect of country" or even as "appreciation for country" I have no problem with it. However, when patriotism becomes required nationalism, or especially when patriotism is used as a method of indoctrination by subterfuge, well, then I'm going to push back, hard.

And in this case that's exactly what's going on. Patriotism is being used as a gateway drug to religion. When a city council member states clearly and unequivocally that the reason for posting "In God We Trust" is because "Patriotism is a love of God and a love of country" and "people should love God first and then their country" that's precisely what she's doing. She's hiding her religion behind the guise of patriotism, with the full intention of foisting her definition of patriotism on the public school system.

Intention is the issue here, not the motto itself.

And that intention is a lie, and subterfuge, and hypocrisy, and a violation of the oath she swore to uphold.

Lying, subterfuge, and hypocrisy are also contrary to the principles of Christianity. Just saying.


  1. Jim, I understand your point and I agree with it, but I'm even angrier that by adding those four words to those documents, they're teaching a lie. It is a lie to teach that the Constitution has a heading saying "In God We Trust". It is a lie to teach that the Declaration of Independence starts out "In God We Trust". Yes, the foisting off of ones views under the guise of patriotism is despicable, but even if they had some defensible reason I'd still be pissed off about those documents being altered.

    As I said yesterday, Article V lays out the process for amending the Constitution. Kern County has decided they don't need to follow those rules and that they can amend it all on their own. And make no mistake, that's exactly what they did.

    And there is no provision for amending the Declaration of Independence. It's a historical document for crying out loud. It was written and the writing is done. You don't get to add stuff to it a couple hundred years later and then teach the lie.

    Let's add some stuff to the Magna Carta; it needs some punching up. How about the Treaty of Versailles. I bet we could get it right in hindsight.

    Let me repeat, I agree with what you said and why you said it. But what's being foisted is pretty transparent, (seeing as she's being so blatant about it) and therefore fairly easy to counter. But if those words stay, ten years from now you'll have kids saying, "Of course 'In God We Trust' is part of the Constitution." And that's just a big fat fucking lie.

  2. BTW,

    I know you'll say no, but I'd love to have seen what's been deleted and spamified. :D

  3. I fart in Jacquie Sullivan's general direction.

    I've read your posts and you've stated everything I feel too.

    This is an EXTREMELY conservative town. I didn't know that till I got married to a Navy guy and moved here when he got out of the service (his home of record).

    The weather's better here than in Chicago, anway.

  4. Nathan, I agree with the gist of your comment. I figured that was sufficiently covered in The Camel's Nose and it's associated comments. I didn't mention it here, because you guys covered it quite well indeed yesterday (it's also been covered in the press in a number of places).

    I put this post up specifically for those people who felt compelled to ask me why I hate God and am persecuting Christians, specifically for those who read only the first paragraph of The Camel's Nose and then assumed that they had me all figured out - one even accused me of secretly attempting to further the agenda of of P.Z. Meyers and Richard Dawkins. Oh noes!

    While I do read pharyngula on a regular basis, and even comment there upon occasion, I don't have much use for Dawkins or rabid atheism either (I'm just not big on fundamentalism in either direction) - and so I put this post up to clarify my position.

    I may, may, put up some of the hate mail just for fun, but frankly I don't feel like giving them the air time.

    Revamped. Howdy, glad to see you. I have nothing personal against the folks of Bakersfield. It seemed like a decent enough place when I was there last - and I'll admit that Bakersfield makes a good balance for Berkeley, it's probably what's keeping California from sliding into the Pacific. :)

  5. If you want high blood pressure, check out the comments on the Big Idea today over at Whatever.

    I finally had to opt out.

    Not because I think Vox Day is a Tard, although I have my suspicions, but because the fundie's are out in full force, and reason is apparently lost on them.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Constitutional Supporters!

  6. Janiece, yeah, I read that this morning right after Scalzi posted it and before there were any comments. Call me Nostradamus, but I figured that's where it would go - and it's also pretty obvious that that's exactly what Scalzi had in mind. ;)

  7. Good grief Jim,

    You don't do anything by half, do you?

    Maybe you should put a link at the top to your Patriotism post as well.

    I mean, if you're going to make people mad, then by all means make them mad!

    I volunteer to keep count of the number of trolls, just for entertainment value of course.

  8. Janiece, I read down to where you opted out - and that was just about enough for me.

    I suspect that any of us could have written the entire comment thread ourselves without help - it's just that tired and predictable. Most of those folks, Vox especially, aren't interested in answers or consensus (like the Dead Dipshit 'arguing' with you) per se, they're only interested in the argument - because the argument makes them feel like somebody important. Vox has made a career out of it - but then so has Meyers and Dawkins.

  9. Michelle, I like your new avatar. Nice smile.

  10. Not as toothy as the last though. :) I look much more threatening as a penguin.

    And I just sent you e-mail--in case your spam monster tries to eat it. It's actually directly related to the picture, oddly enough. Now you'll know what I'm grinning about.

  11. OK Michelle, you can't just tell us all you're explaining your picture to Jim in private and expect us to let that alone. C'mon, give!

    BTW, If I click on the picture to see the slightly larger one on the profile I can see that you're wearing a festive sweater. When I first saw the little version, the first thing that popped into my head was, "Holy Crap! Is Michelle wearing a cheerleader outfit?"

    LOL (Don't hit me or take my toaster.)

  12. Like Nathan, I find myself curious as to what sorts of nasty mail you're getting, Jim. I have to confess a certain degree of jealousy: I need to think of something I can write to provoke comments from ignoramuses that I can delete. Ah well, I've only been blogging for a few months... my time will come.

    Janiece, I probably wouldn't have read Scalzi's "big idea" if it hadn't been for you (tho' it showed up in my RSS aggregator)--so big (sarcastic in a friendly tongue-in-cheek way) thanks for that. I don't know why Scalzi sometimes trolls like that when he has the readership he does, but I guess he likes trying to flip the odometer on his comments every now and again. That said, sincere thanks for the larf I got from Vox's comment just below yours, in which he pedantically cites the Federal Rules of Evidence for a definition of hearsay not-too-long after he describes the Bible as "documentary evidence by any legal standard." He's a funny guy, with his "clever" punny name and all.

    I can be a big asstard too... where do I sign up to get paid for it?

    From my skimming of that thread, I gotta agree anyone could write it. It reminds me of the conclusion of Wargames, when Joshua concludes the only way to win Global Thermonuclear War is not to play.

  13. Cheerleader outfit? Bite your tongue Nathan, before I find someone with sharp pointy teeth to bite it for you.

    Actually, the thing I'm holding appears in one of the headers on my website. But if you all insist, I'll make a post of it, as well as a link to where the gift (it was a gift from my brother) came from.

  14. Eric, you're most welcome. We aim to serve, and all that.

    I stopped reading shortly after I opted out, as the quality of the discourse did not appear to improve in any way.

    And yeah, I've decided I no longer suspect VD's a Tard - there's simply no more doubt.

    As for the Dead Asscrack, he never did "get it."

    Tards all around!

  15. Uh, Janiece? I'd have thought you were already familiar with Teddy Beale (Vox Day). He has called women's rights "a disease that should be eradicated," suggested that the Holocaust proved that deporting millions of Mexicans from the United States was feasible, and that a woman who engaged in extramarital sex and was raped could not be considered a "wholly innocent victim.

    Uh? There was a question in your mind that this guy is a complete and total fuckward? Read his views on evolution some time.

  16. I sort of scanned that yesterday, and then noticed that there were already more than 200 comments and decided I didn't need to know anything more about it.

    I can't imagine I missed anything.

  17. Scalzi capped the post at 450 comment and thanked everybody for a civil discourse. I think he's lost his mind or he's just being polite.

    At least 1/3 of the comments were somewhat less than civil IMO, I mean when the comment uses the words "you morons" I just don't see that as civil. But hey, his site, his criteria I guess.

    Any conversation that includes Vox Day can't be all that useful anyway, what Scalzi was thinking I don't know - unless he needed another Fark

  18. Jim, I think it's more than slightly ironic that a lot of those to whom you address this post are the last ones that are likely to get anything out of reading it.

  19. Well, Tom, I know. But, you know me, I'll do it anyway.

    And maybe it'll get to some of the people who vote - both posts got picked up by local Bakersfield media, which I find interesting. Somebody is actively concerned about what the rest of the country thinks. Hmmmm

  20. Well, that's a good thing, Jim. Just for those who are reading, I've sworn all three oaths Jim outlines above (1st digression: Air Force reserve enlisted, Air Force commissioned officer, elected representative to my Village's Council - elected twice)(2nd digression: Does that make me a three-time volunteer? :) )

    I find the idiocy of the council person saying that in patriotism your first loyalty it to God (I'm assuming here the Protestant Christian God) then to your country. No, that is the definition of a religious zealot. For a patriot, country comes before all else. I serve my community and the citizens of my community without regard to their beliefs (or lack there of) and without regard to my personal feelings toward them (that last one really throws people). I swore an oath to do so. My own religion informs my compassion, but I have been faced with the question of should I follow what I personally feel or what is best for my community. Each time I have chosen what is best for my community. That is what I swore I would do.

    The people of Bakersfield now are faced with a decision. Is this person someone you want to represent you. A person who doesn't have service to them first and foremost in their mind.

  21. Speaking of which, Steve, the councilwoman's statement is also bitterly reminiscent of the elder George Bush's comment that he wasn't sure atheists should be considered Americans. If "patriotism" wasn't something that gave me the heebie-jeebies (I love my country, but consider "patriotism" to be the first recourse of the scoundrel), I'd probably be far angrier about her idiotic comments.

    I took an affirmation when I was sworn into the Bar to uphold the Constitution of the United States and of the State of North Carolina. I took it a damn lot more seriously than some people I've seen perjure themselves after putting their hands on a Bible and swearing to tell the truth, but that may be another subject. The point is that if I'm a patriot (and notwithstanding my feelings about the label, I might qualify as a patriot in a Jeffersonian kind of way), love of God doesn't come first or in the middle or last--no offense meant to the faithful, but I haven't believed in a deity since junior high school. Of course, Councilwoman Sullivan would probably have all sorts of reasons for considering me a traitor--I don't believe in God, I don't say the Pledge Of Allegiance, my loyalty is to the Constitution and not a flag or motto, and I believe questioning authority is the duty of every American--I'm sure I'd be one of the first with my back against the wall if she ever had the power. For a fellow American, she and I might as well live on different planets.

    Sorry, I got ranty. I'll shamble along now.

  22. Here's a Jefferson quote for you Eric:

    "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

  23. Michelle: one of my favorite Jefferson quotes, even as an atheist.

    Y'know, one of the things about the conservative-types who make a big deal about what they think the Founders intended is that they seem to have no clue that the Founders very obviously understood that humans are fallible critters (hence, e.g. checks and balances). If Jefferson were around today to say something like that about the Constitutional crises of our time, he'd be crucified. (But if he said it in reference to gays and feminists--then it's okay, natch.)


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