Thursday, July 9, 2015

Our Mangled and Manipulated Memories and the Need for a Tax on Hypocrisy

By Bob Ferris

My wife Carlene and I hiked from Tahoe City to Page Meadows this past week.  We had a wonderful nearly 10 mile hike and saw a beautiful blond-phase black bear cub and later a Western Tanager (which is special to me) flitting from branch to branch in an aspen stand made magical by trees bent and twisted by heavy snows.  On the walk I thought about history and how many have forgotten, never knew or were told it wrong and how that is impacting us as a nation.

Ring Around the Rosie circa 1665.
Some of the faulty memories or revisionist history referenced above are amusing but for the most part they are scary and once exposed disturbing much like finding out that the sing-songy child’s rhyme containing a pocket full of posies is really about the Black Plague and not as benign and cheerful as it might seem.  Many of these myths and misremembrances are flying about at this point but the below are some that have caught my attention.

Posted on Facebook by iconic singer and song writer Janis Ian.
Much has been made over the recent years about Christian traditions in the US with many failing to discern between a country founded mainly by Christians and focused on religious freedom and a country founded as a Christian nation (see here).  There is a huge difference between the two.  Some point to the slogan on our money “In God We Trust” and the phrase in our pledge of allegiance “one nation under God” as evidence.  Those that do this should understand that these are not long held traditions that came from our Founding Fathers but rather the ashes of the destructive McCarthy era when we would do anything—including compromising our national history and ethos—to differentiate ourselves from those who practiced Communism.  They were God-less and therefore we had to become the most God-ful of all.

In reality these moves and other related actions like the Inquisition-styled Congressional hearings did little to make us a better nation or better people.  These were ugly times that turned American against American and in a move that would make a Jiu Jitsu master envious turned manufactured paranoia into an arms race and an ever escalating defense budget that has not skipped a beat since.

Now that the Red Menace has passed and the Wall has come down perhaps it is time for us to remember that the slogan of our country was originally the Latin phrase E Pluribus Unum or Out of Many, One.  This was the uniting and inclusive message of our Founding Fathers before political extremists elected to go with the more divisive one.  The time of coming together should be and has to be now.

“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
 Our nation was established to be a land of opportunity and our Constitution was designed to prevent exploitation from on high and empowered to protect public welfare.  People trying to interpret the intent and purpose of this document should understand that the Constitution was a reaction to abuses of power by the ruling class, the church and economic interests.   We should think of these core catalysts for our rebellion as we look at our country’s movement towards oligarchy, efforts to make the US a Christian state and the fact that Congress while charged with public welfare in the Preamble of the Constitution seems much more concerned with giving subsidies to corporations and tax-breaks to the rich than looking after the majority of Americans particularly those in need or most deserving like our working poor and our veterans.

Many of us have made suggestions of how to dig ourselves out of our current situation and move us back towards a more American pathway.  These range from term limits and reversing the Citizens United decision to returning the marginal tax on higher incomes to its 1950s level and setting limits on corporate CEO compensation (see above).  I’ll throw another idea in the bin, perhaps we should just tax hypocrisy?

What if we financially penalized all American flag pin wearing elected officials who act in ways that are contrary to the founding principles of our country?  We could have a fine for elected officials enabling corporations to draft legislation for their benefit such as those currently working with ALEC. Another fine could be for fighting to break down the barrier between church and state like being an active member of or supporting the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) or similar efforts.  Fines could also be assessed to those flying in corporate jets and going on junkets when they should be spending time talking with and helping their constituents.  And we could add to all of this a general fine for forwarding policies which are divisive and drive us apart rather than bring us together.

But the hypocrisy tax should not stop at elected officials, it should also be applied to those who enrich themselves in the name of religions that are built around looking after the poor and infirmed of society(1,2,3).  It should also apply to the media particularly outlets that claim to be truthful and unbiased while fibbing their way through news programs with transparent political casts.  And the rich too would earn fines for receiving tax breaks for creating non-profit organizations bent on creating an environment where they can become richer still (these are really investments not donations).

Rep. Joe Barton AKA Smokey Joe
I suppose there will be some that will think I am being too harsh and do not appreciate that the hypocrisy level has gotten so bad that it really, really needs addressing.  To them I offer up Joseph “Smokey Joe” Barton who as a Member of Congress from Texas criticized the federal government for being too hard on BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  So Rep. Barton jumps to the defense of a British company who through their negligent actions killed American citizens, put Americans out of work (including some Texans) and caused significant damage to an important ecosystem.   (Why that American flag tie he is wearing does not burst into flames, I really do not know.)
“…solemnly swears or affirms they will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the state of Arizona and defend the U.S. and Arizona against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and states they will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of their office.” Excerpt from the Loyalty Oath of Office section Arizona Secretary of State website
Arizona Senator Sylvia Allen sporting her American Flag pin.
Need more?  Well how about the legislator in Arizona who recently expressed the opinion that church attendance be mandatory?  One does not even have to read the whole Constitution to understand that it is pretty clear about government and religion and if there is a doubt there are plenty of other places to look like the writings of the Founding Fathers to find out that they were pretty big on this separation of Church and State thing.  As a legislator it seems a little hypocritical to swear an oath to defend and uphold something and then argue against one of its longest standing and most fundamental principles.

Cliven Bundy at left and Rand Paul on right.

And then there is Rand Paul who recently met with Cliven Bundy (1,2,3) a man who has stated publicly that he does not recognize the federal government while carrying a copy of the US Constitution in his pocket. For more than twenty years this individual has grazed his cattle illegally on federal lands.  He and his father paid lease fees to the federal authorities but when our lands become so degraded that they could no longer support native wildlife and the leases were lawfully discontinued, Mr. Bundy suddenly didn’t recognize the federal government’s authority.  Bundy went to court and lost repeatedly.  Bundy’s story and his relationship to the federal government has much in common with a child’s tale of imaginary friends who are there to accept blame and shield one from personal responsibility for their actions.  But this isn’t about Bundy but rather about Mr. Paul.
"The Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States." The Property Clause from the US Constitution.
Here again we have an elected official who has sworn an oath to uphold the US Constitution and the laws of our nation which include the Property Clause (see here for analysis of federal land ownership).   As a candidate for president you have to make many, many choices in terms of who to meet with out of a pool of a couple of hundred million eligible voters.  The same is true of issues.   With Bundy and the issue of turning over federal lands to the states Senator Paul has: 1) elected to meet with an extremist who has violated the law and flaunted federal authority (authority which the Senator swore to defend and uphold); 2) chosen to ignore the Property Clause of the US Constitution as well as the federal laws related to the establishment of the State of Nevada including that state’s Constitution; and 3) disregarded all the longstanding ownership rights of those not living in Nevada who contributed through blood, sweat or money to the winning and purchase of those lands.

General Taylor at the Battle of Resaca de la Palma. 
As I had two great-grandfathers (one from New York and the other from Virginia) who fought at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma and lost a great-grand uncle at Palo Alto during the war to secure these lands, I find the Senator’s idea that these federal holdings are rightfully the states a poke in the eye to those who actually paid—often a very high price—for those lands.  It is hard also in this calculus to see how transferring lands from one government entity with a legal and moral right to those lands to another government entity with neither is consistent with any interpretation of the Libertarian credo the Senator claims to support.  I can see where this will gain votes in certain sectors but herein is the hypocrisy.

I wish that these were isolated instances but they are not for everywhere we turn we see examples like a candidate who attacked the President on “birther” grounds and now asks us to ignore the baggage in his own natal backyard or a commentator (nee politician) who espouses patriotism and family-based morality who did not finish her own term and will soon welcome her second out-of-wedlock grandchild.  Toss in offspring driving drunk or torturing animals, serial plagiarism and political parties—both real and imaginary—that seemed to spring wholly from the spare change of bored and greedy billionaires (1,2,3) and we all have reason to worry.  At some point we should probably ask: Is this really the best we have?
Excellent and appropriate image of what we are dealing with from the Coffee Party Movement.
I can understand that folks—most all folks—are rightfully upset.  And I will acknowledge that the so-called Tea Party has every right to their energy and indignation.  Unfortunately their anger is misdirected and their actions are the exact opposite of patriotic.  If they wanted to do something patriotic they would defend the US Constitution rather than attack it and they would embrace the principals of the Founding Fathers rather than being spoon-fed tripe that raineth fecal matter on these lofty and revolutionary ideas developed in the late 1700s.  Marriage equality, unions, living wage advocates, Muslims, atheists, environmentalists, conservationists, and those that favor some sort of gun control are not destroying the American Dream as expressed by the Founding Fathers they are helping that vision live up to its truest potential.  You’ll find the ones trying to destroy it spending millions on misinformation, lobbying to forestall or reverse legislation meant to protect us all, and making the case that “religious freedom” means they have the right to trample on the beliefs of others and regain their seat of power in government.

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