Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thirteen Unspeakable Ideas

Roland Barthes says somewhere that ideology is what goes without saying in a given culture. Ideology can also be defined as that set of ideas that renders counter-ideas unspeakable, even unthinkable. Here are six eminently arguable ideas that you will not hear debated by any of this year's political candidates.

1. Given that the United States no longer relies on "well-regulated militias" for defense against British invasion, the second amendment is as meaningless today as those clauses of the constitution relating to slavery. The second amendment specifically and explicitly applies to an institution no longer in existence, and therefore guarantees no citizen the right to "keep and bear" anything. There is no right to bear arms. Furthermore, this interpretation is so 'originalist' that even Antonin Scalia, if he really had the courage of his supposed hermeneutic and wasn't just a political hack, would have been intellectually compelled to agree with it.


2. That murdering psycho who shot up the abortion clinic in Colorado Springs late last year was a radical Christian terrorist inspired by radical Christian propaganda. (So Trump, if he really has the courage of his bluster and isn't just a political hack, should be demanding a ban on Christians, whatever that's supposed to mean.)
3. Given that there is not a single government in the Middle East that is not a barbaric, horrendous abuser of basic human rights, the United States should wipe its hands of the entire region (including Israel, a country rich enough and strong enough not to need our help) until the region works its way into the 18th century and gets Enlightened. Removal of American military power will force the Saudis to fight and defeat Isis, something those lazy, kleptocratic assholes will never do as long as the US fights their wars for them. 
4. Every overseas American military base should be shut down ASAP. The 'empire of bases' is a Cold War anachronism and a drain on public funds. The money saved can be used to rebuild roads and bridges and construct high speed rail lines in the US. This true 'peace dividend' could also be used to fund a Sanders-style socialized health care system.
5. To quote Warren Beatty in Bulworth: If you want an actual solution to racism, here it is: "Everybody fucks everybody else until we're all the same color." Alternatively, we could simply teach in public schools the meaninglessness of racial categories, but since that would involve teaching Darwinian evolution (because racial variations are evolved superficial adaptations to different environments), such a policy would be nixed by the religious right. So I guess Beatty's Dionysian vision of multiracial orgy is probably our best bet.

6. Corporations and governments are two radically different and essentially antagonistic entities. Anyone who thinks that governments can or should be operated like corporations probably doesn't understand either type of organization.

7. Patriotism, love of country, is a neurotic fetishism. Psychologically, there's not much difference between investing your libido in a flag and investing it in a black high-heeled patent leather shoe.

8. Evolution is a fact. It happened. It's happening right now. The science is clear and fact-based, and the theory is elegant. (And let us not forget the necessary corollaries of these statements: Religion is fictional; its stories did not actually happen and are not happening now; its narratives are vague and contradictory, and its moralities profoundly inhumane.)

9. The United States of America is not a 'Christian nation.' Don't take my word for it; read Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, ratified by Congress in 1897 and signed by President John Adams. The article begins, "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."

10. There is nothing 'conservative' about contemporary American conservatism. It is an ideology that promises sweeping cultural and political change, an ideology of reactionary revolution. Edmund Burke would surely not approve.

11. So-called 'conservative' propagandists like to repeat that American liberals 'hate America.' This is a classic case of psychological projection. These self-misdescribed 'conservatives' project upon imagined 'liberals' their own unacknowledged hatred of the pluralistic, officially secular, civil libertarian America in which they feel themselves entrapped. These 'conservatives'--the Limbaughs, Becks, Gingriches, Gomerts, Palins and Buchanans of the world--clearly and obviously hate America.

12. War is not a counter-terrorism strategy. America's war in Afghanistan is as wrong-headed as our criminal invasion of Iraq. We could have decimated Al Qaeda in Afghanistan with special forces assaults and airstrikes. That would have been greatly preferable to bogging the U.S. down in an endless war over the same wasteland terrain that defeated the Red Army.

13. There is no such thing as a secure land border. Even the Berlin Wall was so frequently breached--most often by people who traveled legally by car or plane to the other side and refused to return (remember 'defectors'?)--that East Berliners told jokes about it. As long as North America is relatively rich and Central and South America relatively poor, people will continue to cross from south to north. If the United States truly wishes to limit the human flow, we need to focus all of our foreign policy skills on making the southern part of this hemisphere as free and peaceful and affluent as el norte.

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