Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bad Comedy: Conservatives and Small Government, Part 2

In my earlier blog, "Bad Comedy:  Conservatives and Small Government", I restricted my thoughts on conservatives and big government to the corporate conservatives, the rich and powerful among us for whom greedily grabbing up as much cash as possible from as many sources of possible is a reason to exist.

But now let me turn to the other type of conservative who, even though they aren't overly-entitled and all about business, would like to severely limit the government's ability to protect the common people just as badly as the corporates.  I'm talking about the social conservatives.

It's weird, but the truth is that the social conservatives are mostly blind to the hijinks that their corporate colleagues are up to.  It's a case of the left hand having no idea what the right hand is up to.  The social conservatives assume, for some bizarre reason, that the billionaire wing of the conservative cause is filled with fellow social conservatives who just happen to be rich.  Not true, but there's no telling them that.  You see, the social conservatives are too busy concentrating on their own idea of government to worry about what the billionaire's are up to.

The social conservatives idea of government has a name.  That name is "theocracy."

What the social conservatives want is a government so "small" that it can sneak into your house through a keyhole, then float into your living room, your bedroom, your bathroom, your hospital room, your library, or wherever free thought and freedom of action might be hiding and kill it.  The social conservatives want the government to grab you by the scruff of your neck and lay down the law to you.  They want the government to tell each and every single one of you how to live your life.

And no, we're not talking about telling you to put on a seat belt while driving, or to not drink until you're 21 or how you have to install wheelchair ramps at your business.  This is nothing so harmless or benign as the so-called "nanny state."

No, this is closer to the "ayatollah state."

This is the big stuff.

These conservatives want to force you to follow their particular brand of religion, their particular brand of patriotism, their particular political ideals, and their particular concept of conformity.  They want to tell you which books you can and cannot read.  They want to tell you which movies and television shows you can watch.  They want to tell you which music you can listen to.  They want to tell you who you can and cannot have sex with (and in some cases, they want to tell you what actions and techniques you're allowed to use while having sex, not to mention whether or not you are allowed to use birth control).

Naturally, doing this sort of dogmatic control over society requires a very big government.

Theocratic America would, effectively, be a police state.  And this is fitting, seeing how much social conservatives absolutely love a huge military, plus lots of police officers, sheriff's deputies, marshals, border guards, FBI agents, and even Texas Rangers.  They think that its never a bad idea to have a posse waiting just off-stage, ready to chase down a n'er-do-well at a moment's notice.  After all, you never know when some of those godless non-conformists might get uppity.  Which is why most social conservatives support the Patriot Act, which allows spying on American citizens without a warrant, and holding suspects for months without charge (and if they are "terror suspects", holding suspects indefinitely not only without charge, but without aid of counsel, either).  These civil rights violations are all perfectly legitimate in the minds of social conservatives.

Similarly, social conservatives are really huge when it comes to the idea of punishment.  They are almost hoping you do something that breaks the code of conformity so they can call down the full force of law on you and force you back into the tiny little mold they have prepared for you.  These conservatives want the government to poke and pry and intervene in the most private aspects of your life, and then lower the boom if they find anything that even hints at you not following their rules.

They believe that their morality should be the state morality.  They believe that they -- and only they -- should have the power to determine whether it is legal or illegal for you to enter the country, stay in the country, get a job, vote, build a church (if you follow the same religion as they do, okay; if you don't, forget it), wear a head scarf, smoke pot, learn about science (especially evolution), make the art you're inspired to create, allow your brain-dead family member to die with peace and dignity, allow yourself to die with peace and dignity in the face of a painful and terminal illness, have an abortion, or get married.

And if you do anything they deem illegal, you're dragged to the courthouse where a judge sits in front of a huge representation of the Ten Commandments will oversee your case.  If you're a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh, a Shinto, an aboriginal or tribal, an agnostic, or worst of all an atheist, you shouldn't hold your breath when it comes to getting a fair and impartial trial in this theocratic police state.

That is the wet dream of the social conservatives.  And it would be impossible without big government.  The wars waged by social conservatives on immigration, women' rights in general and specific, abortion, science, civil rights for minorities, the LGBT community, the atheist community, artists, actors, writers, musicians, video game manufacturers, and anyone else they don't like are the most visible symptoms of what kind of big government the social conservatives want to impose.

They want big government to put big restrictions on all of these, and they want those restrictions written into law.  Preferably, they want them written into the US Constitution and forever after enforced by the great big theocratic police state.

Let me tell you a story that reveals, in my opinion, a perfect insight into the true agenda of the social conservatives.  It is a stunning portrayal of the social conservative's notions of "small government" in action.  This is the story of Michael Schiavo and his wife, Terri.

Terri Schiavo collapsed with a heart attack on February 25th, 1990, while she was in her Saint Petersberg, Florida, home.  She was not discovered immediately, and unfortunately suffered massive brain damage due to lack of oxygen to her brain.  She spent two and a half months in a coma, and was then diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state.  The doctors did everything they could to rehabilitate Mrs. Schiavo, but were unable to change her condition.

In 1998, Michael Schiavo, her husband, petitioned the Sixth Circuit Court of Florida to remove Terri's feeding tube persuant to Florida law, allowing the body of his wife to pass away rather than linger as it was.  He was opposed by Terri Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, who argued that Mrs. Schiavo was actually conscious and responsive (despite doctors' statements to the contrary).  The court determined that Terri Schiavo had left instructions saying that she would not want to continue living under such circumstances, and her feeding tube was removed on April 24, 2001.

But then in swooped the conservatives, led by professional shit-stirrer Randal Terry.

Terry's hand-picked "experts" argued that Mrs. Schiavo's case might not be so helpless.  They insisted that they had a right to butt into this most painful and intimate family decision on behalf of Mrs. Schiavo's parents.  They talked about how Michael Schiavo had "betrayed" Terri by moving on with his life, and thus had no right to make such decisions (despite the fact that, under the law, he was the only person empowered to make such decisions).

The conservative-controlled Florida legislature quickly passed the so-called "Terri's Law," that allowed then-Governor Jeb Bush (younger brother of then-President George W. Bush) to intervene directly in the case.  He ordered Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted and sent state troopers to remove Terri Schiavo from her husband's guardianship.

A judge quickly struck down "Terri's Law" as unconstitutional.  The conservatives appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, where once again it was struck down.  Conservatives around the United States were absolutely outraged.  Not at this blatant case of big government interfering in the private life of a family, but by "activist judges" who wouldn't let the conservatives butt in.

(These activist judges were, by the way, just following the law.)

The affair went up the conservative chain of command, all the way to the Republican-controlled Congress and then-President George W. Bush.  Both Michael Schiavo and his wife, the persistently vegetative Terri Schiavo, were subpoenaed to testify before Congress!  Republican congressmen and senators had a grandstand-a-palooza, demanding the ability -- no, not the ability, the right -- to take control of the case out of the hands of the State of Florida and into their own.

So much for states rights, which is usually a standard fallback position for social conservatives when they can't get their way nationally, all the way back to when they refused to give up their ownership of slaves.  Congress passed a bill usurping Florida's jurisdiction, and George W. Bush flew back from vacation just to sign it.  So this was twice in this single case that social conservatives changed or created brand new laws giving them unprecedented power in order to pursue their need to impose their own sense of morality and justice on other people.

It was at this juncture that a private yet amazingly explosive memo was leaked to the press in which the leadership of the Republican party suggested that the Schiavo case offered "a great political issue" and that the Republican party could use it to "stick it to" the Florida Democrats.  Suddenly sympathy for those on the side of keeping the brain-dead Mrs. Schiavo alive seemed to fall off.  After "Terri's Law" was struck down and the US Supreme Court quite intelligently refused to get involved in the whole mess (unlike when they decided unilaterally who won the 2000 presidential election), again Jeb Bush ordered Florida state troopers to take Mrs. Schiavo from her husband's custody with the intention of spiriting her out of state.

No one has ever actually revealed where they were planning on kidnapping her to, but personally I suspect that she would have surfaced somewhere in Texas, a state where the Bush family has a metric fuck-ton of political power.

The Florida Supreme Court instructed the state police to stand down and ordered Governor Bush to shut up or be held in contempt.  Bush reluctantly, and with much gnashing of teeth, complied, though there was enormous pressure from conservatives in the state and elsewhere on him to just defy the law already and damn the consequences.

Shortly thereafter, Terri Schiavo was mercifully allowed to die, and the whole sordid affair came to a conclusion.

An autopsy later revealed that Terri Schiavo's brain was way too damaged and atrophied for any possible consciousness to have ever existed.  She really had been in a vegetative state all along.  The whole hullaballoo had been unnecessary and cruel.  And not only had the conservatives been shown to be wrong -- again -- they revealed precisely the lengths they would go to in order to stick their faces into other people's very personal, very private affairs.  They pulled every nasty trick in the book, hurriedly writing and passing new law and plucking the highest strings of government, from the president to the Supreme Court, in order to impose their very small version of morality upon a single innocent family.

This example should flash a warning to anyone who believes that social conservatives really want a "small government."  Because it is clear that their compulsion to govern the most private and personal aspects of our lives shows up in their beliefs concerning abortion, gay and lesbian rights, religious freedoms, science and art, and many other facets of our lives.  And the irony is that apparently social conservatives can't see how contradictory their own belief system is.

Recall that these same people are the ones who chirp the loudest about freedom and the rights of the individual and self-determination when it comes to their own affairs.  When its them, they want Big Government to keep its damned hands off.  But that goes out the window when they find out someone else isn't conforming to their narrow-minded views regarding proper behavior.  When that happens, they want Big Government to step in and shut that shit down.

Hypocrisy writ large.  Its sort of crazy, when you think of it.

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