By Victor Volsky
AN INNOCENT IN AMERICA Ė Part II
In Part I of this article, I expressed amazement at the design of the U.S. political system - so awkward and unwieldy as to render it almost totally dysfunctional. What follows is a list of other riddles of American life that baffle an immigrant, even one of long standing such as me.
Item: Why is there such a widespread public misperception regarding the ďEstablishmentĒ clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? To establish a religion, then as now, means only one thing: to make a specific religion sanctioned and supported by the state over all others. The Founding Fathers knew their history and understood that establishing a religion in America would likely lead to endless strife and maybe even religious wars as in Europe, and that only when all religions are separate - and equidistant - from government that religious peace could be assured. American history has amply borne out their foresight. Nowhere else on earth has there reigned such religious harmony; nowhere else do people of different creeds live and worship side by side so peacefully and amicably. And yet liberal scholars strive mightily to prove that the Constitution banished religion from the public square, endlessly invoking the sacred ďwall of separation between church and stateĒ - a quotation from Jeffersonís private letter that is nowhere to be found in the Constitution.
Item: Speaking of the Amendments, why is the 10th Amendment so flagrantly neglected? It is certainly one of the most important of all Amendments, the bedrock of American federalism. And yet the political class behaves as if it doesnít exist. All right, I understand it is in Washingtonís interests to ignore the 10th Amendment. But why are the states so shy about asserting their rights?
Item: How did Congress come to control the national economy? The Constitution has only one provision giving Congress some influence over economic matters, the ďinterstate commerceĒ clause. And yet, clinging to this weak reed, Washington manages to wield near total power over the entire economy on the thinnest, purely legalistic and often patently risible grounds.
Item: Why do Americans suffer gladly race hustlers like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton? I understand the overpowering yearning to expiate racial guilt tirelessly fanned by the MSM. But there should be a limit to even extreme masochism. Isnít it a little too much to claim that racial equality is an insidious form of racism, invoking the authority of Martin Luther King Jr. who demanded the polar opposite? And yet this is exactly what we hear non-stop from the Jackson-Sharpton cabal and their sycophantic cohorts in the white liberal circles. Has any member of the Congressional Black Caucus ever failed to discover racism in anything conservatives do, say or think? Now that American voters have elected Barack Obama largely as an act of racial penance and hopefully got that guilt out of their system, isnít it time to put an end to this demagogic garbage or at least to turn down its volume?
Item: Americans are justly proud of their democratic heritage. Why then do they evince such striking indifference toward their voting rights? Franchise is a privilege; people marched and bled to win it - and now the right to vote is treated as a meaningless or even vaguely irritating duty imposed on a reluctant citizenry. Voters expect to be flattered, coaxed and bribed to deign to come to the polls and complimented afterwards for their civic sacrifice. Donít they understand that such indifference is a boon to demagogues and a danger to their cherished democracy?
Item: Why has massive voting fraud become so wide-spread and ubiquitous? And why is it treated as if it were a force of nature - not laudable to be sure, but inevitable and unavoidable, sort of like a natural right of the minorities? Thatís why the Democrats in Congress and their allies in the media react so violently to any attempt to infuse a measure of sanity into the voting process; thatís why they proclaim the demand that prospective voters present an ID to be an unspeakable racist crime, an intolerable imposition. To ask that people should actually go to the trouble of showing their driverís license (everybody drives, even the poorest of the poor, donít they?) or get an ID offered them free of charge by the government is portrayed as an inhuman atrocity, a flagrant violation of the peopleís sacred right to cheat. Worse, the Democrats donít even try too hard to deny that voting fraud is one of their favorite ways of stealing elections Ė so sure they are that nobody will dare challenge them for fear of being tarred with the racial broad brush (itís Selma, Alabama, all over again, will thunder that jack-in-the-box racial vigilante, Jesse Jackson). Howís that for democracy?
Item: Why do Americans willingly submit themselves to legal tyranny? If you think it is an exaggeration, just look at TV programming; it is dominated by shows extolling the heroic deeds of noble, fearless legal eagles Ė sort of the countryís elites admiring themselves in the mirror. Popular culture is always an accurate indication of where society is. It shows that in a country graced by the presence of about half of the worldís lawyers (one lawyer for every 265 Americans), the lawyer is king. Donít Americans take any notice of the profound impact the insidious legal culture has on their lives? Paraphrasing Mark Twain, to a man with a law degree everything looks like potential lawsuits and everybody like prospective defendants. Quite aside from the extraordinary economic cost, it affects our lives dramatically when just about any normal activity has legal implications fraught with a grave risk. The scale of lawyer infestation is so vast, its impact so pervasive, that sometimes I think no one without a legal background can lead a full life in this country. Am I the only one who has such a quaint notion?
Item: One of the hardy perennials of American politics is an insatiable demand for more educational spending. Outlays for education have been steadily and massively growing year by year, while the academic achievements of American kids have been dropping. If it were only about money, schools in Washington, D.C., would be the best, not the last, in the nation. How hard is it to understand that throwing money at the problem is not the solution, that what is required is tough love - enforcing strict discipline and demanding more from the kids? Itís also time to recognize that endless experimentation with teaching methods while flouting the millennia-old traditional ways is one of the major causes of the degradation of the American schools, once among the best in the world. Itís just a fad, a parlor game for the progressives; if it were science, as they claim, they would try their methods on rats first.
Item: Why are Americans so solicitous of incapacitated office-holders? Senator Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) suffered a stroke in 2006 and nearly four years later Wall Street Journal reported that he had not fully recovered. All the while the people of South Dakota had not been fully represented in the U.S. Senate. Nor have, over the last year, the Arizonans in Rep. Gabrielle Giffordsí district. My heart goes out to the poor Congresswoman, but the cruel fact of life is that her constituents have been put at a disadvantage while she has been recuperating, and itís anybodyís guess if she will ever fully recover. Itís natural to feel sorry for a victim of disease or terrorist shooting, but how far should our compassion extend? Following this logic, sports teams should keep injured players on their active rosters. Would football fans tolerate a cripple on the field where he can only harm his team? Tough-mindedness is not necessarily bloody-mindedness; there should be a statutory provision for just such cases.
By the same token, it is one thing to venerate aged legislators in full command of their faculties as a sign of respect for their accumulated experience unadulterated by youthful passions and vices Ė in other words, wisdom. But itís an entirely different ballgame when age renders an office-holder incapable of performing his or her duties. The sight of a cadaverous Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) being virtually carried around the Capitol building on the arm of a husky assistant during the last couple of years of his extremely long tenure was nothing if not pathetic. In his day Thurmond was a great senator, but the South Carolina voters should not have gone along with his ambition to celebrate his 100th birthday as a U.S. Senator, the only known rationale for his perseverance. By granting his wish, South Carolinians shortchanged themselves and showed disrespect for his office. Or could it be a mark of their indifference to the goings-on in Washington?
The list can go on and on, but I think the above provides enough food
for thought for now.