Our politic affairs have become so partisan and divisive that any advocacy, position, platform, bill, legislation, and now Supreme Court decision is bound to be the chip-knocked-off-someone’s-shoulder. Thoughtful debate degenerates into sarcastic barbs (i.e. Justice Scalia’s superb wit has no where else to go). Understanding of multiple positions is betrayal of one’s cause. Compromise is selling out.
This week’s two major media-event decisions by the Supreme Court exemplified how toxic our political affairs have become. The poorly drafted Affordable Care Act got a passing grade because the majority decision was that even though wording and syntax did not exactly say what the bill meant to say, we all knew what they intended to say, so we will interpret the intent rather than the actual language. Thus, the 8th grade civics teacher rationalized that the essay will pass on implied content, rather than the 8th grade composition teacher sending it back to the student to be re-written correctly. The “winners” get off with shoddy work
Then, the 5 to 4 barely-majority decision about same-sex marriage reciprocity between states determined that such marriages must adhere to federal authority even when certain states disagree. The result is that a number of counties courthouses closed shop and told all applicants to “Go to another county”. The “losers” deny anyone from the legal contract of marriage, rather than offer it to those couples whom they disagree with.
To be clear, I am not advocated for or against either of these issues (the ACA or same-sex marriages) in this blog. I am concerned about how, we as a society and our elected leaders, cannot make decisions because we only see the political arena as a sporting event in which one team wins and one loses. This is not a way to govern society. The end result is that one groups gloats and one obstructs. Neither of these topics are resolved. Scalia will have more opportunities to decide whether wedding cake makers, photographers, planners, and host sites will have to offer their services to couples who act in ways that violate the business person’s beliefs. I can hear “SCOTUSlove” already fomenting on his lips.
If we as citizens are the ultimate losers, who really wins? The unelected bureaucrats who have taken over our county court houses, congressional and executive offices and administrations, and the elected officials who can pander to their bases while evading doing the hard work of leadership. If a county clerk can just refuse to carry out a function, but justify that he or she is applying the refusal to all rather than a selected group, there is no purpose to writing laws. If the bureaucrats are handed a couple thousand pages of ambiguously confusing legislation and told to “have at it”, they can conjure up whatever genie they wanted in the first place and claim they found it in the overall intent of the text. If leaders do not need to actually write or read the bills they are voting on and signing, they can disclaim responsibility in the future when those same clerks and bureaucrats step on the toes of some group of citizens. The politicians can send out their spin-doctors, blogs, e-mails, and tweets claiming that the clerks and bureaucrats twisted their well-intended attempts to govern.
I’m back in 8th grade: name calling, finger-pointing, excuses for not doing homework, turning in poorly drafted essays, and being more concerned with one’s popularity than learning. The most important phrase I recall hearing my 8th grade civics teacher, Mr. Smith, say was “No one gives a damn what you know (learning). In this world, it’s all about whom you know (social positioning)”. Did he just say “damn” and “whom”? Looks like the President, Congress, and Supreme Court have just affirmed this. And, I thought that I learned in 8th grade about a concept of “checks and balances” between the three branches of government. What I fool I must be.
P.S. I happened to have asked a young man, who is gay, what his generation thought about gay-marriage. His response was, “We want the right to get marriage, but that does not mean we actually want to get married”. I guess the corollary statement is, “I want the right to be or not to be married” Hmmm. What is the intent of that position?