Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Sunday, February 05, 2017

The Times They Are A Changin'.....



Huffington Post tells me we are starting the third week of protests across the nation against Donald Trump's presidency.

More than 500 people showed up at the Texas Senate, a group as presently composed that would make Steve Bannon's dream team look like leftists, to testify against a proposed bill that would punish "sanctuary cities" in Texas.

The stories of individuals affected by the Muslim ban Trump tried to enact (as of this writing the appeal of the TRO has been denied by the appellate panel) continue to be reported.

Town hall meetings are not being disrupted by "anarchist elements" (shades of the 1920's!), but because of those elements in the White House (the desire for chaos in order to obtain control is anarchistic, if nothing else).

The witnesses testifying against the anti-sanctuary bill in Texas were inspired by Trump's executive order, and prove the fatal error in government by fiat instead of by legislative action.  No one in Texas campaigned on a platform of punishing sanctuary cities, and there's no real support for the extreme agenda of the governor and the lieutenant governor in the Texas House (almost the reverse of the national Congress, where the true believers are in the House).

Most people don't realize that what happens on the floor of the House or the Senate is the least part legislating, despite the best efforts of "Schoolhouse Rock."  You may remember the ditty about how a bill becomes law, but mostly what you remember that it's a long, complicated process.  And that process starts with fact-finding.  That's why committees hold hearings, the kind of hearing 500 people in Texas attended and tried to speak to.  Fact-finding is a bedrock principle of democracy, even though no one on the Sunday talk shows this morning will talk about that. It is vastly more important than the "peaceful transfer of power" bleated about every 4 to 8 years, as if the military and the executive branch would blindly follow a President who refused to vacate the office at the end of his term.  That wouldn't happen because the people:  the soldiers, the officers, the agency employees and agency heads, simply wouldn't allow it.  We don't transfer power to a President every time the Administration changes; we recognize a new person is now responsible.

There is a huge difference.

A difference as large as the difference between governing by legislation, and governing by fiat.  Fact-finding is the basis of the legislative procedure.  To be sure, it doesn't not prevent corruption and injustice from being written into law; but it does put the process on as democratic a footing as possible, short of reverting to the direct democracy of Athens, where the gathering of the citizens is the government, and all decisions (including the one to execute Socrates) are final.  We can't, and don't, have that form of democracy, so we muddle through with the one we do.  And one way to assure that form is respected, and laws are passed that do the least harm possible, at least in theory, is via fact-finding.  It's via a legislative history that includes deliberation, argument, presentation of conflicting opinions and a panoply of facts, and especially examination of the consequences of any law.

None of that has been done by the Trump Administration in the last two weeks.  And the results are clear:  the American people are rejecting it.

This is the rejection of rule by decree.  This is the rejection of a monarch who decides what is best for us, in spite of us.  This is the rejection of authoritarianism.  No, it isn't leading to a revolution that tosses out the bad guys at the end of 60 minutes, or 2 hours.  No, it isn't uniting the country unanimously against Darth Vader and his horde of minions.  No, there won't even be a titanic battle in which the bad guy is vanquished forever and the only problem is cleaning up the mess afterwards.  (Let must just say it is interesting how much more realistic on that score the Marvel "Avengers" movies have become, as the consequences of decision in one movie carry over into the next.)  No, we won't return to the "good old days" when LBJ Democrats ran the country and JFK Democrats inspired a younger generation to join the Peace Corps, and everybody held hands as Dr. King told us he had a dream.

But the Trump Administration is finding it can't go forward, either.  Or backward, to some vision of America that never existed except in the fever dreams of Steve Bannon.  It is finding it must build consensus, or it can't build a governing philosophy.  But Trump and Bannon aren't interested in consensus, they are only interested in chaos, a chaos they hope to exploit.


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