Friday, September 14, 2007

Constitutional concerns

What goes around eventually comes around, even for us.

I never really thought I paid that much attention in my high school civics class, the last time I had any organized class in American government. But evidence that I encounter every now and then suggests that I either subliminally learned the stuff while lusting after the hot little redhead named Lisa sitting a few seats across from me in that late afternoon civics class or that even earlier the old ABC Rocks cartoons that touched on civics, among other things, carried secret signals of deeper information that eating the right amount of sugary cereals on a Saturday morning while waiting for the Bugs and Roadrunner cartoons allowed young minds like mine to process and store. But either way the basic, and in my belief, dangerous ignorance of the Constitution that I have witnessed in the people around me from time to time would be hilariously funny if it did not chill me to the bone.

Just yesterday I was attending a meeting with others in my department and while the group did eventually come to some sort of order more than a few minutes were spent joshing each other around in a friendly manner and making idle comments about the news broadcast on the television that people had been watching during lunch that had just ended. This was the same scenario that existed over a year ago when I wrote an essay concerning the monstrous comments my co-workers were making about the Iraqi people which simply but accurately put were to the effect: "Kill them all and let God sort them out". They saw no issue with marines killing civilians in cold blood and that in war shit happens. I held my tongue that time mainly due to the fact that all agreeing to that premise were pure civilians who had never served in the military and were suffering from the Rambo syndrome believing you could learn about war from Stallone running through a gaggle of low paid extras carrying a fancy M-60 machine gun blowing them away as he guided the ammo belt feeding into the weapon with his other hand. For those who may not know the traditions and regulations of the US military stand completely against the purposeful harming of non-combatants and treating those we fight inhumanely. The idea of winning over hearts and minds goes back all the way to George Washington and while horrible shameful exceptions have happened through the years its only with the Spoiled Little Brat currently occupying the White House that such behavior has been given an official sanctioned pass. So yesterday when the idle chatter in the room turned to politics at a very similar low intelligence level I told myself that I would keep quiet and just sit in my chair and not alienate the people I work around. But unfortunately, one of the new guys said something and my mouth and some portions of my brain disconnected from the part that kept thinking that discretion is the better part of valor.

The trouble started with the news lady on television reporting about the current Democratic poll results in South Carolina and the standing of Hillary, Obama, and John Edwards in this state. Given the crowd I was around many will be able to guess the comments that went flying about the three. Just about all were along the lines about over hyped and overbearing women, ever so slight racial slurs, and expensive haircuts. I easily kept quiet and made a mental note to buy a lotto ticket so I could at least daydream about expatriating myself from such high level discussions in the future. It wasn't until one of the newer guys made a comment about how he could not understand that while Slick Willy was impeached but was not removed from office. This fellow who will for me be forever be code named "Spanky" was implying that some deal was done to keep him in office even though he had been impeached. The guy next to him murmured some sort of agreement and it was then that I found myself opening my mouth.

I tried to explain to Spanky that articles of impeachment had been draw up and passed by the House. And that President Clinton was tried in the Senate with the Chief Justice presiding over the senate as judge. That it would have taken a two-thirds majority of senators to convict him and only after that would he have been removed. Well, Spanky gave me a look an irritated parent might give a child and he shook his head no and tried to tell me that was not how it worked. Slightly peeved myself now I explained it again and told him to go read the Constitution himself and stop guessing. My stance either forced him to consider he was wrong or that he was dealing with a crazy person. My best guess is that he thought I was crazy because the look he gave me back was something of the look I bet he would given if someone tried to tell him about quantum physics. Spanky did come back and say that either way Clinton had been a naughty sleazy boy and should have been removed. Believe it or not I found myself smiling at Spanky's comeback mainly because it sounded so much like one Senator Larry Craig made years ago about Slick Willy and I won't go any farther than that along that line. I wish I could write that such encounters are rare but I have seen so many around me with wild ideas about the Constitution. One fellow I served with in the Guard thought there was some clause in the Constitution that said you have to serve in the military to be president, another slight at Clinton. Another had some confusion with the British parliamentary government and thought after the 94 election that Clinton would go due to the Republicans taking both houses of Congress. And finally after the 2000 election I can't even begin to describe how many people I talked with who were either insanely happy or mad over finding out about the electoral college and how its works.

Years ago I stumbled on "I, Claudius" on PBS and was quickly drawn into the story, so much so that I went to the library checked it out and read the book by Robert Graves. During one part on the television version an aged Tiberius is speaking with Caligula telling him that "Rome deserves you" because he was so popular with the city but the soon to be dead ruler knew of the younger man's perverted tastes. It was later explained by the host of Great Performances, Alister Cook, that statement was a tongue-in-cheek backhanded slap against the Romans for whom Caligula was very popular. In other words Tiberius was saying the fickle, spoiled Romans would get what they deserve from that monster. I can't help but find myself thinking the same thing concerning so many of the ignorant, asinine people that pride themselves on slapping a magnetic yellow ribbon or an American flag on their car and think how much of a patriotic person they are while they go about ignorant of the basic principles they live under. Even though thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, civil liberties have eroded, the military service men and women are stretched to the breaking point, and most of the world thinks of us along the same lines as Iran because Junior has felt called by God to spread democracy (Karl Rove type not Jeffersonian) and consumerism to distant lands. No, Junior wants to spread the light of democracy but I somehow find it so easy to talk with people who are blindly ignorant of their own government so at some point, like Tiberius said of the Romans concerning Caligula, we will get what we deserve. I just hope my kids and I have unassed the country before then.


lime said...

this is sadly true, every word of it. i thought clinton was bad at the time. junior is just horrendous.

Vigilante said...

Awe, shucks, Beach! I was just settling into what I thought was going to be an enjoable read about what happened to Lisa, the redhead, with a possibility of a chance meeting up with her... How disappointing. I'm sure you can imagine my disappointment.

However, my respect is due you for what you have to put up with. I was thinking of you and your co-workers when I encountered this quote from Scott Ritter last March:

It is sadly misguided to believe that surging an additional 20,000 U.S. troops into Baghdad and western Iraq will even come close to redressing the issues raised in this article. And if you concur that the reality of Iraq is far too complicated to be understood by the average American, yet alone cured by the dispatch of additional troops, then we have a collective responsibility to ask what the hell we are doing in that country to begin with. If this doesn’t represent a clarion call for bringing our men and women home, nothing does.

If Peoria, U.S.A. can't understand what were doing in foreign countries, we shouldn't be doing it.

Beach Bum said...

Hi Lime, yeah I thought Clinton was bad myself during my blissful 1990's ignorance. While I still don't like his personal behavior while living in the White House and that contrary to what he said no one living in the White House has a "private life" I have to admit that the country prospered under his administration and that overall he was a decent president.
The "man" living in the White House now is a aberration due to his luck of being born in a rich family. Had he not, I'm fairly sure he would have been an obnoxious second-rate insurance agent or used car dealer.

Vigil, I continue to be amazed at the number of people who beam with pride and sing the praises of the members of the armed forces serving in Iraq but never even think of joining the service so they can join the good fight. Had many of these lip service patriots across the country ran to the recruiting station and signed up to really support the troops as the situation fell apart in Iraq I'll concede the small point that maybe things would not be as bad. At least in the sense that fewer repeated deployments would have not stressed service members and families as they have with some on their fourth and fifth deployments. My co-workers, at least the ones under 42 who could still enlist, are completely content to sit back and play the tough he-man role without risking anything. I've been trying avoid the word cowardice concerning my co-worker and others like them but I frankly I just can't.

For anyone reading my blog or comments for the first time I'm a retired 21 year veteran with years in both the active army and National Guard. While many in the service have done more for the country than me I have found that many more civilians have done nothing. So if you are gung-ho and think I'm off base with my words I dare you to find a recruiter and sign up for service in this war.

Vigilante said...

I don't see any hands shooting up, Beach. I don't think you have any takers.

a rose is a rose said...

this, is a VERY powerful posting. thank you for writing it. it speaks volumes

Keshi said...

sadly its all true.


Beach Bum said...

In a really contemplative mood tonight rereading my little rant. While I bore quickly with preachers, religious and secular, I do hold to a tattered and frayed faith of something greater than Humanity and feel that this country will be called to pay a price for its selfish and destructive actions. What it will be I have no idea, I can only protect my family and hold to the principles I believe and ultimately believe this country will come back to.

Anonymous said...

Great story...
interesting post...
Thanks for sharing......

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