A Lesson for the Lesser Orders

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Judge
Roy Moore of Alabama has at last been ordered by the U.S. Court
of Appeals (11th Circuit) to remove his 2.5-ton monument
displaying the Ten Commandments from his courthouse in Alabama.

The
federal judges (los federales) didn't mince words or pussy
foot around as to who gets to determine what the Constitution says.
It's certainly not Moore. “In the regime [Moore] champions, each
high government official can decide whether the Constitution requires
or permits a federal court order and can act accordingly,” said
the opinion.

Not
so, not so at all. That say belongs by right of conquest to the
federales. They alone are the arbiters of what the Constitution,
that ancient, dim, and detested document, means. Ah, so.

These
wonderful judges also trashed the notion that the Ten Commandments
were ever of any importance in American history, a view of our history
that has got to be the most ignorant and hubristic opinion yet to
emerge from any of our legal snakepits. These people, it would appear,
can't even read and don't think anyone else can.

What
an ultimate answer to the Puritan religious demand for a "City
on a Hill," a city of light! It's the same thrust, as Rothbard
has demonstrated, now carrying the opposite charge, and become not
religion but politics, screaming war. "You, sir, are going
to do what I say, or we are going to send the troops in after you."
The judges actually cited the defiance of southern governors in
the era of battles over segregation as an example of utterly unacceptable
behavior by anyone facing a federal order.

This,
of course, is the moment the South should rise again, but it won't,
except rhetorically. But as surely as God made little green apples,
this regime – I mean the federal regime not Moore's – is digging its
own grave. Because it is lying and tyrannical, and such regimes
always go too far. I do not expect it to disappear tomorrow, but
it will disappear. All our forethought should be directed to what
comes after.

One
of the points the judges made, a point supposed to demonstrate their
commitment to fairness (judges, you know, are supposed to be fair,
like Solomon, and never pursue any personal agendas) was that if
Moore can put up the Ten Commandments other public officials would
have the right to decorate public buildings with a cross, a menorah
or a statue of Buddha (what, nothing Islamic?). They assume we would
none of us like that.

I
for one would be delighted. I honor all genuine manifestations of
religion, defined as the worship of God. It would be nice if the
these federal judges themselves would produce one that savored of
something besides Old Nick himself. I can imagine a statue of Confucius
(who spoke of heaven and the right way to live) adorning our courthouse
in Odessa. It would raise the tone of public artwork here immensely
if it were at all on the order of the Great Buddha of Kamakura that
I remember seeing in Japan in 1946. As it is, we don't have much
in the way of public artifacts, unless you count the statue of a
striptease dancer in front of our art museum (which I admit is a
private not a public building, but it is a prominent one).

The
great psychologist William James, writing a century ago in his masterwork,
The
Varieties of Religious Experience
, and casting about for
a statement to make about religion that would cover that enormously
diverse field, said, "Religion, whatever it is, is a man's
total reaction upon life, so why not say that any total reaction
upon life is a religion?" He further wrote that to get at these
"total reactions" you "must go behind the foreground
of existence and reach down to that curious sense of the whole residual
cosmos as an everlasting presence, intimate or alien, terrible or
amusing, loveable or odious, which in some degree everyone possesses."

It's
interesting to think what must be the true religion, in these terms,
of our three judges of the 11th Circuit Appeals Court. I suspect,
to use the kind of biblical language they seem to dislike so much,
it might be called the worship of Mammon. Or, to paraphrase Dr.
Johnson describing an inferior philosopher, they have the air of
someone "cooperating with the present system." Johnson
implies that is not exactly the route to wisdom.

The
parties to this case will appeal, of course. It goes now to the
Supreme Court. It seems hard to imagine that the judges, whoever
they are by the time the case comes up, can come out any way but
in support of the 11th Circuit decision. And I do not see how they
will be able to duck the issue by refusing to take the case –
or even want to. Maybe there is some kind of waffle available to
them, but how can they leave those ghastly commandments in place?
The redneck Christians need a still further lesson in who's boss.

What's
really at issue is, first, federal power over the states, to which
the Supremes have learned they had damned well better be committed
(shades of FDR), and second, their own eagerness to retain ultimate
power within the fed complex. That is to say, they will decide in
favor of the kritarchy that we have become, a nation ruled by judges.
(That is also to say, a nation ruled by lawyers.)

Any
other decision by SCOTUS would weaken their authority (which I think
they are a tad nervous about anyway since the election of 2000)
and – horrible even to think about – lead to a blossoming of hideous
expressions of biblical religion all over the place. If Catholic
Georgetown U. can take down its crucifixes so as not to annoy the
non-Christians, surely the Christians generally can shut up.

But
that is to speculate unwisely and past the need of the hour. You
never know. Everything moves to some kind of crisis, here
and overseas. Whom God would destroy He first sends mad. We live
in interesting times.

July
3, 2003

Tom
White [send him mail]
writes from Odessa, Texas.

Tom
White Archives


     

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