The observations and opinions of a person who has no discernible insights or ideas.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Framers' Intent and other political myths 

I was visited by an old friend tonight. The two of us have been talking a lot recently about his newfound interest in the U.S. Constitution. He feels that the country has strayed too far from the document, allowing many unconstitutional things to be perpetrated (such as income tax, the No Child Left Behind law, abortion, and NAFTA). He feels that we should change to a stricter interpretation of the document.

In general, he is aiming for a Framers' Intent interpretation of the Constitution. If it isn’t there in black and white, and if the original writers hadn’t intended it, then it shouldn’t be. However, after talking about all this with him tonight, I realized something about Constitutional interpretation.

It doesn’t matter what the Constitution said, what the framers meant, or what the latest Supreme Court ruling says. What really matters is what I want the government to do, or not to do. Once I have that figured out, it is my job, as a citizen, to try to get the government to do that. If that means taking a test case through the courts, or getting an amendment to the Constitution approved, then that’s what I must try to do.

In the case of Constitutionalists, what is really happening is that they favor a very limited Federal government with a conservative legal base. Their way of fighting to bring this about is to argue that this is what should have been happening all along. Of course, they ignore the fact that the government has adapted (and grown) to meet the needs of the times. Whether this has been a good thing is certainly open for debate, but it has happened.

Ultimately, Constitutionalists, and any other political group, need to make a case for why their preferred style of government will benefit others. They need to take this to the people and try to sway public opinion as a whole. While they can argue that this is how it always should have been, they need to be able to provide more current reasons (such as that limiting government will result in the government being more responsive to the citizens’ needs, or that it will lead to reduced taxes).

I don’t think that they’ll be able to win many people over. Their position favors too small a portion of the electorate, and fails to satisfy the feelings of social guilt held by many of those who would benefit. I give them credit though for representing a position. The overall political arena is richer for having them.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Baby Boy Widdison 

Born 9 August 2006 at 1553. 7 lbs 2 oz, 20.5 inches.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Few Words About Crosses 

A judge recently ruled that 14 large crosses scattered around Utah that stand as monuments to Utah Highway Patrolmen who died in the line of duty can remain standing for now. (Note to those in Davis County: two of these crosses can be seen on the west side of I-15 at a rest stop between the Farmington and Kaysville exits.)

This decision was lauded by many as a great victory for religion over those godless atheists. However, that’s not what happened. This decision represents a victory of the status quo against activism. The issue at hand was not whether it was appropriate for these religious symbols to be displayed on public land, which is the topic of a pending legal case, but whether they should be taken down prior to the resolution of that case. While this weakens the case of those trying to get the crosses removed (okay, it doesn’t actually weaken their case, but it fails to strengthen it, since whatever side represents the current situation is in a stronger position, so by removing them now it would make it harder to put them back up if the decision is made that they are acceptable), it doesn’t force the larger case in any way.

I have some thoughts about why these crosses should be allowed to remain. First, I do not consider them to be religious symbols. While the tradition of placing a cross on the graves of soldiers (and policemen) started as a Christian way of honoring the dead, the symbol has transcended its roots. Now, crosses used as monuments are symbols of the sacrifices that people have made putting their lives in danger to serve the public. This point is especially true in the case of the large numbers of Latter-day Saint servicemen who are honored with crosses on their graves (such as both of my grandfathers). For them and their families, the cross isn’t a symbol of their faith, and yet the crosses are placed on their graves anyway. The symbol in that case is not religious, but patriotic.

Even if memorial crosses are considered religious symbols, I do not believe that they are inappropriate. Use of a religious symbol to honor a believer of that faith is not an endorsement of that doctrine, but rather fitting respect for a devout individual. I have heard that in some places, Jewish servicemen are recognized with a Star of David rather than a cross. This religious symbol provides a commentary on the faith of the individual, but it does not oblige individuals who do not follow the Talmud to follow in that kind of worship. Essentially, by allowing religious symbols in the monuments to individuals, the government is allowing these individuals the right to freely exercise their faith, even after they are dead.

One key factor here is that these crosses are symbols that apply to single individuals. While it could easily be argued that placing a cross in the official seal for a state or the nation, or having one displayed much like a flag would be at a capitol building, is an inappropriate endorsement of religion, having official, state-sponsored monuments to individuals that contain religious symbolism does not have the same implication. In fact, for many people their religious beliefs are core to their character, and any monument that failed to acknowledge those beliefs, especially in light of a decision to jeopardize one’s own life, would not adequately describe the person.

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