Today, as we celebrate the long-ago launch of this great experiment in freedom, let us consider a quotation from the Declaration of Independence:
"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."
Yeah, that quotation. Mr. Jefferson (whose Francophilic tendencies would no doubt be the butt of Bill O'Reilly "jokes" in these times) does of course understand human nature, but he almost certainly did not foresee how "sufferable" the citizenry would find evils to be in 2006. Even by the standards of Bismarck's "sausage factory," Tha Bush Mobb's legislative priorities (and the Democratic leadership's all-too-frequent acquiescence) mock our great experiment in self-government more than at any time in recent American history. The late TV sci-fi writer Terry Nation came closer to foreseeing the difficulty of radical change in modern times, in the 1978-81 BBC series Blakes 7, which started with a population walking around in a drug-induced stupor. Even that's not what's happening now: fluoridated water hasn't made us a nation of zombies, but McDonald's, PlayStation, and on-demand cable sure have. Against the ease of excessive calorie consumption or the excitement of the release of the new Grand Theft Auto or a new episode of Lost or CSI: Jim Thorpe, it's hard to get people excited about Mr. Bush's flagrant violations of the Fourth Amendment; today's zombies have enough bread (dull and lacking in nourishment though it is) and far too many circuses. Sometimes I get frustrated that I don't have the magic pill that snaps them out of it. But I must remind myself that having the magic pill isn't the point; being there for other people is the point, engaging with your fellow humans is the point, taking your government, our government, as our birthright is the point. And engagement doesn't always snap people out of it immediately, but it does have more of an effect than withdrawing into one's castle. This works both ways: every time I've thought I was really alone in what I believed, I found out that not only wasn't I really alone, but I didn't have to go very far to find that out. This knowledge should not make us complacent. But it should make us hopeful, and last I looked hope was the only thing that kept us going.
In other news, we're off from Congress until Monday, and then it's only one short month until we're off from Congress for another month, as if we needed another reason to love the summertime. In this upcoming month, though, the House will be busy leaving its trail of slime wherever it goes: their "Pledge Protection" Act would "protect" the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance from "liberal" "activist" judges (some of whom, you may recall, were appointed by the famous liberal activist President Richard Nixon). The House also plans to (finally! After all these years!) vote on Todd Tiahrt's "sunset commission" brainchild, which could put almost any federal program on the chopping block. Meanwhile, the Senate plans to act on a House Estate Tax "compromise" passed near the end of June which would, like the Kyl/Baucus/Snowe "compromises," virtually gut the Estate Tax. And word on the street is that Senate Democrats might actually filibuster the new telecom bill unless it includes strong network neutrality provisions -- which, since it would be an unusual stand against corporate power, must be untrue. Last but certainly not least, the Republican-dominated House is dragging its feet on the Voting Rights Act reauthorization -- and why, since said foot-dragging seems to me like weapons-grade PR, are the Democrats not spewing palpable anger about it?