When the Republican Party won victories in the 2010 mid-term elections, it took control in the House of Representatives and various state capitals. Among the first things the Republican majority in the U. S. House insisted on was reading the Constitution aloud. This supposedly demonstrated the devotion of these politicians to this hallowed document. On April 1, 2011, the superficial nature of the Republican commitment to the Constitution was starkly revealed.
A bit of context is necessary to make it clear how arrogant the ignorance displayed by this ludicrous action truly is. On February 19 of this year, the House passed a bill that would cut $61 billion from the Federal budget. Under the caption H.R. 1255 (the text of which can be found here), the Republicans enacted a resolution that stated the bill passed only by the House would become law if the Senate fails to act by April 6, 2011. This is preposterous! Any time spent considering this resolution or arguing about it was a completely wasted. It is an affront to the Constitution and it should be a stench in the nostrils of the American people.
Another related display of arrogant ignorance has been on exhibit since January of 2009. This practice of Senate Republicans makes every issue or nearly every issue require a three-fifths majority to take action. This is in accord with nothing in the Constitution and it is not in accord with the history and traditions of the Senate. As Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, stated, “But it’s not a filibuster anymore. It’s a super-majority requirement. And when that becomes commonly used, it’s a recipe for paralysis.” Furthermore, as Ezra Klein observed, “When super-majority votes become business as usual, it’s bad for Congress and bad for democracy. It means power devolves from the legislature and towards unelected, unaccountable organizations.” Additionally, it means those who are pushing the super-majority requirement are ignorant of the Constitution and arrogantly acting contrary to its clear intent. The Framers knew about super-majority requirements, but they did not call them that. We know they knew because they specified that super-majority votes would be required for specific things. For example, overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds vote by both Houses of Congress, and conviction of an impeached civil officer of the United States requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate; finally, two-thirds votes are required from both houses of Congress to propose an amendment to the Constitution. Therefore, the letter and the spirit of the Constitution imposes no super-majority requirement, but arrogant, ignorant politicians inflict it on the Senate and the nation routinely.
Outside of the purely political sphere, arrogant ignorance is rampant in our nation and the world. For example, Terry Jones whose burning of a Koran sparked deadly violence in Afghanistan, said, “Muslim dominated countries can no longer be allowed to spread their hate against Christians and minorities," he said. "They must alter the laws that govern their countries to allow for individual freedoms and rights, such as the right to worship, free speech, and to move freely without fear of being attacked or killed."
Whatever its merits as a work of literature, Muslims believe the Koran is a work of divine guidance for humanity. In the original Arabic, Muslins consider the Koran the literal word of God. These beliefs are quite similar to those of fundamentalist Christians concerning the Bible. Whether or not either set of believers has even a glimpse of the truth is not the point. That one believer chooses to dismiss the equally strong belief of millions of others and burn their holy book is a glaring example of the arrogance of ignorance running amok in the world today. Predictably, this particular display of arrogant ignorance provided a pretext for violence against the handiest group on infidels the Muslims in Afghanistan could find. Consequently, at least twenty United Nations workers died.
For sheer audacity, however, the most arrogant ignorance is often displayed by true believers who broadcast such messages as “beware the green dragon.” These messages have apparently been heard and understood by Representative John Shimkus of IL, because he believes the Biblical report of God’s promise to Noah to not destroy the earth by a flood makes environmental concerns nonsensical. Because the willful ignorance of the climate change deniers propels the planet ever closer to a global catastrophe, this is a true pinnacle of arrogant ignorance in action.
One final example of arrogant ignorance should be sufficient to make the point that we, the people, face a real threat. Senator Jim DeMint, a tea party darling, disclosed his desire to get collective bargaining completely out of government at both the state and federal levels. Senator DeMint described public employees’ unions as unelected third parties who enjoy “monopoly power” in negotiations. DeMint seemingly does not know that most federal employees can bargain only over working conditions because their pay and benefits are set by Congress. Perhaps, he knows but does not care. In any event, he ignorantly concludes that depriving employees of bargaining rights would help budgetary situations while arrogantly asserting that public employee unions do what they most definitely do not do. What is left unsaid by the Senator of course is the fact that harming unions improves Republican election prospects and that is worth any amount of ignorance in service to the arrogance of power.
At this time and for the near future, all patriotic Americans must make a genuine effort to overcome ignorance first in ourselves and then in others. Then, we must forego and forebear arrogance. There are serious issues to be dealt with and bromides, dogmas, and pious posturing are not sufficient to the tasks confronting us. The “magnificent words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution” as Dr. King termed them are not scriptures to be read ritualistically. They are living principles to be genuinely understood and effectively put into practice.
The culturally prominent and the politically powerful must be held to rigorous standards. They cannot be allowed to inject nonsense into the body politic. The citizenry, the ultimate sovereigns in the Republic must shake off their torpor and do the work to inform themselves of the facts concerning the expertise and the competence of those who would presume to lead. The civic life and social fabric of our nation and our world are too important to be left to the ploys, the peeves, and the plots of officials or celebrities. We must assume the responsibility and do the work of electing informed and honorable people who will use their positions and powers to fulfill the purposes set for the Republic 224 years ago. If we do not learn to live and work together in this country and on this planet as brothers and sisters, we will surely perish together as fools.