Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hillbillistan

A friend of mine recently posted a picture of a 4th grade history test on Facebook, which I have to assume (if it's not a hoax) is from one of the Southern states where they are actively pushing to teach intelligent design as science. The questions included:

  1. True or false: The Earth is billions of years old. Correct answer: False
  2. True or false: Dinosaurs lived millions of years ago. Correct answer: False
  3. On what day did God make dinosaurs? Correct answer: the 6th
  4. True or false: Dinosaurs lived with people. Correct answer: True
  5. What did people and animals eat in the beginning? Correct answer: Plants
  6. etc. etc. etc.
For many years, I've been increasingly disturbed by the reactionary attitudes of the extreme conservatives in the country: anti-abortion, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-environment, anti-immigrant, anti-health care. I also continue to believe that race plays a big role in why many of them hate President Obama. To be clear, regardless of how much I clash with some of these views, I am very happy we have conservatives in our country and government. Further, I passionately agree with them on some key issues (e.g., anti-gun control, fiscal conservatism, and avoiding over taxation of business). Regardless of whether I agree or disagree with them, I'm glad we have their contribution to the public discourse. If nothing else, they balance out some extreme views on the left that I also disagree with. 

Bottom-line: By having divergent opinions in our country which must compromise with one another to form policy, we keep extreme views on both ends of the spectrum at bay. While no party 'wins' on most issues, the whole country wins because both sides influence policy-making. Sometimes one side has a little more sway; sometimes the other. In the end, it's not perfect but I feel we chart something of a middle course. That's what an active democracy in a country as diverse as ours is all about in my opinion.

What does bother me? I'm bothered by how radical conservatism repeatedly injects their religion and The Bible into everything. This has become a divisive theocratic element in our country that is uninterested in debate, democracy, or compromise. Given that it is largely centered in the South, it honestly makes me wonder whether the country just needs to be split in two. Here is a map I have devised for doing just that.

Again, my reason for splitting the country is not about power for Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals. It's to separate two fundamentally different beliefs in how a country should be governed. I realize people in many states might not like where they land in my map. So, should this proposal ever become reality, we would have to manage mass transitions of population once the borders are drawn and the form of government in each country is made clear.

The United States of America is for people who believe in government by active democracy. In this country, we debate divisive issues such as abortion, immigration, gay rights, budget spending, government appointments, and global warming. We do not believe it's right to shut down the government or freeze it by constant filibusters in order to 'win'. On the contrary, we accept that we will not always get our way. Everyone has a voice and, if we can't persuade enough people to our position with reasoned arguments, then we simply do not prevail on that issue. This means we all 'lose' from time-to-time on issues that are important to us. However, even when we lose, we win because we believe that preserving democracy is more important than getting our way all the time. Besides, there's always a chance to fight for change in the future. Lastly, we believe in science and that the way to build a strong America is by educating our children about science, not indoctrinating them into one religious viewpoint.

The other country - Hillbillistan - is for people who believe in government by theocracy. In this country, Christian evangelicals, the Tea Party, the extreme right, and their blocs of voters can build a Christian country. Having a Christian country run via theocracy would justify basing all public policy decisions and governance on a literal reading of The Bible. This is no longer a democracy, since biblical texts are not subject to being questioned or flouted. That means the leaders of Hillbillistan would be free to pursue their course without being hampered by the opinions and beliefs of non-Christians. They could start every school day, business meeting, town hall meeting, and state of the union address with a prayer and not be concerned about whether someone finds singling out Christianity as a state religion is exclusionary. Non-Christians in Hillbillistan would have to "love it (that is, God) or leave it". The theocracy would also be empowered to pass any laws with the sole justification being Christian teachings. Abortion could be banned, homosexuality outlawed, and immigration set at zero without any notable debate. Lastly, schools can be used as surrogate Sunday schools to foster religious belief, and classroom content will not be driven by subject (e.g., science and philosophy) but by State-sanctioned religious dogma.

While my proposal to create Hillbillistan is obviously tongue-in-cheek, there is a serious issue here that our country seems to be increasingly faced with. The loud protestations of some groups that the US is a 'Christian country' and that our laws should be based on biblical text cannot truly fit within a democracy, since democracy is defined as the rule of the people. It is not the rule of any god. Religious views do influence our political beliefs, and that's fine. However, by pursuing a course that attempts to overtly justify policy on religious grounds and/or set one religion above all others, the evangelicals, Tea Party, and extreme conservatives in our country have goals closer to those of the leaders in Iran than to the founding fathers of our nation.

PS: New Orleans and the Keys are protectorates because I don't see how fun places like that could be of any use to the government of Hillbillistan!

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