Thursday, June 28, 2012

We're turning Japanese

Well, the SCOTUS announcement has come down, much to everyone's amusement. (Well, many people's amusement, anyway.) To me, what was really important about the ruling wasn't even the ruling itself - it was the way it was treated by just about all sides.

I'll make this short. In America, whether something is constitutional is no longer a major concern. Definitely not among the average person, and arguably not among statesmen, representatives or "intellectuals" - on either side of the political fence. The number of people who were concerned with the constitutionality of Obamacare were, and remain, minimal. The only thing that mattered to them is whether they'd get what they want or not. You can see that in the retracted DNC Tweet of - what was it? "TAKE THAT, MOTHERFUCKERS"?

There's talk in the conservative blogosophere that this was the day the Republic ended, since the SCOTUS arguably handed the federal government the ability to make citizens buy whatever products the government wishes, 'for their own and the common good'. But really, the fact is this decision did little more than highlight the current state of the nation - it didn't put us in that state. Pointing out that something is unconstitutional now carries as much weight in conversation as pointing out that it's a sin. For most people the reaction is, "No it's not. I disagree." and consider that decisive. And chances are they don't even necessarily believe your reasoning is wrong - they just don't like it, don't care to hear it, and will quote whoever agrees with them and consider that to settle the matter. If, in the rare instance they'll follow an argument and realize that given the definitions they agreed to they're wrong on the matter (no, it actually IS unconstitutional), that's not a cue for them to consider changing their mind. It's a cue to change their definitions.

I don't bring this up to complain - the world is the way it is. I bring it up because it illustrates the myth of dialogue and cooperation. There's some talk that Roberts voted the way he did to "show that the court is impartial rather than politically divided" (as if this is achieved by voting with one political bloc of another), but I think the very idea that this showed the 'impartiality of the courts' is hilarious. No one believes that - not liberals, not conservatives, not even moderates. The idea of the court as being charged with some duty to be faithful to the Constitution is an open, if pious, myth. It's just another manifestation of state power to be controlled or crushed as necessary.

Now, I think, once upon a time, people (or at least people who mattered) believed these things in great enough numbers the maintain these institutions. I also think that time has passed, just as the idea of a "loyal opposition" is now something you can only say sarcastically when it comes to politics. Out in public, we pretend otherwise - talk about the importance of bipartisan votes and 'reaching across the aisle' - but more and more, this is just turning into a veneer on our language. Culturally, we're turning Japanese - we don't, and in a way can't, publicly say what we mean, because there are certain cultural mores and standards in place. So we use the special terms and phrases, complete with their own honorifics, that on paper says one thing, but which everyone knows says something very different, but which for some reason we can't actually be blunt about.

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