"Politicians are slime, pure and simple. They are self-serving, venal, conscienceless reprobates, perverse enough to waste millions of dollars seeking offices where they can make life and death decisions, and arrogant enough to believe those decisions are never wrong."
I am repeating my opening paragraph from a previous Pravda.Ru article, Obama: Nobel Peace Prize Winning War Criminal (02/07/13) to underscore the fact that even though this article addresses the putrid and exploitive machinations of the Republican party, it is not intended to imply any endorsement of their opposition.
The fact that Republican politicians hold power in the House of Representatives and in many state governments has always been a mystery to me. They routinely and shamelessly act only in the interests of powerful corporations and the wealthy, usually to the detriment of the poor and middle classes who comprise the majority of the people they supposedly "represent." It would seem that, in a so-called democracy, these actions would be political suicide. Yet they are consistently elected and reelected by the very people they harm the most.
The answer resides in the fact that Republicans have been particularly adept at preying upon the short-term political memories of their constituents by disingenuously exploiting emotional "hot buttons" like "patriotism" and "religion."
While such exploitation incessantly occurs at the national level, the state level is usually where it is the most conspicuous and unabashed. The antics of state legislators often fly under the national media's radar, giving them the ability to use their offices as stairways to higher political advancement (which necessitates the constant appeasement of their party's hierarchy), or to rub elbows with corporate lobbyists who often promise them lucrative careers in the private sector once their political careers have ended. Under either scenario, state legislators clearly have little incentive to act on behalf of the people who elect them; thus, political buffoonery and corruption abounds.
One particular state where this buffoonery and corruption is particularly prominent is Indiana. I have written about Indiana politics in several previous Pravda.Ru articles, including Boycott Indiana (01/11/2012), May God Damn Wall Street, the Republican Party, and the Supreme Court (02/14/2012), The Ku Klux Klan Once Again Controls Indiana (11/12/2012), and Boycott Purdue (07/22/2013).
Boycott Indiana discussed the state's sordid political history, including how its 1851 Constitution banned African-Americans from coming into and/or settling in the state; how, during the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan, led by D.C. Stephenson, controlled Indiana politics; how its previous Republican governor Mitch Daniels worshipped at the altar of "privatization"; and how the United States Supreme Court's corruption inviting Citizens United case inspired a deceptively named "right to work" bill designed to weaken the finances of labor unions.
May God Damn Wall Street, the Republican Party, and the Supreme Court discussed the machinations Daniels and his Republican lackeys employed to ensure that this "right to work" bill became law prior to the 2012 Super Bowl-which was held in Indiana's capital city, Indianapolis-so they could minimize the potential for protests and the exposure of the state's political ugliness to the world.
The Ku Klux Klan Once Again Controls Indiana discussed how, despite these machinations, Indiana voters sent Republican "super majorities" to the Indiana capitol, and Republican (and tea party ideologue) Mike Pence to the governor's mansion.
Finally, Boycott Purdue discussed how Daniels' worship of "privatization" and his efforts to undermine academic freedom during his tenure as governor did not inhibit him from becoming president of the taxpayer-funded Purdue University, after being appointed to that position by many of the same lackeys he himself had appointed to Purdue's Board of Trustees.
I have reviewed the basic premises of each of these articles to illustrate how adroit Indiana's Republican party is at exploiting the emotional "hot buttons" previously mentioned in this article. And one item that presses both of these buttons is the Pledge of Allegiance.
Throughout its existence, the Pledge has been fertile for political exploitation because it encompasses both "patriotism" and "religion"; therefore, it was not surprising when Indiana legislators passed, and Daniels signed into law, the requirement that school corporations permit students the "daily opportunity" to "voluntarily recite" it. Although Indiana Code Sec. 20-30-5-0.5 does comply with the United States Supreme Court's ruling in the case of West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette by giving students the right to choose not to participate, and parents the right to withhold their child's participation, students who fail to recite the Pledge have sometimes been subjected to ridicule and bullying or forced to participate by teachers.
The Barnette ruling was issued in 1943, during the height of World War II. Adopting a global perspective, the court expressed concerns that compulsory patriotism possessed the potential to segue into the aggressive nationalism and quashing of dissent practiced in Hitler's Germany, and diminished the right to "freedom of speech," which inherently includes the freedom not to speak. In the court's words, "To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds."
Which leads to these inevitable questions: Are voluntary recitation laws, like Indiana's, really intended to be voluntary? Is patriotism really patriotism when achieved by indoctrination, regimentation, and intimidation? And, perhaps most importantly, do these laws devalue patriotism by transforming it into nothing more than a cynical way to garner cheap and easy votes?
The "religion" hot button was introduced into the Pledge in 1954, during the height of the Cold War and sixty-two years after it was first recited in public schools, by the addition of the phrase "under God." Much like voluntary recitation, questions continue to abound about whether the insertion of "under God" was motivated by reverence, or whether it was simply a cynical, voting-producing jab at "godless" communist nations.
For Indiana lawmakers, the latter appears to be the case, since the exploitation of religion is clearly evident in the state's proposed "Merry Christmas" legislation.
While this proposed legislation seems innocuous enough, allowing holiday greetings to be expressed and Nativity scenes to be displayed in public schools, the duplicity behind it is not. In addition to pandering to right-wing commentators and pseudo-journalists who have opportunistically manufactured a so-called "war on Christmas" to generate ratings and profits, it has also compelled politicians who recognize the irrelevance of this legislation to nonetheless vote in favor of it, fearing the political ammunition it would have given their opponents in upcoming elections had they refused to do so.
As an Associated Press article by Summer Ballentine (02/04/2014) explains, this legislation simply mirrors existing legal precedents already set by America's courts, which prompted one Indiana school official to ask, "Is this something that is really necessary to spend a lot of time on when you can already say 'Merry Christmas?'"
The exploitation of religion is also evident in Indiana's current efforts to place a ban on same-sex marriage into the state constitution. Heavily promoted by Pence, this proposed ban graphically illustrates the disingenuous machinations fueling Indiana politics.
After arguments for and against this proposed ban were heard by members of the House Judiciary Committee, it became clear they lacked the votes to move the ban forward. So, to ensure the result he desired, House Speaker Brian Bosma went committee shopping, eventually placing the ban's fate into the hands of the House Election and Apportionment Committee. Critics of Bosma's actions have accurately argued that they illustrate the depth of his mendacity, especially since he had promised to treat the ban the same as any other proposed legislation.
Logic would seem to dictate that, whether for or against this ban, Indiana voters should be outraged by Bosma's machinations. If he has free reign to committee shop at will, then his and Pence's biases and hypocrisies could easily be given the force of law. While this might be fitting in a dictatorship, it has no place in a democracy.
In addition, although Bosma and others of his ilk have repeatedly expressed the desire to place the same-sex marriage issue into the hands of Indiana voters, such respect was conspicuously lacking when he denied these same voters a referendum to accept or reject Indiana's "right to work" law.
So it is not hyperbole to state that Pence and Bosma are Indiana's new D.C. Stephensons, because they not only share his attributes of mendacity, bigotry, and hypocrisy, they, like Stephenson, endeavor to conceal their true natures behind facades of patriotism and religion. Stephenson espoused Americanism, restraint from consuming alcoholic beverages, and the sanctity of marriage and "womanhood." He was also considered to be "the law in Indiana." Yet, in a drunken stupor, he kidnapped and sexually abused a young schoolteacher, ultimately driving her to suicide.
When untainted, patriotism and religion can be noble virtues. But when placed in the hands of manipulative, self-serving politicians, they can become dark and ugly vices. History has repeatedly shown that people willing to exploit patriotism and religion cannot simply be dismissed as nuisances, because their willingness to sink to any depths to achieve their goals makes them extremely dangerous. The people of Indiana, the people of the United States, and the people residing in a world that is often negatively affected by the American government's policies certainly deserve better.
David R. Hoffman
Legal Editor of Pravda.Ru