Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Rough draft of history. I

It is not quite correct to say that "Journalism is the first draft of history." In a programmatic sense, they are really the opposite; journalism happens when people who (believe they) know what happened lay out the evidence; history, when people who know the evidence try to figure out what happened. I'm not entirely sure what I'm up to with the following, but it feels like fun, and I think I'll keep doing it for a while.

It remains unclear whether the "Conservative" movement of the late 20th and early 21st centuries in the then United States of America deliberately meant to restore the British constitution of the mid-18th—or whether Lord Cruz, the first Prime Minister, simply found himself in a position in the autumn of 2013 where the restoration was inevitable, and took advantage of it.

Proponents of the latter hypothesis point to the language used by the early Conservatives as evidence that they aimed at nothing more than reinforcing the terms of the 1787 American Constitution: they spoke of the Founding Fathers and the document [jump]
itself in reverential tones, as if it had been dictated to the convention by angels. But Conspiracy theorists point out that the way they apparently interpreted it was so eccentric that it is difficult to believe they actually meant what they said.

Thus, to take an especially crucial example, the so-called "Bill of Rights" at the end of the 1787 Constitution contained a pair of clauses dealing with religion:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
Constitutional traditionalists understood this to mean that there could be no established religion in the Republic, all citizens being entitled to practice whatever religion they wanted including none. But to the Conservatives of the early 21st century, it seems to have meant that while citizens must be permitted to practice any religion, laws on the establishment of religion could not be entertained because an established religion already existed, nameless but clearly in some sense Christian. The Constitution itself was based, they claimed, on the Ten Commandments of the Hebrew Pentateuch, and a selective reading of Leviticus and the letters of the Apostle Paul, although there was no evidence of any kind in the text or its history to suggest that this could be true.

Likewise, the constitutional provision dealing with firearms,
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed
was also endowed with a religious significance. Abstracted from its original meaning in opposition to the idea of a standing federal army, to which the 1787 framers were resolutely opposed, but which had attained its own sacred status 200 years later (Support our troops! Thank you for your service!), it had reverted to that of the 1689 English Bill of Rights, which charged James II with violating the right of the people to arm themselves as an established Church Militant:
By causing several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law 
—but understood in 21st-century America as needed not so much to combat Papists as Muslims, unbelievers, and dark-skinned persons.

In hindsight, we can see that there really was an established church in the United States, invisible because it brought together groups that were superficially opposed, the Catholics who ran the Supreme Court and the Republican Party versus the Holy Rollers and Megachurchers who dominated local politics in rural and suburban parts of the South and Midwest, united by nothing except their horror and hatred of any expression of guilt-free, resolved sexuality. The true situation was fortuitously exposed by the election in 2013 of Pope Francis I, only the second True Catholic (or conciliarist) pope since Clement XIV (d. 1774).

While the US Catholic hierarchy had seemed for centuries to be, in fact, Papist, this was only because they had been getting along with the popes since the French Revolution. The advent of a pope with whom they disagreed (he was bored with abortion and the Immaculate Conception but took a personal interest in long-abandoned concepts of justice and compassion) showed them to be Episcopal in the manner of the Anglican Church under Charles I and Archbishop Laud, the pope-free, bishop-governed High-Church end of a body whose Low-Church end was composed of all those gun-happy and sodomy-haunted rednecks. And from that point it was only a matter of time before they would knit themselves into today's Catholic Independent Episcopal Church of America (or La Cieca, as Vatican wags call it)....

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