Thursday, December 27, 2007

The internets heart Ron Paul

Ron Paul (R-TX) has a snowball's chance in Christian hell of winning the Republican nomination for president. He has a snowball's chance on the surface of the sun of actually becoming president. So it is not with any worry about him becoming anything more than a crazy political mouthpiece that I write the following.

The man's a nutter. But supporting Ron Paul, I believe, says more about the supporter than it does about Paul. It tells me that there are a surprisingly large number of ill-informed, scared, ignorant people in our country who (wrongly) believe that they could survive without the help of their fellow human beings. (edit to add: this applies to those people who've actually researched the man's positions a little bit. I have met a few folks who like him after the casual glance, and I'm sure they'd be just as horrified as me if they looked a little further)

Because here are some of the choice gems that form the planks of Dr. Paul's platform and ideology:

  • The First Amendment doesn't apply to Congress: "Matters of religious freedom and expression should be decided by the states," and "the federal government cannot forbid expressions of religion, including the Ten Commandments, in either public or private life." (emphasis mine) This sounds suspiciously similar to the ol' States Rights arguments that got our country into trouble in the time leading up to and during the American Civil War. When you leave issues of crucial freedoms up to the individual states, you end up with things like slavery, Jim Crow laws and general purpose discrimination.
  • That "our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists -- and they can be identified by the color of their skin." The Daily Kos does a great job of tearing this one to shreds, so I'll leave you in those capable hands for the argument about why this whole thing is absurd--y'know, in addition to the whole "because it's super racist" thing.
  • Return to the Gold Standard! Give our economy over to the ever-changing winds of whim and luck. The costs of producing enough gold to maintain our economy would be astronomical. What comes off sounding like a simplifying solution really ends up costing a whole lot more money and resources in the long run, which seems to be a theme with Paul's ideas.
  • Change the 14th Amendment to disallow automatic birthright citizenship. The amendment was passed shortly following the end of the Civil War, and was partly in response to free black individuals who were being denied citizenship because their parents had been slaves (and therefor not considered citizens). There were people who opposed the amendment then, and apparently, sadly, still people today who would deny basic rights and services to anyone with the audacity to have parents with unofficial status in this country.
  • Get rid of the 16th Amendment all-together, thus abolishing the government's ability to tax pretty much anything or anyone. Where he expects to get the money to support necessary civil and social programs (interstates, civil defense, health care and education spring to mind) is beyond me.
I could go on and on, but it would get repetitive. Most of Paul's positions come down to the battle cry of "States Rights!" and a sort of one-man-is-an-island mentality that basement-dwelling internet nerds seem to love.

But it's an extremely arrogant, self-centered and downright delusional position to take. The only way to exist as an island, tax-free, with government out of your business is to disappear into the wilds, build your own shack, live off-grid and hunt/gather your own food. Somehow I doubt Paul's internet legions would be terribly willing or able to do such a thing.

Not all of the man's ideas are daft--I believe we need substantial economic reform in this country, and a few of Paul's suggestions have kernels of possibility hidden deep within their crazy depths. But like I said, what concerns me most is that his more isolationist, xenophobic, irrational ideas seem to appeal to a great many people. It's hard to realize that there are that many lost souls out there, content to believe that they owe nothing to anyone, and that basic human rights (freedom of speech, religion, assembly, etc.) should be left to the given popular sentiment of the day. Because frankly, that's usually how we get ourselves into trouble. And that so many people haven't bothered to learn from our collective past mistakes is troubling, to say the least.

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