The Third Camp

In the past, people tended to fall  into one of two political camps regarding the Constitution.

Camp One thinks the Constitution mostly protects our right to own guns without restriction, protects Christianity (and other religions to a lesser degree) and (if read correctly) prohibits abortion and other sins. The rest is boring boilerplate but basically says that, aside from the common defense, the government shouldn’t interfere with our lives, especially by taxing us or regulating our businesses.

Camp Two thinks the Constitution mostly protects rights like free speech and assembly (including guns, but maybe they could be “well regulated”) and says the government should not play favorites with any religion, including Christianity. It instructs the government to act as a counterweight to the rich and powerful when they’re tempted to discriminate against the poor and weak. The government should try to solve the problems of citizens. Beyond that, except for defense, the government shouldn’t interfere with our lives, especially by restricting personal choices regarding our own bodies. Sinning is a personal choice.

A third camp seems to be emerging. This group thinks words (including those in the Constitution) and facts are fluid; their meaning changes, and they don’t really matter. This camp and the way it’s evolving scares some of us. Think about it: rights are just words on parchment; convictions and beliefs shouted with righteous fervor are trivial ephemera; science is a story woven to comfort children. With this mindset, there’s nothing wrong with repeating crap spawned by the Internet that old fashioned guys like me call “provably wrong.” There’s nothing wrong with calling people “liberal pukes” (as some of my Facebook “friends” call me) because those are only words. Insults are colorful blossoms in the garden of free speech. “Lies” just represent differences of opinion. What’s the big deal?

I think words matter. America is a country based on ideals, but those ideals are powerless until crystallized into words. We write down our laws. History is experience condensed and preserved as language. Christianity grew from the words Jesus spoke, the words His disciples wrote down. Without the Bible, there is no Christianity. Without the Constitution, there is no America. Without history, the next generation becomes cavemen. When we trivialize words and their link to truth, we risk everything our country and its people stand for. Conservatives revered Justice Scalia for his (perhaps extreme) agreement with this idea.

People supported Trump for various reasons, many of them noble and sincere. But did they make their decision based on his words? Words like “drain the swamp” and “make America great again?” If so, they should prepare to be disappointed.

Trump does not treasure language the way our founding fathers did, or Scalia did, or Jesus did. Words don’t really matter to him; he says what comes into his head even if it’s not consistent with the words he said five minutes earlier. Some of Trump’s fans might have second thoughts once they realize that, to him, the “right to bear arms” is just four or five words strung together randomly. Not important. Certainly not one of his core beliefs. “Right to life” is only a phrase and subject to interpretation. “Well regulated” could mean “regulated strictly by me.”

If a man doesn’t care whether or not his words match the truth, even a little bit, we’ll never know what he actually believes. There is no way to predict what he might do. That doesn’t seem to bother people in that third camp.

And that’s scary.



4 replies on “The Third Camp”

  1. Excellent, as always. Thanks. I’m sharing this.

  2. Mel Birch says:

    Trump is alingual—without language. He moves from one emotional outburst to the next. His words, such as they are, are merely spacers to fill the time between outbursts. They have no normal meaning, normal context, or normal continuity. There is no expectation of rational meaning at the end of any spewing of syllables.

  3. Scott says:

    Excellent blog! And it feels like no sane person could disagree.

    Of course on the other side it’s sort of nice to hear someone just speaking emotively. The words themselves matter less than the emotion. Anger, fear, pride… we don’t know what the Trumpster thinks or where he stands, but we’re pretty sure what his momentary emotion is. Something we really have had to guess at with most politicians.

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