Sunday, March 28, 2010

In the Belly of the Beast

By Baynard Woods

After my trip to CPAC, I decided to descend further into the belly of the beast. Which meant, for me, going home to Greenville. It is the home of Jim DeMint and Bob Jones University. I had always hated Greenville.

When we moved to Greenville from Columbia, in the mid-eighties, I was a skate-punk. We used to go to Bob Jones when we got bored. We’d skate around until their golf-cart driving security guards chased us. Then we’d ollie down some steps and flip them the bird and waltz off campus as they gawked at us.

We couldn’t go anywhere in that town without them evangelizing us. They’d froth at the mouth and scream about hell-fire. That was our way of fighting back… and it was all kind of fun.

A little later, I grew my hair out and drove a bug and looked like a hippy. I got kicked out of schools—DeMint’s alma mater in fact, named after a confederate general. I got pulled over at least once a week and called a fag and searched. It wasn’t fun at all.

And yet, this is the part that the Tea-Partiers are down with. Why weren’t they with Obama when he denounced the police-abuses against Henry Louis Gates? That’s what I don’t understand or trust about the “Oath Keepers,” the group who urge sheriffs, fire departments and other local authorities to resist the Federal government. I haven’t been personally assaulted, offended, pushed, cursed, or abused by the Federal Government, but all of those things have happened at the hands of local officials. How often have you been bullied by a local cop? And a federal agent?

The last time there was such a big State’s Rights outcry, it was against Civil Rights. The logic is the same now. Southern states argued that the Federal Government was imposing its will on them—when the Feds were keeping them from violently imposing their will on African Americans. The purpose of the Federal Government is to protect us against local abuses. When people rail against “activist judges” or require referenda to give people basic rights, they misunderstand the Constitution entirely. We have a Constitution not to protect the majority and make sure it can decide who should be excluded, but to make sure that the majority can’t do that. The purpose of the Judicial Branch is to stand up for the minority of one, the weirdo, the freak, the loner, and the loser.

Even if it is Bob Jones. I walked around the campus of the uber-conservative fundamentalist college on a recent spring day when the dogwoods were blooming (remember, Jesus was killed when the Federal Roman judge let the locals decide). The women’s skirts now hung only to their knees, instead of their ankles. It didn’t quite look like the campus of USC or Clemson, but it didn’t look like one of the Taliban schools either. As I strolled, I wasn’t and I didn’t flip any birds.

Bob Jones has cleaned up its image. But they’ve taken their fight from the streets into the political arena. And if I still lived in Greenville, I’d be damn glad that a Federal government existed to keep the Jonesers from imposing their will on me.

While, I was in town, I went to Jim DeMint’s office.  Danielle Gibbs, his Regional Director spent about fifteen minutes with me (without knowing I was a reporter). I wanted to ask about a crazy contradiction in the Senator’s thinking. At CPAC, he declared that we should get rid of the Federal Income Tax. And yet he thinks we should not only maintain but increase our military presence in the world. “Because we need to be near trouble spots,” Gibbs explained to me.

I took the libertarian point of view. “But Representative Paul would say they’re trouble spots because we are closer to them,” I replied.  There was no answer.

Here’s a news flash. The Military is part of the Federal Government. Sorry, but it is. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t talk about how bad the Federal government is and how great the military is.

The Federal government abused the Constitution plenty. Warrentless wiretapping by the NSA, the suspension of Habeas Corpus, illegal rendition, etc. But the Tea-Party has been silent on these issues because they aren’t really interested in limiting Federal power but in reviving all the old things that States Rights used to stand for.

So, to all the Tea-Party people who claim to worship the Constitution. Please, read Article 6 and save us all some time. It says that Federal Law supercedes State Law. End of discussion. You may want to go back and reargue the issues surrounding the Federalist Papers—which is fine, but it is not Conservative, it is radical and revolutionary and would require a new Constitution.

1 comment:

  1. Please be aware that there are many people who attended Bob Jones and still live in Greenville that do not completely agree with the ideology of the school.
    I happen to be one of them. While some of their views are extremely conservative I know for a fact that the instances you have mentioned are the exception not the rule.
    Many people I highly respect work or attend that school so I know that everything to do with the school is not as you have painted.
    Thank you for listening.