Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I don't think this is really expecting too much

People should not invoke the Founding Fathers in support of their position (as in, "We are moving far away from the nation the Founding Fathers intended.") unless they can:

- name at least 5 Founding Fathers

- identify the first document intended to establish a common governance for the original colonies and explain why that first system failed

- recite the Preamble to the Constitution

- identify at least one specific provision of the Constitution (other than the 2nd Amendment)

I am open to people establishing that they have at least a rudimentary understanding of the history around our nation's founding in other ways that I have not listed. But I'm going to insist on some evidence of basic knowledge. I'm quite tired of hearing people fretting about "The Constitution" and "The Founding Fathers" without being able to provide any specifics on what the heck they mean.

And don't dare try to tell me it's "elitist" of me to expect the people who participate in public political discourse to have a little basic knowledge. Refusing to accept the continued dumbing-down of our politics is not elitist. Participating in the democratic process isn't a privilege to be taken lightly. Those who do participate publicly have the responsibility, the obligation even, to educate themselves so they can make meaningful contribution rather than just providing bluster and buzzwords (especially if they don't really understand the buzzwords).

I will assume that your tearful lament that "the Founding Fathers wouldn't like what we're doing to this nation" is only sound and fury, signifying nothing, unless you can tell me exactly what the hell you mean by that!


mellancollyeyes said...

I think I just fell in love with you.

S said...

So you weren't in love with me already? ;)

BellsforStacy said...

So I think, that before a defendant has a right to a public defender, he ought to be able to name the amendment that grants him that right.

I suppose you also think that only wealthy land owners (therefore more educated than the working class) should vote?

You went to law school, you're really smart, and really privledged. You are in the minority in that regard. I'm especially amazed that you said this considering your line of work.

The political process isn't only for the smartest among us. And maybe someone did say something that they heard on TV that they thought was smart and they didn't understand it ... that doesn't make you better than them.

S said...

Sure, Stacy, because all of that is exactly what I said. Do you ever actually stop to think about what you read before just reacting to it?

I'm not talking about knowing anything beyond what is readily available in any public school in the country. And I didn't actually even say you couldn't contribute if you don't know the very basics of American history. All I said was don't invoke the Founding Fathers in your message if you don't know anything about them. Speak your mind all you want, but don't make grandiose claims if you can't back them up.

I'm really tired of being told I'm just a damn, privileged elitist for thinking that people are smarter than they let on and for thinking that a little, basic knowledge can be expected from them. Participating in the democratic process is a privilege that an awful lot of people in this world don't have, so those of us who do should take it seriously enough to educate ourselves.

No, of course I don't think there should be any sort of test before one gets to vote. But when one does choose to speak publicly, one has to know that others will respond, even criticize. As my part in the democratic process, if it becomes clear that someone who is talking doesn't have the first damn clue what s/he is talking about, I feel the need to call him/her on it.

BellsforStacy said...

It's your right to say so. But your over all tone is, "if your not as smart as me, I won't listen to you."

In a perfect world, I would like everyone to have finished high school, know "basic" information as you put it, and heck, I'd really like for everyone to be able to go to college, if they so choose.

But really, I can't identify the first document... and hell I probably couldn't put together a sentence like that. That doesn't mean my points are any less valid than someone who can.

And really, why can't they name the 2nd amendment? Does it not meet one of your criteria? Or is it just that people that invoke these sorts of arguments cling to bibles and guns, and must therefore be stupid and discredited as such?

Again, you're really smart. And yes, other people are intelligent too. Just maybe not in constitutional law or law in general.

I happen to know a lot about coupons and retail marketing. But I don't expect that only people with as much knowledge as I should critique superbowl commercials.

Moxie said...

I think the point here was that if you have concerns about political policies, such as the healthcare debate, by all means state them.

But you really have no right to claim, as part of your argument, that the Founding Fathers would agree with your position, if you don't even have a basic knowledge about the Founding Fathers.

Meryl said...

The difference being, unless you happen to make your living in advertising, Super Bowl commercials are pretty superficial--the United States Constitution, not so much.

It just gets exhausting, and sometimes even scary. I've been watching the newspaper comments on a big trial all week, and I just can't believe how little people know about how the legal system really works and why. And I'm not talking about little technical things that I would only expect attorneys to know--I'm talking about the easy stuff. And, while I have a lot of patience with people who really want to understand and learn, it's apparent that so many people aren't even trying.

It's like, if I tried to argue to a court that they should release my client, but hadn't read any of the facts of the case or done any research. I would fully expect (and deserve) to get dismissed pretty quickly (and probably laughed at, if not worse). If you're going to argue a position, you should educate yourself about that merits of that position first. Otherwise your thoughts aren't really worth much.

But hey, that's the idea of free speech, I suppose--stupid ideas will fail because people will see that they're stupid...I hope.

BellsforStacy said...

Ugh. As if I don't feel bad enough about what I do. I happen to do pro-bono work for the homeless in this area and have helped raise millions of dollars, thanks much. I'm not argueing your point ... you are right. Being a public defender is much more important to the community at large than what I do.

In regards the health care debate specifically, I think a lot of peoples concerns are being dismissed simply because they aren't as smart as proponents.

And I just think it's ridiculous that if you show at a townhall, and are brave enough to get up to the microphone and say something, you're going to be called stupid if you don't say everything perfectly.

I applauded those that came that argued for healthcare, claiming ridiculous things like, 57 million people are uninsured, and more people will die if we don't pass this bill. They were brave to stand up for what they believe. They are 10 shades of wrong, but they were brave.

I require respect to be shown both sides. Even if you happen to think the opposition is stupid, and I resent the implication that the opposition must pass some sort of litmus test before their points are taken seriously.

Meryl said...

What you do is, of course, awesome. But the point I was trying to get across was that, in my daily life, superbowl commercials have nothing to do with me unless I want them to. I'm not subject to them. You *are* subject to the law, therefore you (and I mean that as in a general "you" not you personally) had better know at least the basics.

And I don't think people have to say things perfectly, but there is a difference between disagreeing on the facts, or disagreeing on what the proper action is based on those facts, and never trying to learn any of the facts in the first place. The first two should be happening as part of a good debate--the latter is just (literally) ignorance.

As far as healthcare goes, I honestly couldn't care less what get's passed, as long as my mother has health insurance at the end of it. (Because I love her, and the thought of her developing some horrible condition and taking us all down with her financially keeps me up at night.) But because that concern is marginal to me right now with everything else that's on my plate, I haven't done the research necessary to form a detailed opinion on what is specifically being debated--ergo, I'm not spouting off about it as if I know what I'm talking about. I think that's just common sense.

Dan said...

If you believe Obama was born in Kenya, I will dismiss your views. If you believe 9/11 was an inside job by the government, I will dismiss your views. If you believe that Healthcare reform is going to create a "death panal" that will pull the plug on Granny and your special-needs baby, I will dismiss your views.

If you willingly believe outright lies and propagate them even after all of the evidence dismissed those claims, you have nothing to add to the debate. Trying to explain or comprimise with you is pointless to moving the country forward.

S said...

And if you're full of bluster and buzzwords, but can't tell me what it is you mean by those words, I will dismiss your views. Not because you're stupid and I'm better than you, but because there isn't any substance for me to consider.

I didn't call anyone stupid and I didn't say people shouldn't be allowed to speak. That was a conscious choice of words on my part. It's not that anyone shouldn't be allowed to speak; it's that they should exercise a little self-censorship. That they should take the time to learn a little about what it is they're talking about. That they should think out what they want to say and what their objections are.

But if they don't bother to do that, if they so clearly don't know what the hell they're talking about, why should I be expected to give anything they do say any consideration whatsoever?

Stupid and ill-informed are two very different things. I happen to have very low tolerance for the second. And I don't have much more tolerance for those who think ill of me for calling people on their lack of information.

lu said...

i think i know what you saying about the irritation with people claiming that a case or a piece of legislation or a social custom goes against an ideal that your country was based on.

i find that happens here in canada as well, but it is more about something going against a value that our coutry was 'based on' and yet, our country's beginnings were also based on racist policies towards the first nations, a class-based system, and a lot of happenstance.

so i too get annoyed when people use these 'core values' as defense of a position when they are just trying to mask their prejudices and ignorance in some sort of nationalist zeal.

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