Saturday, May 12, 2007

Theocracy? Here?

One of my favourite bathroom readers is Uncle John's Colossal Collection of Quotable Quotes. The back cover has what I think is the most memorable of them all: "The surest way to make a monkey of a man is to quote him." - Robert Benchley

I'm sure that were one perverted and idle enough to do a survey of my blog entries, they could prove that point ... many times.

But I recently came upon a quote which merits more serious review and reflection.

"Death solves all problems: no man, no problem."

OK, who said it?

Well, if you're like me, you would immediately open up a browser (Internet Explorer for my Microsoft friends, and Firefox for my anyone-but-Microsoft friends), go to Google (my Google friends) and type in the quote, finding out immediately that it comes from that pillar of democracy and tolerance, Joseph Stalin. Interestingly, if you chose to search using Microsoft's Live Search, the entry at the top of the list is a Washington Post article from 9-April-2005. It is this search result that is truly interesting. After all, we all know that Stalin isn't usually one's first choice for quotable quotes.

The article in the Washington Post notes that Edwin Vieira, a constitutional lawyer and author, used part of the quote - "No man, no problem." - in addressing a group called together at the time to discuss "Remedies to Judicial Tyranny." The context for the remark was the Christian reconstructionist opposition to the American Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's majority decision in the Lawrence v. Texas case striking down the state's anti-sodomy law. Not only did Vieira and others call for Kennedy's impeachment, Vieira prefaced his quote of Stalin as a recommendation for what to do with "communist" judges like Kennedy:

"Here again I draw on the wisdom of Stalin. We're talking about the greatest political figure of the twentieth century ... He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him whenever he ran into difficulty. 'No man, no problem."

Vieira waited for the applause and then repeated his slogan, following up by asserting that we have the wrong judges in positions of power in America.

If such viewpoints were simply the rants of isolated and fringe players, we might be tempted to move on. But the far right Christian reconstructionists who were at the conference on Capital Hill that weekend for Confronting the Judicial War on Faith are calling for a wholesale deconstruction of the democratic tradition. In its place, they want a theocracy, especially one enshrined in the judiciary. And their desire isn't about some pie-in-the-sky millennial reign after Jesus returns. No, it's something they believe should be enshrined in the American constitution ... now. And the primary target is the American judiciary, the same judiciary which, they believed, allowed Terry Schiavo to be murdered (see my entry from 21-Mar-2005).

And what about Canada, eh?

The situation here isn't nearly as hysterical as in the United States. But all we have to do to realize we are not immune to such fanatical theocratic musings is to recall Saskatchewan Conservative MP Maurice Vallacott's criticism of Chief Justice Beverly MacLaughlin in the spring of last year. Vallacott accused MacLaughlin of playing God, then offered a half-hearted apology. The accusations were simply untrue.

But, like so many other issues the radical right fixates upon, what really matters is what Stephen Colbert would call the truthiness of the matter, what one wants to believe is true, not what actually is true. So-called "activist judges" are being attacked in Canada too. There is far less talk here of enacting Christ's kingdom here north of the 49th parallel, but give it some time.

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