I am not sure whether I fell in to the ring of fire or whether I jumped. Supporting the GOP was for me, like most people, a conscious choice but after a while, I discovered that like love, politics too burns.
In my defense, I was never fully comfortable with the GOP. I supported them by pulling the straight party levers (back when it really was a lever) because I was overwhelmingly concerned with fiscal policy, national defense and abortion. As a teenager and young adult, it was easy to make the error of assuming politicians actually mean what they say, so I beg the forgiveness of the Almighty and my gentle readers for the transgressions of my youth.
I remember my mid-life political epiphany with clarity though it came about not in an instantaneous flash of light but over a period of a few months in 1996. Having already had all I could stomach studying asset forfeiture, flag burning, sacramental peyote and other significant civil liberties affronts, the extraordinary hypocrisy of the budget battles sealed it: I had become a full blown political heretic. After dabbling with the Libertarian Party for a few years and eventually abandoning that institutionally defective and philosophically incomplete camp, I found the path of political redemption by dropping out of the existing political process altogether and dedicating myself to using the power of the pen to try to shake whatever small circle of people I can out of the two-party stupor which plagues our land.
I am reminded of all of this because of reading the recent Supreme Court ruling in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. It is an interesting read to say the very least.
Interesting because of its overt political nature. The political thrust and parry drip from the white space between the words of putatively sober jurisprudential exegesis. Stevens and Scalia were at their result oriented best reducing the opportunity for righting egregious wrongs and propounding great ideas into a base game of political sport.
Stevens and Scalia are no Hand and Holmes.
The decay of our Federal Judiciary is emblematic of the larger trend of politicization of our nation. Stevens and Scalia are both extremely intelligent men who are fully capable of propounding great ideas in articulate and reasoned analysis. Instead, they give us eisegetical crap.
As a nation we have come to accept this hyper-politicization of everything as something normal and wholesome. When the blue team scores, the crowd roars its approval while the red team clings to hopes of a good free agency period between elections. It is all about victory and defeat.
This politicization affects big stuff that is easy to identify, but you can even see its subtle affects in the smaller things as well.
Perhaps space exploration is not a small thing, but it provides an immediate and useful example of how deeply political we have become. As I write, we are awaiting the Space Shuttle return to flight launch and there is considerable angst over the future of the various NASA programs. If you are not keeping up, it boils down to this: if the flight is successful, then the Shuttle will continue flights for the next four years to complete the International Space Station (ISS). Another failure will likely permanently ground the Shuttle fleet and the ISS will never achieve any stage of construction remotely similar to finished.
Whether Space Exploration is a worthy goal or not is a separate and interesting debate which I am happy to have. But we have gone forward in this direction and having made that decision, we should be proceeding based on scientific merit and rational objectives. Instead the go/no-go decision is being influenced by budget cycles and political spin. The growing corollary national disease of extreme risk aversion plays into the politics of the Space Shuttle, but I’m going to exercise some discipline and avoid venturing further down that tangent.
Truly, it must be incredibly disappointing to career scientists and engineers at NASA to be at the mercy of the spin cycle. But no more disappointing than this political reality is to thousands of our best and brightest who pursue noble causes such as medical research only to find out that getting funding is also a political process. No more disappointing than realization that meritorious science is less important than spending on the political disease du jour.
No more disappointing than figuring out that this is what we have become as a nation.
As we play the two-party game, the federal budget grows and grows. Vote producing procurement programs move forward while things that matter are not even discussed much less addressed. As we fall down, down, down into the political ring of fire, more and more people are getting burned.
I, for one, refuse to stoke the flames.