The Austin Chronicle

Page Two: The U.S. Swings Like a Pendulum Do

The good news is, the Constitution is specifically designed to work amidst controversy and hatred

By Louis Black, February 17, 2017, Columns

Many believe that the United States at its best, its very best, not just as a country but as a great country, is a state not geographically defined. The country is not just the land mass contained by our borders and a few outlying territories. Rather it is an idea, or a series of ideas, or a library of ideas – about people, community, government, and our responsibilities to ourselves, to our families, to our communities, and to each other. In this version, to many, the defining document is the Constitution of the United States, which more than anything else argues not for a government ideology but a way of governing where all citizens are enfranchised. This universal citizenship does not mean a shared ideology by any means but rather is based on the expectation that citizens will routinely disagree with others, often to extremes and violently, denouncing cooperation and decrying compromise.

The Constitution does not lay out the rules of the country; it lays out a brilliant, impossibly difficult, probably largely unsatisfying to most way of governing. Not establishing ideas or championing laws or insisting on certain strict beliefs but rather a government structure – one that is not even vaguely dependent on hegemony. It is specifically designed to work amidst and regardless of controversy, hatred, and disagreement.

Currently, a lot of the country's most passionate self-proclaimed patriots have already thrown the baby out with the bathwater and are happily abandoning so many of the most difficult and seemingly impossible-to-make-work Constitutional guarantees and assumptions, in favor of simplistic solutions – most of which are not just ineffective but meaningless. Those claiming that they saved the country in this way are both right and completely wrong. Because the country they wish to save is not the United States of America, a democratic Constitutional republic. It is a smaller, meaner, and more meaningless country, one that if it has not yet completely devoured itself is far along in that process.

The Trump administration is disturbing enough in and of itself, but what is even harsher to handle is the absolute glee of many of its most vocal supporters not that finally they are in complete control of the government but rather at the despair and anguish of the left/progressives/Democrats. They seem to be taking an untainted joy in those folks having their ideas and policies vanquished. It is not that they've won. It is that those they don't like have lost.

There is all this gloating, all the smug, self-assuring pleasure that this country's atheist, socialist, pro-Muslim, bleeding-heart, anti-American left is having their faces rubbed in their own shit.

According to some: Two worldviews collided, the pure and righteous won, the evil and ill-intentioned have been destroyed. Glory, glory unto the Lord.

Except … Nah, it just isn't going to work out that way. There are those of us fearful that Trump is the most disruptive president in the country's history, that he lacks philosophy, has no ideology, loves the country not at all but himself deeply and beyond understanding.

If we are right, who knows how or when or why this administration will play out. Your guess is as good as the next person's as to what will happen.

Though if we are right … and definitely if we are wrong — the genius of the Constitution is that it is not specific. It is not ideological. It is about process.

Those who tell you it is all about state's rights and small government have to ignore Federalist Alexander Hamilton's crucial involvement. And they do. But they really can't.

Where the Constitution succeeds, where it has and does and will, is that it prescribes the structure for a government of regularly shifting focus, where politics are continually realigned. And realigned again.

Sometimes the country drifts left, but later will drift right. At times it drifts left but will go back to center and then on to the right. Which is a one-dimensional image of a four-dimensional model. It swings in every direction and in every direction it does move.

So to those gloating with glee at the left being vanquished: First, what most of the gloaters miss is how dependent they are and how they benefit from a rich array of laws, regulations, and policies that they deplore. Yes, we are free to think and vote the way we want, which doesn't mean we always or even ever act in our own best interests.

So the good giant ship Trump heads at previously unimagined speeds into the dark and unknown, that some claim is utopia or a previous greatness that never was nor was ever great. But then, watch as the giant thing of government reaches a limit. Reaches a limit and achingly, slowly begins to swing back. Watch it, and please get behind it, because as it comes slowly moving back – and it will – there will be something to watch as you scramble to get out of its way.

And don't worry, those of us who hold ideas you so despise won't be gloating. Won't be smug and strutting. No, instead our sleeves will be rolled up, our bodies thrown into all the work that will need to be done given all the damage you are now so cheerfully greeting and enthusiastically championing.

Whether you like it or not, we are all in this together.

To quote Roger Miller, who once sang of nations swinging "like a pendulum do":

Ya can't roller skate in a buffalo herd

Ya can't roller skate in a buffalo herd

Ya can't roller skate in a buffalo herd

But you can be happy if you've a mind to

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