Helicopters over my house again

Helicopters over my house again November 20, 2019

• Yesterday I reported for jury duty for the third time here in Chester County and, once again, I only got as far as the panel and the voir dire before not getting picked to serve on the actual jury. Once again, I’m feeling that mix of relief and disappointment and a slight sting of rejection.

The experience is always encouraging, though, refreshing my faltering faith in democracy as E.B. White described it: “The recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time.”

That’s easier to believe in when participating in the jury system at the county level than it is when looking at Washington, DC, where the electoral college, the Senate, gerrymandering, and voter suppression mean that more than half of the people aren’t given the same weight or representation as a very carefully curated and unrepresentative less-than-half of the people.

• Here’s a story about a jury getting it right when the government was getting it very, very wrong: “Not guilty: Jurors acquit border aid volunteer Scott Warren on harboring charges.”

Federal court jurors in Tucson found border aid volunteer Scott Warren not guilty of harboring charges after just two and a half hours of deliberation Wednesday.

… In closing arguments earlier Wednesday, defense lawyer Gregory Kuykendall said Warren only provided humanitarian aid to two Central American men who crossed the border illegally in January 2018.

“Being a good Samaritan is not against the law. Practicing the Golden Rule is not a felony,” Kuykendall told the jury.

… Warren is a volunteer with the Tucson-based humanitarian aid group No More Deaths, which leaves water and food for migrants in the harsh deserts near Ajo and elsewhere along the border.

The group also searches for migrants in distress and helps recover bodies believed to belong to border-crossers.

Since 2001, the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner has identified more than 3,000 sets of human remains suspected of belonging to migrants who died in the deserts of Southern Arizona.

If you want to understand American politics and the subset of American politics called “evangelicalism,” you need to realize that the vast majority of Americans who self-identify as “pro-life” would be opposed to the work of No More Deaths. They claim this has something to do with Jesus, but everyone listening — themselves included — will just get more and more confused if they’re pressed to explain how in God’s name that makes any sense.

You should also understand that the federal officials pressing for the imprisonment of Scott Warren portray themselves to be champions of “religious liberty” and that this portrayal is accepted at face value by their supporters. This is not because they are hypocrites, but because what they mean by “religious liberty” does not apply to religious believers like Warren. What they mean by “religious liberty” is, again, that “There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”

For the in-group, protecting “religious liberty” always means some version of hanging Mary Dyer on Boston Common.

• Here’s an example demonstrating exactly this in-group-only understanding of “religious liberty.” This is Charisma owner Steve Strang arguing that “Christians ‘Have No Choice’ but to Support Trump in 2020.”

We’re not trying to elect a perfect Christian, we’re trying to elect someone who will protect our rights so you and I can be Christians. … Yes, he is a little rude and crude, but I’ve heard some preachers that were rude and crude. What are we going to do, be nicey nicey and have our country taken away from us? …

Strang there uses several words in an unusual manner. When he says “Christians” and “we” and “us” he’s not referring to or including all Christians, or even most Christians. He’s talking about the very particular, smaller sub-set of Christians that he regards as exclusively legitimate.

And because that exclusively legitimate sub-set of real, true Christians is, in Strang’s view, the only legitimate religion, it is also the only group that has any legitimate claim to “religious liberty.” For Strang et. al., in other words, “religious liberty” means the liberty to exercise and impose religious hegemony on the rest of the illegitimate population.

This again is Wilhoit’s definition of conservatism, that: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect. This is why conservatives always speak of a “tension” or a need to “balance” or “compromise” between the Free Exercise and No Establishment clauses of the First Amendment. They cannot grasp that these clauses are complementary — that they are logically necessary complements of one another. They perceive the Establishment clause as a constraint on their religious liberty — an affront to the liberty to which they are entitled as the in-group, the liberty to be protected by law, but never bound by it.

• While we’re visiting Right Wing Watch, this report from Jared Holt — “Conservative Campus Orgs Struggle to Grapple with Swarms of White Nationalists” — reminds me of a (NSFW) classic piece from the Onion.

It’s heartening to see ultra-conservative campus groups like Young America’s Foundation put out unambiguous statements like this: “There is no room in mainstream conservatism or at YAF for holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists.” But such statements won’t be able to solve YAF’s problem until the group struggles to grapple with why it is that Holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, and racists are all so confident that YAF is an ideal gateway drug to their fascist ideologies of resentment and hate.

See also Vox’s Jane Coaston on “Why alt-right trolls shouted down Donald Trump Jr.

• The title for this post comes from this (PG-13) Todd Snider song, which I put on repeat for a while yesterday when I got home from jury duty.



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