Where is the line between infrastructure and socialism?

Where do you, personally, draw the line between infrastructure and socialism?

Merriam Webster dictionary definition of infrasctructure, the system of public works of a country, etc.I ask this sincerely, with no desire to engage in polarized internet snipe-fests, but in the spirit of attentiveness to what government services various individuals might deem “necessary” and which are “overreach.”

Even more interesting than the what, is the why.

Only deep ignorance of history allows one to pretend there’s anything universal about this question. Our republican forebears in Rome—whose architecture we aped in the United States capitol in part due to the Founding Fathers’ lionization of that civilization—prioritized very different governmental interventions than we do today.

Proving myself, as always, a true dilettante and no real scholar, I’ll begin by pointing to a series of mystery novelsthat I read years ago. They turned me on to a startling fact: the ancient Romans had no police force.

police car parked at justice centerRome, civilization par excellence, did not feel that it owed average citizens the protection of civil police. The military kept order to an extent that suited the needs of the state, but there was no one to call when your silver was stolen. It wasn’t until the great republic became an empire that Augustus formed the Praetorian Guard in 27 BCE… to protect himself.

And all this in spite of the fact that the Ancient Greek city of Athens had seen the nascent formation of a police force (c. 400 BCE) to keep order and arrest and manage prisoners using publicly owned Scythian slaves. Investigating and detecting crime, in the ancient world, was the responsibility of individual free citizens.

So, is a police force a basic piece of infrastructure, a right that should be available to all, or is investigation and detection by paid government agents an imposition against individual freedoms as the Romans seemed to believe?

In spite of our turbulent times and the fraught political environment, I’ll admit it: I think this is a fascinating question. In a democracy, it is, in fact, the duty of every citizen to ponder these essential assumptions.

Do modern American people on the right and on the left really have such different ideas about what a government ought to do, or are our differences more about degree and descriptive nomenclature?

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Treason in the U.S. Senate & rioters storming the Capitol

Be aware of the following feckless U.S. Senators:

  • Ted Cruz (R-Texas),
  • Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), ?
  • James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), ?
  • Steve Daines (R-Montana),
  • John Kennedy (R-Louisiana),
  • Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), ?
  • and Mike Braun (R-Indiana),

and Senators-Elect:

  • Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming),
  • Roger Marshall (R-Kansas),
  • Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee), ?
  • and Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama)

These Members of Congress signed a posted statement inciting violence in my nation’s capitol today. Lawless Trump supporters have even breached the Capitol Building itself, forcing the U.S. Senate and House to bar their doors and interrupt their proceedings at around 14:30 on January 6, 2021.

Official Election Mail trademark authorized by US Postal ServiceThe Senators’ statement pretends that there remains valid and significant contention about the results of our November 2020 election. These men and women are intentionally ignoring the fact that our courts have already acted in accordance with the law and found no legal justification for further action regarding purported irregularities.

2% of Americans believe the Earth is flat in spite of evidence to the contrary being plainly visible to the naked eye at sea or from a plane; the fact that a population being fed a steady diet of misinformation by social- and partisan media doubts reality makes it no wonder that, as per the Senators’ statement, “39% of Americans believe ‘the election was rigged.’

By your own admission in your statement, then, Senators, 61% of Americans must believe the election was valid. With the majority holding such an opinion, how do you justify encouraging rioting in the streets of Washington, D.C. and the interruption of the work of our nation’s government?

By continuing to defy the United States Constitution to which they’ve sworn allegiance, our laws, and the reasoned decrees of our state and federal judges, the Senators I’ve listed are feeding their constituents’ inflated paranoia, not doing their jobs as duly elected representatives.

Trump is attempting a coup. These Senators are complicit.

By all means, the Feckless Eleven—and others like freshman Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)—are entitled to hold opinions and do their own research into how, when, and why our elections are imperfect. If they find any actual evidence of wrongdoing, they should bring it to the attention of the courts. It’s hard not to ask, however:

If they sincerely doubt the results of November’s ballots, how do the four newly elected Senators feel justified in showing up in Washington, D.C. at all? By their own logic, they have not received any mandate from their respective constituencies!

If [Senators-elect Lummis, Marshall, Hagerty, Tuberville, and Hawley] sincerely doubt the results of November’s ballots, how do [they] feel justified in showing up in Washington, D.C.?

Perhaps these treacherous Senators should use their own funds to continue investigating, if they sincerely believe there really are unsettled questions; their frequently seditious* states are also free to launch investigations from their own budgets. After all, elections in the United States of America are conducted by the states, each with its own local authority.

One might suppose the representatives of states known to still promote the idea that the Civil War was primarily about States’ Rights’ as opposed to slavery could comprehend this distinction.

These so-called Senators will earn a salary of at least $174,000 per annum to defend the U.S. Constitution. I’ve read that one woman inside the Capitol Building has already been shot. What are the odds it was one of these highly paid politicians glibly spouting conspiracy theories for personal gain as opposed to an aide or security guard serving her country for minimum wage?

Shame on you, Senators. America will remember your names, right alongside that of Benedict Arnold.USA flag - 1

Senators Daines and Braun publicly stated that they would not opt to object to Biden electors after violent extremists stormed the Capitol. In recognition of the update, I’ve lined through their names in my post. Screenshot from NYT article listing 8 Senators and 139 Reps who objected to Nov 2020 electoral votes for president

The Senators after whose names I’ve appended a question mark do not appear to have voted to object according to the New York Times, but they were not included in the AP statement I linked to above.

139 Members of the House of Representatives voted to object; their names are included in the NYT link above.

For those who haven’t followed the news, I’ll include the relevant snippet of Trump’s speech that literally instructed his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol Building. It should be noted that the man himself was lying when he stated that he would join the protestors in that action. Trump went back inside the White House and is reported to have spent the afternoon watching the chaos he’d instigated on television.

“…we’re going to walk down to the Capitol… I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your votes heard today.”

—Donald Trump’s speech of January 6, 2021 as reported on Snopes

* Seven states formed the Confederacy, seceding and initiating the U.S. Civil War: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, followed shortly thereafter by Texas.

The short-lived Confederate States of America added Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina to total eleven states. Slave states Missouri and Kentucky were acknowledged as members, but neither officially declared secession. The Confederate Territory of Arizona is also worth remembering.

Half of the Senators I’ve called out in this post for their reckless, Constitution-violating actions hail from states with a history of rejecting the rule of U.S. law. Three of the others represent states did not yet exist as of 1861: Oklahoma, Montana, and Wyoming.

American Patriots must demand Legislators defend US law

A patriot is “one who loves and supports his or her country.”*

Merriam Webster dictionary definition of patriot from websiteI am a patriot.

Theoretically, elected officials in any reasonable incarnation of a democratic society should also be patriots. Of course, we know that self-serving, would-be autocrats abound in the halls of power. Human nature draws the worst—as well as the best—of us there. However, the U.S. Constitution was written as a curb against despotism.

Text of the Constitution of the United States in history bookYou cannot love America while wiping your nose with its foundational documents.

Two weeks after a nationwide election certified by our courts and by our own chosen election officials, only 17 out of 253 elected Republican lawmakers—6.7%—had publicly acknowledged that Biden defeated Trump in his bid for President of the United States. That leaves 93.3% of them derelict in their duties, openly flouting the oath each person swore as Senator or Representative to the 116th Congress: to support and defend the Constitution.

That’s not just a failure of bi-partisan politics worthy of personal shame, it’s the first step towards treason.*

Merriam Webster dictionary definition of treason from websiteTwo thirds of Americans voted in 2020; that’s a level of turnout that hasn’t been seen in over a century. At least 160 million members of the electorate are paying attention. Casting a ballot is important, but our work as citizens is not done.

I voted Election sticker - 1If you live in a district with a recalcitrant elected official, speak up as a constituent and demand that s/he acknowledge the will of the people. Take note of who’s doing his or her job, and whose back remains turned to what can be credibly described as an attempted coup by a blessedly incompetent strongman.

Fair-minded, law-abiding people must speak out now for what is right. In our silence, liars, cheaters, and extremists try to pervert American ideals, sullying our name. Moderates must now make themselves heard.

I respect honest disagreements, but I will never bow to tyranny.*

I acknowledge the will of the people.

I champion the rule of law.

I am a patriot.

Are you?

* Definitions from Merriam-Webster: patriot, treason, tyranny.

In 26 states, the ultimate person in authority over elections is him-/herself elected. Other states have an appointee in charge. A total of 33 states have elected individuals directly involved in oversight of their elections, sometimes via a board sharing responsibility with an appointed chief. In most others, the elected legislature or governor appoints someone to the position(s). Here’s a great resource for understanding regional election management differences across America. I learned a lot from it.

The gist of it all, however, is that the people in charge of our elections are themselves a product of our representative system; this is the way a constitutional federal republic is supposed to work.

Wear a mask, people of faith, or live in sin

Wearing a mask or other face covering to reduce the spread of coronavirus should not be a political issue because protecting members of our own communities is so obviously the right thing to do.

Safety goggles, cloth face mask, and disposable glovesThis partisanship doesn’t even make rational sense in the context of America’s “culture wars.” Republican party members often proclaim themselves pro-life,º yet many refuse to don protective gear during a pandemic, callously risking the lives of others because the price of a few dollars and mild inconvenience is too high.

GOP.com suggests that Republicans believe Culture should respect and protect life.

You should wear a mask—and follow government mandates ordering you to do so—for the same reason you shouldn’t drive while intoxicated: these rules are enacted to save human lives. We have always limited some freedoms via the common law when one person’s actions infringe upon the rights of others’ lives or property.

It’s none of my business if you are an adult who chooses to get drunk; it is anyone’s business to intervene if you callously murder other people by operating a motor vehicle in that condition. I make no moral or ethical distinction between that action and firing a gun with a bullet in its chamber into a crowd, nor should the law. Mask directives land squarely in this legal territory.

I’m not making accusations from a place of partisanship, either. Objective evidence suggests that Republicans are those least likely to wear masks. A New York Times article from June 2, 2020, referenced a Gallup poll showing fewer than half of Republicans had donned a mask in public. In the same poll, 75% of Democrats had worn one, as had 58% of my fellow independents.

While this inaction flies in the face of the GOP’s pro-life position, it also repudiates the Christian faith of the majority of its members. A 2017 Washington Post article gave me the figure that “73% of the Republican party is white Christian.”Jewish Torah, Good News Bible, and cloth face mask

The 6th Commandment: Thou shalt not kill

I grew up attending a United Methodist Church, though I converted to Judaism as an adult. My daily life is enriched by living amongst observant Christians. While I won’t pretend to be any kind of theological scholar and I personally believe much of the revealed truth of Torah/the Bible to be allegorical, I find the Ten Commandments clear and straightforward, especially this one:

Thou shalt not kill.

There are variations in understanding the Ten Commandments depending upon whether you ask a Jew, Protestant, or Catholic. Thou shalt not kill is usually cited as the 6th*.

Wearing a mask definitively reduces the chances that the wearer will infect someone else with COVID-19. Doctors and scientists are still working to unravel the many mysteries of this novel coronavirus, but there is solid evidence that many cases are transmitted by asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals, i.e., people who don’t think they are sick. If you wait to wear a mask until you are sick with COVID-19, you may well have already infected another innocent victim.

COVID-19 has killed over half a million people around the world already, and it is especially lethal when it infects the elderly. I can’t help but leap from this fact to another of the Ten Commandments, number five:

Honor thy father and thy mother; in order that thy days may be prolonged upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Excerpt of page of Torah/Bible showing Exodus 20:12-13From my again, admittedly, allegorical interpretation of this commandment, wantonly endangering the lives of any elderly person is quite literally a sin. Even according to a strict interpretation of the words, not wearing a mask to protect your own parents would be the sin. Taking part in a culture of resistance to protective measures makes you complicit in endangering this vulnerable population whether you’re the one who infects your mom or a member of her church does.

Refusing to wear a mask while a virus ravages the weak is an indefensible position for anyone purporting to ascribe to Judeo-Christian values.

The author wearing an improvised home-made face coveringI didn’t need more reasons to cover my face in public during a pandemic, but, upon reflection, I found two more in my faith.

º The Republican party website, on its Platform page, has a poll “Why Are You A Republican?: Tell Us Which Principles Are Most Important To You.” The choices are compiled from previous visitors feedback, and include the option: “Culture should respect and protect life.”

Dated September 6, 2017, but behind a paywall. You could try searching for “The stark racial and religious divide between democrats and republicans in one chart.” Please note that the racial aspect of this chart had nothing to do with my point, but this was the first recent and reliable source I found for statistics on the religious makeup of the Republican party. Presumably there are Christian people of color in the Republican party as well, so it is likely that more than 73% of party members consider themselves to be followers of Jesus Christ.

* Catholic interpretation would say this is the 5th, not 6th, commandment.

Catholics omit the second clause, but the shared portion makes my point. For them, it is commandment number four.

Note: The author’s improvised face covering shown in the last photo is not ideal COVID-19 protection for others as it fits too loosely around the face. See the CDC for further advice. This hat+mask combination was my first attempt when PPE was still scarce for health care workers, but the idea of home-made cloth masks was introduced as a reasonable alternative for civilian wear in daily life. It was comprised of a napkin and pipe cleaners and designed to be worn on local walks where social distancing could usually be expected. A loose mask like this is still better than no face covering, however, and it is much easier to breathe in during socially distanced exercise.

Teen wearing medieval plague doctor mask leaving house for a walkMy teen opted for a rather more historical mask that he happened to have lying about the house. My claustrophobia would make this style very difficult for me to wear, but we did get some great photos that day.