Who’s surrounding whom? Deconstructing Glenn Beck’s “Nine Principles”

To whom it may concern…

I’m finding this “WE SURROUND THEM” project of Glenn Beck’s very interesting and thought-provoking. I have to admit that I don’t get the “SURROUND” part at all – seems to me that as Americans we’re way too intermixed and interdependent to talk about anybody “surrounding” anybody – but I understand that conservatives feel a bit beleaguered at the moment.

Part of that beleaguerment is an existential crisis – following the debacle that was the Bush/Cheney Regime, conservatives have been forced to rexamine themselves and figure out who they are, and part of that process is asking the question “What, exactly, do we believe in?” Glenn Beck has done them a great service in this regard by proposing a explicit set of values and principles.

Though I wouldn’t call myself a “conservative” in any sense of the word, I think I may concur, to a greater or lesser degree, with some of the principles he enumerates – but I am curious about a few questions of interpretation. Perhaps you would be so kind as to enlighten me.

1. “America is good.” CAN’T AGREE

What exactly does that mean? What does he mean to imply by “America”? The American government? “America” as an ideal? Americans collectively? (Even the criminals and jerks?) Does he mean therefore that everything America does – and *has* done – is ipso facto “good”? Though I know many folks who would say I’m being way too chartiable, to me, it might be more accurate to somethinig like “America usually means well, and tries its best most of the time.” We are, after all, human. (And by the way – isn’t there a Scripture to the effect that no one is “good” save God Himself?)

2. ” I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.” AGREE, BUT

Whose concept of “god” are we talking about here? Just the Judeo-Christian-Mormon one? Y’know, the Muslims think that “Allah” is the same guy, we Jews & Christians just got the messages wrong. How about Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, Jainists?

And there are folks who have other things as their “God” — for some, it’s money. For some, it’s their concept of “America”…

3. ” I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday. ” AGREE, BUT

This one is striking in that is is so different structurally from the others. Why not just say “People should always be honest” or “I always strive to be as honest as possible”? He seems to be allowing for the possibility that one sometimes might need to be dishonest…? I’d be interested in knowing the thinking that led to that exact wording. Why the wiggle room? The Quakers say it well :”Let your aye be aye, and your nay be nay.”

4. “The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.” CAN’T AGREE

Does this just mean the traditional “nuclear family,” the mom the dad and the 2.5 kids? Or do you mean the extended family? How far does “family” extend? Is it a matter of filling out the right form and going through the right ceremony, or is it a matter of lave and commitment? If the latter, I think I would include some folks as “families” that you might not. And is “my” family any more sacred than someone else’s?

And “ultimate authority” over what, specifically? Your house, your property, your family? Does the government have no interest in going after abusive spouses/parents? What is the penalty when authority is misused?

And what about the communities that we are part of, and on which our families rely? I don’t hold the family as any more – or less – “sacred” than the community, or the planet – all are interdependent to my way of thinking.

5. “If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.” AGREE, BUT

Wait a minute, didn’t you just say that “my spouse and I are the ultimate…” – oh, never mind.

I agree that “no one is above the law” – but in my mind, if I combine this one with #9, “Government works for me,” I can’t escape the logical conclusion that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzalez, and their minions should be investigated for possible violations of the Constitution and criminal law. Is that your interpretation as well? Or do you just mean that rehabilitation, mercy and forgiveness should have no place in our criminal justice system, and its only purpose should be the retributive punishment of wrongdoers?

(By the way, on a different but related note, let me point out here that there’s more than one type of law. I know that Glenn is a climate change skeptic – but the laws of nature are the clearest and most obvious expression of the will of the Creator, and we ignore them at our peril. If we continue to act as though those laws – the laws of physics, chemistry, biology – don’t matter, or shouldn’t be taken into account in matters of economics and commerce, we will run into a kind of justice that is blind indeed.)

6. “I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.” CAN’T AGREE

Sure there is: we all end up equally dead. Guaranteed.

Seriously, my problem here is that this one is incomplete. I would add something lke “This does not mean that I should accept injustice as inevitable, neglect those less fortunate than I, or give up trying to make life fairer for everyone.” Frequently, folks use the manifest unfairness of life as an excuse for not attending to matters of clear economic injustice.

Actually,now that I think about it, there are some guarantees of equal results in certain areas of life. They’re in the Constitution… y’know, due process, habeas corpus, stuff like that.

7. “I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.” AGREE, BUT

No, they can’t make you be charitable, or compassionate, or generous. They also can’t force you to be happy, sexy, fit, or pleasant to be around. But if you and I and our fellow citizens aren’t taking care of our less fortunate fellows on our own, doing the jobs that need to be done, government has to take up the slack – and we have given government the right to tax us to do that.

8. “It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.” AGREE! (enthusiastically, even!)

Well! Here’s one that I have no reservations about at all! As someone who has lived in a certain amount of fear ever since 9/11 for the mere sin of being a pacifist, let me say CONGRATULATIONS! How nice to see that you have come to this conclusion! Will you please go down the hall there at FOX and inform Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, and all the other fellow pundits who spent the last eight years calling people like me traitors and worse?? I think they may not be quite on the same page with you on this!

9. “The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.” AGREE, BUT

Here’s another incomplete one. Yes, the people in the government work for/answer to you, and me, and all citizens — but they seem to answer to the rich and powerful *more*. Do you think that is the way it should be, or should they be answering to us on a more equitable basis? Or does that fall under the “no guarantee of equal results” in #6?

———

So, seems that I can’t bring myself to agree to any more than six of these, even with reservations, so I suppose that means I am disqualified from your revolution. (I will give big props to Glenn, though, for putting in that “agree with 7 out of 9” rule. I think that’s a novelty among social movements, allowing that degree of flexibility. Good for him – I’m glad he’s not trying to enforce 100% ideological compliance. If history is any guide, though, the purges of the insufficiently pious will come later.)

Underlying all Beck’s principles, by the way, I see a more profound one – namelty, the conviction that life is easily reducible to simple yes-or-no propositions, and people are easily sorted out accordingly. I think things may be a little more complex than that. This is not to say that I see no value in articulating such sets of principles; I just think we have to remain mindful that such principles are ideals to strive for in a frequently ambiguous world.

For example, I’m a Quaker, and we’ve been guided by a robust set of principles and values for centuries now – Peace, Simplicity, and Equality among them. And the Green movement, of which I am also a member, bases itself on a set of Key Values that include Ecological Wisdom, Decentralized Government, Grassroots Democracy, Community-Based Economics, Respect for Diversity, and Sustainability among others. (I invite folks looking for ethical systems to adopt, or for parts to add to their own systems, to look at those movements as well.)

Tell you what – let’s add a principle of self-determination, recognizing that each human being has the right (if not the obligation) to identify principles and values that fit their temperament and experience. Let’s add values of acceptance and mutual respect, understanding that not everyone will find identical sets of values to their liking, and that no one has a right to force such systems upon other humans. Above all, let’s realize that we’re not surrounding you, you’re not surrounding us – we are surrounding each other, and it’s up to us to determine whether that surrounding takes the form of an embrace, a dance… or a struggle to the death.

Advertisements

5 responses to “Who’s surrounding whom? Deconstructing Glenn Beck’s “Nine Principles”

  1. Enough already! These Principles are what you make of them nothing more and nothing less. Let’s go through them one more time, moron!

    1.America is Good — We as country try to do the right thing. It may not be always right but we try.

    2. believe in God and He is the Center of my Life. — It says GOD it does not considers who’s definition is the correct one. I personally have known Jews, Christians, AND Muslims. They ALL are good people when they don’t go to the extremist side of their prospective religion.

    3. ” I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday. ” It is saying that ALL people are not perfect but you try to be everyday to be a better person than you were yesterday.

    4. “The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.”
    I believe Glenn is trying to say whatever you determine YOUR family to be that is what is sacred. Barbara Boxer can’t agree with the U.N. and tell me how to raise MY CHILDREN! The government and you for that matter have no business telling me how to raise my children.

    5. “If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.”
    NO ONE is above the law. The people who like to use Keith Olberman’s talking points saying Bush broke the law and do not use examples I don’t by the argument. If you break the law you pay the price like Bernie Madoff.

    6. “I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.” If you as a person decide to be a slacker and suck off of the government you will never succeed. You no matter who you are can get out of the situation you are in if you chose to. You as a person have that right and ability. Why do I have to pay for it? I don’t think that I should pay for anyone’s kids. I have enough trouble paying for my own. Who I LOVE dearly and have not always lived up to that promise but I try.

    7. “I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.” Your argument is a funny one. Who gives the most to charity? Can you guess. It is conservatives as a whole. I don’t like to give to organizations but to individuals that I believe are honest. That is my decision. Thank GOD I don’t live in California and have to give to Octomom.

    8. “It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.” Oh you mean like Hillary Clinton or Obama who if you disagree with them that I am evil or a hatemonger? I personally have never felt so villafied in my entire life. Unlike Michelle Obama what we are doing now bailing out the banks and this ridiculous stimulus bill. this is the first time I have felt not proud of my country. This includes Bush.

    9. “The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.” It is all of our members in Congress who do not listen to the average folks who bow down to the lobbyist and give them what they want. It should not revolve around them but what AMERICA wants that is fine as long as we as a NATION do not remember what this country was founded on. YES I agree that we are not perfect and our founding fathers knew that, that is why they left us some outs. But there messege still rings true.

    All of man (man = men and woman) is created equal and you should have life, liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness.

    All I can say is that the politians and newspapers are winning right now. They have us bickering with each other. We as an AMERICAN NATION need to come together reach an agreement on certain issues and move forward.

    Here are a few examples.
    Gay rights – Let them married and be successful. I don’t care what they do in their home. Just don’t make me believe that I should accept it and transsexuals who are not female or male go in a bathroom that is not of their gender.

    Gun Rights — Do I think someone should have an AK – 47? NO! But leave hand guns and shotguns and rifles alone.

    Abortion — I don’t believe that some should have the right to use abortion as a form of birth control. That is ridiculous. A woman should have the right to have TWO abortions after that no more. They should have the baby or their tubes tide.

    It is funny to me that we are fighting about the same stuff for over 30 years and nothing has gotten solved.

    What Glenn Beck is talking about is the fact that we as a NATION need to come together and say enough is enough and get this shit solved and never argue about it again. Then our government will never have power over us as a NATION again.

    Like

  2. People on the reich say that supporters of President Obama belong to a cult.The “America is good ” comment sounds like cultist behavior.

    Like

  3. You missed an important point about number 9, I think. Namely this: the government does not work for Me individually, it works for Us collectively. If the government works for me then they need to protect me at the expense of others in all cases. My rights are paramount. My right to swing my fist no longer ends where the other guy’s nose begins, to paraphrase Justice Holmes. If it works for Us collectively then it must take into account where the right of an individual tramples on the rights of other individuals. This notion is much more in keeping with those pesky things in the Constitution that you mentioned (due process, habeas corpus). I think #9 is last for a reason, and we ignore its real message at our peril, its message is selfishness, and that is the core of modern conservative philosophy. Heck, some of them will admit it (see Ayn Rand).

    Like

  4. cpacek said “we as a NATION need to come together and say enough is enough and get this shit solved and never argue about it again”

    To which I say: If we aren’t arguing about it, it’s not a democracy.

    Like

  5. cpacek – I won’t argue any points of opinion with you here, but I will argue a couple of points of fact: First, you say: “bailing out the banks and this ridiculous stimulus bill. this is the first time I have felt not proud of my country. This includes Bush.” So you are not proud of the country because of the banks bailout, but you were proud under Bush. Just to clarify, Bush bailed out the banks. It was his legislation, and he signed it. He also bailed out the automakers. That was not Obama.

    Second, you want specific examples of Bush breaking the law, that is hard to find without an actual investigation, but there is pretty good evidence that his administration broke the law, enough surely to justify an investigation into exactly who authorized what. Two specific examples: the Bush administration authorized torture. You may question the definition of torture, but should we let a criminal go because they offer a different definition of the crime? No, that’s for a court of law to decide. The Bush administration revealed the identity of a covert CIA operative, and the investigation was a sham resulting in the prosecution of an obvious scapegoat (Cheney’s own statements indicate that someone higher up ordered the leak and it was covered up). I’ll leave it at that.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s