A Reporter In Need of A History Lesson

There are a few news stories on the wire today about Robert Byrd becoming the longest-serving U.S. Senator. What grabbed my eye was this paragraph:

In many ways Byrd is out of synch with today’s political scene, quoting from the Bible and citing Roman history in his speeches. He carries a copy of the Constitution in his breast pocket.
-Andrew Taylor, AP

I have some words for Mr. Taylor, and they’re not exactly complimentary.

Perhaps he wishes to imply that today’s political scene is in some way lacking, but the phrasing is enough to make one draw the contrary conclusion. Rather, it reads as though a good knowledge of history, of the beliefs of many of one’s constituents, and of the most central principles of the American ideology are items completely foreign to the author, and tossed aside as useless.

I know that in this climate, we have at least a few elected officials who, in their own words, consider the Constitution an irrelevant scrap of paper. Apparently the author considers himself in their number, thinking that society has found a new paradigm of governing itself, one that is so benign that it negates every concern that was so carefully woven into our Republic’s supreme law.

Perhaps the author should take another look at history, back to another Republic that, having had enough of kings, cast off their yoke to form a democratic society. He might find a culture richly developed, where one could find running water, gyms, decent roads, fast food restaurants on the street corners, and political ads. He’d be able to go to the market and buy the latest fashions (made in China, of course), open a bank account, take out a loan, etc. If he was the outspoken sort, he could start his own religion or run for office. The backbone of this Republic was its status as an economic powerhouse, and secured by an overwhelming military.

Surviving writings from that time present a culture that seems oddly familiar, with concerns no different from today. We all know what happened to that Republic, though many may be surprised at the actual details. It was no obvious change, with the fiction of senatorial power maintained while political powers were slowly accumulated by the executive. The public approved of such changes, being clearly necessary for their safety and security, and no danger in the hands of a trusted leader.

So, Mr. Taylor, there are those of us who, like Senator Byrd, have some perspective on history. We’ve seen what has gone before, and we see what lies ahead. We’ve seen the optimists claim “it’s different this time; a whole new paradigm”, and each time we’ve seen them ground beneath reality’s inexorable tread.

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