The Common Good
November 2010

Cover Your Ears, Thomas Jefferson...

by Ed Spivey Jr. | November 2010

After more than 200 years of constitutional democracy, it may be time to try something completely different.

After more than 200 years of constitutional democracy, it may be time to try something completely different. I mention this only because recent events indicate that Congress, and the easily distracted people it represents, can't get anything done.

And what better place than in this, our November election issue (as opposed to our September-October "Shopping for School" issue or the upcoming December "Shopping for Jesus" issue). In a couple weeks, Americans will gather at the polls and once again prove ourselves unworthy of the wisdom of our founders, who specifically put the words "try not to be stupid" in our Constitution.

In fairness, kudos to the Obama administration for passing health care and financial reform. But frankly the complexity of each reminds me of my dad trying to teach golf to his adolescent son: "Keep your head down, shoulders back, knees slightly bent, and your right wrist straight. Okay, now swing. Why did you miss the ball, son?" My dad meant well, as did the Obama administration, but I was left with the same feeling afterward: Namely, I wonder if that cute girl in the foursome ahead of us is going to be at the pool later.

See, it's that kind of distractibility that makes Americans virtually ungovernable. We scream for a better country, but then we see a butterfly, reach for it, and as the saying goes, on the other side of the world an angel gets her wings, or something. (I was always a little unclear on the science of the Butterfly Effect.)

But because some people can look at an American birth certificate and still think Obama is an alien, like Sarah Palin (ever notice she never blinks? They don’t have to), I think it's time to just admit this country doesn’t deserve representative democracy. Despite two centuries of freedom and enterprise, the United States no longer even lives up to Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s assertion that we're The Great Satan. Frankly, we’re not great at anything anymore. (And what country wants to be called Above Average Satan?)

So let's try a different form of government, like maybe a theocracy, in which a nation is completely led by God who, because of a scheduling conflict, is unable to rule directly but instead speaks through trustworthy intermediaries. These include, depending on your location, priests, rabbis, imams, or the tribal leaders with the most guns. Or maybe even Glenn Beck, the former disc jockey who once gave traffic and weather updates on a Connecticut radio station. Frankly, I can think of no better preparation for a man who thinks he's the Second Coming than to be familiar with our interstate highway system. When you’re bringing justice down like waters, you don’t want to get hung up in rush hour.

Admittedly, as a Mormon, his Christology is a little weak. But believing Jesus was born at a NASCAR rally is something we can overlook, particularly since in Beck's new America we would turn back to God and recover what we've lost. Specifically, the use of stocks for punishing witches. And with Beck as God's Spokesperson, the new economic vision for America will be finally revealed: a nation of unregulated free markets that rewards the kind of honest hard work that rich bankers -- and their heirs -- do so well.

For the rest of us, we can look forward to our own special place in God's new economic plan for America: assembling small appliances in our parents' basement for five bucks an hour. It's like China, but with a pull-out couch.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners. His award-winning book, A Hamster is Missing in Washington, D.C., is in its second printing and available at store.sojo.net.

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