“He who is forced against his will, is of the same opinion still.” – Deepak Chopra
I’m sure you know the back story: Last week, Rand Paul, son of Congressman Ron Paul (R) Texas, won the Republican nomination for Senate in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The day after his victory, his Democratic opponent, Jack Conway, announced on “Hardball” that one of the reasons voters should consider him “out there” or “extreme”, I can’t remember Chris Matthews’ exact words, but you know the typical descriptions of Libertarians: “Wacky, Looney, Tea-baggers, etc.” designed not to intelligently debate them, but to label them in order not to have to have the debate itself. Conway stated, for one reason, is that Paul wanted to repeal the 1964 Civil Rights Act, implying in its entirety. You can imagine all the hairs on the back of Matthews’ standing up. Later that night, on the “Rachel Maddow Show” is when the real firestorm or controversy began. Paul was on the show being interviewed and pressed on this exact question. He explained that his position was that 9 of the 10 sections of the law he agreed with, but the aspect that delt with private businesses, he was against. The red boiled to Maddow’s face.
“Are you saying that businesses should be allowed to not serve black people if they so chose?”
Mr. Paul tried to explain his position in a philosophical context, demonstrating for instance the idea that if we think of private businesses as “public” spaces that the proprietor of said establishment would not have the right to ban guns.
Ms. Maddow would have none of it. She was out for blood.
“Just answer the question, yes or no.”
Mr. Paul was flustered. He knew that by giving a simple answer of “Yes” that a piece of video tape a few seconds long would be produced in order to smear him and possibly destroy his campaign completely. Why? Because answering that question “Yes” without explaining the philosophical context for your reasoning would automatically label him as a racist. Loaded sound bites like these, whether text or video, are like reflexes in the brain. They automatically fire. They are like branding a cattle. They stick for life.
Blood Ms. Maddow did draw. She definitely left him mumbling and stumbling. To say he didn’t handle it well is an understatement, but by know means a death blow, because he did emphasize his reasoning, that he was definitely not a racist, nor would support such a business personally. While she won the debate and definitely drew blood, he definitely didn’t come off as the typical politician, seeming like a puppet. He definitely came off, if stumbling on PR Grades, as someone who was authentic and thoughtful. I don’t think anyone watching it, even an African American, would truly think Paul is a racist, though it was clear it was Ms Maddow’s intent to brand him this way.
I would like to argue that Mr. Paul is right and that Ms. Maddow and her ilke are wrong with two main points.
- That the point is moot.
While Mr. Paul did say he “philosophically” disagreed with the commerce section of the Civil Right’s Act, he did say he clearly had no intention of repealing and that was not part of his platform. His thoughts and point of view were simply to display his overall philosophy. Opponents argue that it is impossible to separate his position on this topic as a demonstration of his philosophy from the danger that he would actually repeal the law, assuming he had such power, and bring back segregation to the country. But this is simply not true. For one, no one could ever have the power to over turn the Civil Rights Act. It would entail overturning the whole law, which no one is for, or could ever have the political will to do so. Overhauling such a law would be a mammoth undertaking: the commerce clause has already been decided in the courts, and no one want to change it because the facts of America today are that no one’s interested in going back to the way it was. We don’t want discrimination based on race even in private business, and the facts of America today is that by and large we don’t have that. Now whether that fact is because of the law itself, or that time and the country have simply moved past it naturally might be up to debate. But no one’s really interested in it. We’ve arrived at the place we wanted. Does it matter now whether it was by boat, train, or plane? No matter how you slice, dice, or cut it, the point of the specific law is history and moot. Mr. Paul clearly demonstrated that he and any reasonable person understood it to be that way. Ms. Maddow, if anything, demonstrated she did not. And I would argue that anyone who thought the point of the specific legislation itself wasn’t moot at this point in time would be the one who is “looney” or “extreme.”
2. One can use a moot point to make a broader philosophical argument
Just because a specific action in the past today is moot, doesn’t mean the action itself can’t be used to make a broader philosophical point, and that philosophical point of view from Mr. Paul’s perspective is this: Freedom is the highest value in our country. Why? Well, I won’t pretend to get in the founder’s head or hearts, but if I were guessing I would say this: In psychology there is the tenant that every brain has a light and dark or “shadow” side. But in order to quell or not let the “dark” side display itself in public, one must somehow find a way, not to exorcise the dark side (that only makes it grow) but somehow ritualistically acknowledge and honor the “shadow” in a private way. It is found that if the shadow side of our nature is honored in a private way, it will tend not to display itself in a public way. For the subconscious knows no difference in “private” or “public” and it’s energy is released with any kind of sincere acknowledgement. Freedom is chosen as the highest value of society for precisely this same reason: a population that is forced in behaving in a way that is deemed socially acceptable, (instead of “choosing” to behave in that way), is a population whose dark side, shadow, and resentment grows, along with its corruption. Instead, a population that has private freedom, has a sacred space in order to deal effectively with their shadow energies, and in turn gives birth to more energy for good in the public arena. A society that chooses to do good, instead of being forced to do good, is the kind of transcendent society that the founders, I believe, had set as a goal, and freedom is its sole and primary driving force. The Founders in their day had seen bad and mediocre societies come and go, but they wanted to build the platform which would foster not just good, but a great society, and the solution they found was a very illuminated one, and as all such solutions are, a very ironic and paradoxical one: the secret to harnessing the greatest amount and best energies of an individual in the service of his society, was not to control him, but instead to free him.
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