BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

This is why Jefferson wrote of separation* ...

Geez … I sure picked a swell time to have pulled Mike Huckabee's A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington (and a Trillion That We Don't!) out of the to-be-read piles (where it had been lingering since I grabbed a dollar store copy a year and half ago), didn't I? All the insanity around his support of that “won't do her job because of her beliefs” gal broke weeks after I got into this (honest!), and it really focused the problems I have with this book, and its author in general.

Now, let me apologize now if this ends up being more about my political philosophies and not so much about the book. There's so much more to write about Huckabee himself than what's in the book, frankly.

Huckabee is one of the clearest cases of where I have discomfort with my erstwhile allies on the conservative side of the political spectrum. His basic world-view (at least as expressed in A Simple Government has a certain “Mayberry”vibe to it … common-sense, Constitutionally-based, classic American populism … which does, admittedly have a “church-going” tinge to it in the many real-world examples across the country. What amazes me is that the religion never seems to get “educated out” of guys like Huckabee … it's like the water in his fishbowl, “just there” and never questioned. His arguments are typically of a Constitutional/common-sense (albeit not in the Paine sense of the latter!) vein, which I'm reading and agreeing with, until, suddenly he's justifying something or insisting on something, or whatever, based on some Christian (and not even biblical) basis, and I'm like “WTF, dude?!”.

It shocks me that he, and conservatives like him, don't see the dissonance in that. Of course, in Huckabee's case … he's been a fundamentalist from the get-go, having attended a Baptist college and getting a degree in religion, and then moving on to a Baptist theological seminary (which he dropped out of to go into Christian broadcasting). So, it's not like he was notably secular at any point in his life.

I, of course, am as deeply secular as anybody with as many religious credentials as I have (from Vajrayana Buddhism to tribal shamanic lineages, to assorted “western esoteric tradition” things, to even being a PK) could be, and have ZERO reference for how religion (or, more specifically, his particular brand of Baptism) permeates his life. The only parallel that I can sort of posit would be sports (although this is, admittedly, more “tribal” than “doctrinal”) and my emotional connection with the Bears and the Cubs is about as close as I can get.

So, it seems plainly bizarre to me that he can so fervently support somebody like Kim Davis, unless he truly believes that one's personal take on one's religion (because, in reality, there is precious little “anti-gay” material in the bible, but a lot of cultural anti-gay sentiment in the fundamentalist Christian traditions) over-rides the law of the land. And, from what I see in Googling a bit, Huckabee even feels that one's faith trumps the decisions of the Supreme Court. Yet, I don't suppose that he is in favor of Muslim women wearing burkas in their drivers license photos. And, in the latter case, the individual hasn't taken a job that they're not wanting to perform because of religious beliefs, so is arguably less of an affront to the system (although certainly not something that should be allowed). It's like if I were a bartender and I refused service to a Packers fan, just for being a cheesehead.

Anyway, this sort of thing pops its silly head up over and over again in a book which (were one to purge the religion from it) would be quite a reasonable political read.

One note on the book … it's yet another thing which came out during the last election cycle, looking at the current POTUS' first term and predicting (sadly, rather accurately) the horrors to come were said person given a second term … so, much of it is somewhat dated and forward-looking to things that have (or haven't) already happened.

A Simple Government is set up in 12 chapters, first about “Family Values” (making a point that the “most granular” level of governance is that in the family unit), then looking at a “Return to Local Government” (a very good idea), a look at managing budgets – comparing the state with the family budget, a look at taxation, a look at health care, a look at education, a look at environmental issues (which the author appears to be quite passionate about, but significantly argues that the Federal government is really bad at responding and really good at screwing things up), a look at immigration policy (and this was even before the insane policies of the current administration reached their present nadir), a look at terrorism, a consideration of our military policy, some discussion of America's place in the world, and a hopeful look ahead (again, written before the current POTUS had a chance to drive us further down his path of destruction in a second term).

I flagged a couple of bits that I thought were particularly sane in here, and figure I'll share this one:
... What if some stranger from the next town over came to your house one day and said he would take care of running your family for you if you gave him a certain amount of your income in exchange? You would have a say in the matter, but, oh wait, he'd also be in charge of a few other families – all different from yours – who would also get a vote. Would you trust him?
      My guess is you wouldn't. But this is what it's like at the federal level of government – a bunch of strangers take your tax dollars and figure out how best to put them to use. They don't know you, and they don't understand the needs of your community like you do. As a result, they set up programs and pass laws in an effort to please everyone (often pleasing no one), and you have very little say in what happens. And the bigger we allow our federal government to get, the worse the problem becomes.
      Every time Washington enacts a new law or mandate, you can be sure that the states, the private sector, and the people are left with less control over their destinies than they had the moment before that bill was signed. Politicians get so caught up in arguing the merits of a particular provision that we don't see the overall shift in power, especially when the bills are so large that we can't deal with their totality. Power is a zero-sum game. In other words, whenever the federal government accumulates more power, the state and the people inevitably lose some autonomy they previously had. Eventually, we can lose our way entirely.
There's a lot more “common sense” analysis of the various factors in play within the subjects under consideration in the assorted chapters, but this was at least a fairly contiguous block of material on this – that didn't shift into that (one's individual religious spin's) “faith trumps all” stuff (which, to be fair, is not pervasive through the text, but never far off-stage in the author's world-view).

Again, I might have had a somewhat different approach to reviewing this, had all that Kim Davis lunacy not cropped up in the past few weeks (and especially the author's championing the actions of somebody who is – in a secular view – clearly in the wrong). Will you want to read A Simple Government? If you're a gung-ho Christian (or Southern Baptist, or however further down the fundy rabbit-hole you care to go), with a conservative bent (ya think?), you'll no doubt love this book … but the farther apart from that demographic you are, the more you'll find stuff to be irritated with here. As noted at the top, I found this over at the dollar store about a year and a half ago, so it's been floating around out there for a while … I was rather surprised to see that it's still in print (in a paperback edition), but the hardcover is available from the on-line big boys' new/used channels for as little as 1¢ (plus $3.99 shipping, of course) for a new copy. This is not one of those that “everybody needs to read”, but it's a solid common-sense look at how screwed up the government is (if you can ignore the preachiness).


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Tags: book review
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