7/05/2005

It's actually been a very busy couple of weeks in the world, what with the flag-burning amendment and a Supreme Court Justice retiring and all. A lot of bluster for this hot, sticky season. That's how the sneaks in Washington do it, though. They wait for the good working people of the world to go on vacation to get down to the business of ruining our lives. But never mind, summer comes but once a year, and ruination is a part of it. We'll cope with it in the winter, when we're counting our sorrows and inventorying regrets.

I was in my garden last night with some fellow gardeners. We had a fourth of July picnic. Sounds gay, I know, but we all are, so it makes sense. Anyway, as happens, talk turned to politics. As has been well-documented, I don't argue politics, particularly at picnics, with people who don't agree with me. It's so unpleasant, and it ruins your appetite. So it was a good thing we were all coming from pretty much the same place--at least we share the same basic reality. That's important, because it's pointless arguing with people who can see things that aren't there, or hear voices you can't hear, or believe that aliens from Planet X have been quietly taking over since 1952 and are poised for a big coup, or whatever. I mean, it would be like trying to argue with Tom Cruise. Poor Matt Lauer.

But it was a lively discussion, owing in great part to one very animated, articulate, and highly opinionated gardener, who told us that one of his pet peeves is when people insist that we live in a democracy, when in fact we live in a republic. Well, he's right, I suppose. It says so in the very first line of the Pledge of Allegiance, doesn't it? A little-r republican democracy, with its checks and balances.

Tony's beef is with the concept of majority rule. He says a republic is ruled by consensus, and that what people don't understand is that Bush is using the general confusion between the terms "democracy" (rule by majority) and "republic" (rule by consensus) to transform our republic into a democracy, thus eliminating all the protections afforded minorities by a republican form of government. I agree that there is an intense struggle going on at the moment that could have long-lasting and damaging implications. We have one party in control of two branches of government and they are, naturally, seeking control of the third. Should they get it, the system of checks and balances is out the window. GAME OVER. But does this mean the majority rules? I don't think so. It means a fanatical minority rules, and what do you call that? Well, that one's got all kinds of names, none of which is "democracy".

don't know if I agree that confusing these two terms at this point in time is as dangerous as people think. Aside from all the hair-splitting, we don't really mean democracy when we say "democracy," do we?. We mean "democracy" when we say "democracy," don't we? If we mean "mob rule" we say "mob rule," usually. Otherwise, "democracy" in the vernacular has to do with the representative form of government we have in America today, one in which we participate nominally, and one which has as its centerpiece the concept of checks and balances, and states' rights, and yadda yadda yadda. This is usually referred to as a "liberal democracy," although conservatives obviously have an interest in sort of suppressing this particular qualifier and call it "representative democracy" instead.

It is certainly interesting how a term like "democracy," which all the founding fathers used like a four-letter word, which they so associated with the French Terror, came to be the celebrated word it is in common parlance today. Words are not static--language is always morphing. (Laurie Anderson had it right when she rapped "language is a virus from outer space"--it certainly behaves like one.) Does "democracy"'s rehabilitation have to do with the rise of mass politics and populism in the Twentieth Century? I mean, the founding fathers, with all their intellect and skill, were not exactly "just folks," were they? Today, if it were Jefferson versus Dubya, who do you think would win? Is there any question? It'd be Dubya in a landslide.

One thing is for sure, little-r "republican" is itself an over-broad and outdated term. It was in wide use at a time when monarchy was the main threat. Historical circumstances certainly played a role in its disappearance from popular discourse.

Mercy, it's an enthralling topic! In more pressing news: A study conducted by a team of psychologists in Chicago and Toronto has determined that bisexual men are actually gay. Someone should tell that "bi-curious" kid in the gym sauna who keeps waving his dick at me. Dr. J. Michael Baily, the psychologist behind the study says: "I'm not denying that bisexual behavior exists, but I am saying that in men there's no hint that true bisexual arousal exists, and that for men arousal is orientation." Who knew it was so simple? But simple is good. Of course another study some years ago found that roughly half of the gay male population at one time or another claimed to be bisexual. I suppose it's easier than just taking the plunge. And that's what this study kind of confirms: that there is a psychological angle here. "Bisexuality," such as it is, is merely one way of dealing with homosexual arousal.