The Game Is Afoot
Let us reconnoiter, now!
It’s an apt word, reconnoiter: It hints at new beginnings, a renewed plan, scoping out the options. Yet it also implies there are battles afoot, it suggests some difficulties ahead. It derives from a sense of going back, of recognizing, of re-examining.
Which “we” will be reconnoitering? All of us. Even though many of us right now are taking up either figurative or literal arms, I think that all of us need to reconnoiter, with fresh eyes and open minds. All of us, all sentient beings – all who inhabit the earth, and if we can find a way maybe we ought to include others as well.
It’s time we take the broad view rather than just jumping up and down angrily about the obvious points at hand. It’s time to figure out how we got where we are, who is steering us, and what we are doing.
I am about to make a case for “peace and love,” the case we made in the 1960s, but the times have changed and we need to approach this as the over-30s many of us have grown into. This time around, I’m not certain where we’re going but we all need to get involved. We need to figure this out together, to reconnoiter. Join me, in five separate parts which should function harmoniously.
Part A – The Reconnoiterers of Old and of Today
I began writing this while we Jews were reading Shelakh-Lekha (Numbers, chapters 13 through 15), the Biblical portion describing the twelve “scouts” scoped out the land of Canaan as the former slaves were on their way to move in. Moses instructed these fellows to go in and bring back the details. When they returned, two reconnoiterers brought back a positive report and ten returned with a negative spin, frightening the populace into wishing to stay put or return to slavery, thus annoying the Almighty into holding back on admission into Canaan until the current generation had passed away.
Nowadays we call such emissaries reporters. We have many wonderful, impartial reporters who send us the news as it plays out.
Some reporters do more than observe and report back to us: they give us commentary as well as news, sometimes more of the former than of the latter. In fact, many of our media companies are designed with a bias rather than a trustworthiness for telling us the whole truth as fully as they can discern. Even further, some try to present “both sides” of an issue by interviewing as counterpoint an outlier who advocates some extreme position, while others may make fun of “the other side,” with little basis in truth. Worse still are those who simply broadcast or print whatever the person with the biggest mouth puts forth, to be further slashed up into bits for posting on social media.
Do you see how the original intent gets diluted?
Reporters – the news media, the Fourth Estate – are indispensable to maintaining our civil society. They are our mirror, they show us where we stand now, and they reflect back to us where others stand as well. We need to keep them accountable, and we need them to keep us accountable.
Part B – The Laws, All of the Laws, and the Separate Laws
I’m writing this for a Jewish medium, but I’m not thinking of a religious approach. We Jews are privileged to have been given access a few thousand years ago to a wonderful set of Rules, which we were entrusted to take to heart and spread through example and teaching. We’ve shared these Laws with many around the world, and others have devised similar systems of laws. These Books give advice on living with in harmony, on caring for one another, and on tending the earth. However one believes we received them, there they are. Overall I think these Laws were not meant to be used as a wedge among humans, but to unite us, to make our existence better over all.
To be a bit controversial, I don’t think they were given us to be crafted into a “religion.” That term has become divisive. (I guess it was already somewhat divisive around 3,000 years ago.) Were you God the Parent, wouldn’t you want us finally, finally to understand that the meaning of the house rules – the point of our existence – is to find peace, love, and concord to the mutual benefit of all, rather than merely to worship the Parent and blindly follow the rules to the letter without ever understanding or putting forth the intent? How can we teach them diligently if we don’t understand them ourselves? How can we grow and advance?
We’ve been assigned an active task, to spread the ideals we’ve been shown. That absolutely does not mean we are to proselytize, or to take the position that only we (whichever “we”) are correct in our manner of complying. These laws are meant to help us to live better together, not to separate us.
And how do the laws set forth in the Tanakh – in the Bible and its various attendant books – comport with our civil laws?
Back in the 1980s attorney John G. Buchanan (of honored memory), at the time in his mid-90s, would expound in his law library on one of his favorite themes, saying, “The law is alive! Oh, how I love the law!” He was speaking of the secular law of the United States, and he was appreciating how our civil law lives and breathes, grows and changes, as a living thing. He had been a lawyer since 1912, had tried seven cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, and never lost his enthusiasm for researching and interpreting the law.
On the one hand, we Jews and many others do interpret and reinterpret our Laws. We allow them to live and breathe, we study and discuss them, even as we teach them diligently.
However, those who conflate our civil law with religious law, even to the extreme of involving God in the U.S. Constitution, are misunderstanding the purpose of civil law.
Let me address this specifically: In government we shouldn’t legislate morality and we must not legislate religion, as those are not civil concepts. Civil law sets forth our governmental systems. Civil law helps us remove our garbage and not injure each other on the roads. Civil law addresses the constructs of neighborhoods, mutual benefit and taxation, commerce, how we live harmoniously with one another, and how we might work with other countries.
As we citizens delight in or growl about recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court concerning guns, reproductive rights, and other matters, Justice Samuel Alito’s words “Abortion presents a profound moral question…” point directly to the problem. The Justice brings morality into his judgment in a civil court concerning civil legislation! It seems to me rather improper for someone in his position, almost as improper as it would be to use political bias or prevaricate during confirmation hearings.
What our three branches of government should be putting forth is civility, justice, freedom, liberty, and ethics – not morality.
Morality is taught to us – again, diligently – by our religious or spiritual leaders, it is discussed among us as we interpret and reinterpret the Law, and we should leave these matters to the communities and institutions we have built to guide us morally. There may be God in morality; that choice belongs to each of us. Ethics, though, refers to the ways in which we comport ourselves civilly among our fellow humans. We have no choice about deploying ethical behavior, and we must hold each other accountable.
Part C – What We Are Really Witnessing
As we reconnoiter, besides victories or losses by special interest groups, what are we really witnessing?
Those who ask us to codify their specific religious beliefs (or their recategorized “Second Amendment beliefs”) into the law of the land want more than to legislate morality. They want to cause those who believe differently to be put upon, to wish to flee, to be oppressed, to die. They are not seeking a civil existence.
Do you see this? Let’s dig even deeper. Let’s have some investigative reconnoitering.
Those advocating these changes seem to care little about the many potential consequences of their actions; they simply are hell-bent on checking off the boxes, whether they understand them or not. Listen to those who want to limit reproductive rights, to delimit gun ownership, to shove gay persons into closets, restrict access to the polling place, drill for fossil fuels regardless the damage, mandate Christmas observances in public institutions, or those who espouse any such divisive restrictions: none of their talking points addresses those who are likely to suffer, die or otherwise be harmed as a consequence of such mandates.
It seems they are either thumping a Bible or thumping the Constitution and conflating it with a Bible. Again, religion does not make good civil law. Legislating against religious freedom makes bad civil law.
Let’s forget for a moment how each of us feels about these decisions and recent legislation, not to mention high gas prices, the dying earth, and many other things that are going on. We have to stop being divisive, right now! We will not make any headway shouting our reasoning at each other and expecting others to intelligently contemplate what we are shouting.
This is really about something entirely different from these divisive issues. Reconnoiter: how have we reached this point?
It’s a global situation: those with power will do all they can to retain it, and those with money will do all they can to gain more. That is what we are witnessing.
Being against reproductive rights, marriage equality, and other logical freedoms is not a “conservative” stance. Conservatives have adopted these stances only to garner the votes of groups who espouse these views. They are willing to sell out, or to be strong-armed into taking these positions, mindlessly repeating the same statements over and over to defend their positions. They do not engage in fulsome discussion. They don’t consider the full set of implications, such as what happens to the woman whose baby will be born two months hence without a brain and then will die. They do not address the girl who has been raped by a family member. They do not talk about the woman with a life-threatening disease whose birth control has failed. They only espouse “taking care” of mothers during pregnancy, as if that covers all potentialities.
They don’t talk about the proliferation of guns created to maim and murder fellow human beings; they speak only of a “right to bear arms” for some sort of protection that in their minds would not be afforded by any other weapon than a semi-automatic military weapon.
They have been indoctrinated with talking points guaranteed to get them elected or appointed, and they mindlessly repeat them.
Part D – What, Then, Do We Do? We Stop, We Look, We Listen.
We must recognize the individuals in elected or appointed office who want nothing more than continued power, a guaranteed career in politics. We must recognize those who want only to have more and more and more money, to get it and keep it in any way possible.
The latter support the former being in office if the elected officials will keep them hoarding wealth, but in order to garner enough votes to be elected the officials must additionally promise various factions of the electorate that they will accomplish their pet initiatives.
If the politicians vote in favor of guns for all, they will be re-elected with the help of the guns-for-all folks. If they vote to limit what we do in our own bedrooms or with our own bodies, they will get re-elected with votes by the prejudiced prudes and those who thump Bibles without understand them. The power-hungry and the wealthy have cobbled together a coalition of single-interest groups which will keep them in power, and will keep the wealthy getting wealthier, if only they get these initiatives passed.
By and large, these stances are not popular with the majority of Americans. But they are very popular with the legislators and judges who have the chance to make these changes on behalf of those who want them and who promise to vote for them.
We must stop supporting them, and we must advocate against doing so. We must shine a light on their dark behavior. We must reconnoiter.
Part E – Is Anyone Looking Down the Road?
Let’s look down the road, to see where all of this is leading us. For one thing, many who have power and money want us to keep on killing the planet, and they want to kowtow to the science deniers because that keeps them in business, keeps them hiding the fact that they are wreaking destruction.
They want to keep us nipping at each other’s heels with all of these divisive issues so that we do not notice that we are losing everything. They are willing to lie to us and each other to keep this happening.
Some of us remember when Ronald Reagan suddenly got into office, and it seemed like everything we’d accomplished in the years prior was disappearing before our eyes. We were focusing on stopping the Vietnam war, on women’s rights, on civil rights, on peace and love. And it seemed like suddenly junk bonds and penny stocks were all the rage, and peace and love flew out the window together. The young people of the day seemed to want nothing but more and more money and what they saw as a wholesome family life. Glass-Steagall went away, our savings accounts no longer earned 10% interest, and the word “conservative” grew from fiscal conservatism to include the far reaches of social repression. In other words, we were taken by surprise. Ronald Reagan was an actor, and apparently a good one.
If we now remain divided and fight only our individual battles, if we focus only on what they are doing to us in the moment, this is going to happen once again.
We need to reconnoiter, and get ahead of all of this. We all need to reassess how we select our representatives, how we want to live, what is really important to us.
Can we get all worked up and emphasize with signs and slogans that a woman with a serious medical condition who is raped and pregnant must have access to the necessary healthcare? Of course we can. We’ve done it before and we can do it again. But is this getting to the heart of the problem now?
Can we march and speak out and discuss how we are way too permissive with people obtaining guns, especially those guns meant to blast people to kingdom come? We’ve done that as well.
But if we keep cutting off the end shoots of the poison ivy, the roots will strengthen and will grow ever more shoots.
What we really, really must do is collect everyone together and figure out where we want to go. We are the majority – we who do not crave power, we who do not hoard money. We have put up with this long enough, in all political parties, in many countries of the world. This is the battle we need to fight.
Too many of us have allowed ourselves to be co-opted into these skirmishes that distract us from the matter at hand. Abortion has nothing to do with running the country, we should have legislated it off the table years ago. And there is or should be no need for all of us to have semi-automatic weapons stockpiled in our homes, we need to regulate them. Ignoring science is not a political stance. No conservative nor liberal nor anyone who espouses any other brand of political leanings is an inherently “bad” or “evil” person who needs to be mocked, vilified, and stifled. Yet it seems we all are glad to keep repeating these divisive memes. We must stop being used as puppets!
See how close the wealthy have let us get – close enough to the core to taste their bile: the gasoline prices are designed to divide us, too. We are to argue over the high cost of gasoline, blaming it on each other, while the oil companies logged $93 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2022.
This battle is over money and power. There is no war over morality, except that those who want money and power have promised those with their heads up their tushies that they will vote for the false morality that they want. “Want me to outlaw abortion? Give me power!” “Want me to trash gays and immigrants? Give me money!” “Want me to keep you wealthy no matter how you destroy the earth? Bow down to me!”
And we are supposed to ignore it, and keep on fighting with each other about guns and uteruses and science, so politicians can gain and maintain power and the rich can get richer. They don’t care about these invented issues which common sense would take out of their hands, they just want to keep us attacking each other and not paying attention to them.
We need to be smart enough to stop squabbling and band together against them. How we make that happen is the ultimate question, and the only thing we should be thinking about.
There is no “they” or even “you,” there is only “we.” We must stop pointing fingers and scapegoating, and we need to cut short any of our officials who does that.
Whoever you are, whatever your political leanings, we need to come together and take action against a mutual foe.
There is a gonif out there pitting us against one another and robbing us blind. It has gotten out of hand. This is no longer about folks promising to vote “our way.” This has become a collection of organized cults, and people are mindlessly obeying.
As we head toward the midterm elections in November, candidates are promising more and more radical actions, no matter how few citizens want them, and folks are acting like zombies, eager to support them. Citizens are not recognizing that these politicians and their backers are not in this for altruism, they are not civil at all. Eventually all the rest of us will suffer at their hands.
We need to pull ourselves away from this now, and get back to civil organization. We must stop being single-issue voters. We need to work together on what really matters, which may include extricating from power those who have sold out or bought in to this perversion of civil society.
The United States is not the only country suffering from this affliction. (There are many world leaders who are under investigation for corruption.) But we have the farthest to fall from it. To run a country we need to face these divisive issues and come to some sort of agreement, as we are supposed to do, and encode the consensus, make it stick, and get them off the table. Then we have to get on with running our government as it was meant to be run.
As our leaders at the federal level come to these understandings, we need to be able to trust them to have the final say. This does not mean “relegating it to the states” as they’ve been saying, which serves only to get more of their cohort elected to state office, to make gerrymandered states ever more repressive. It means settling matters with consensus representing the citizens of the country, erring on the side of freedom without undue danger or harm.
And we must keep religion out of our civil government. If someone says, “This is gospel,” force the discussion. The law is alive.
The idea is for us to live together, not to live divided.
It Is in Our Hands.
It is in our hands, at least for the moment. Unless we all begin by voting in mass numbers, voting wisely after personally discussing everything with those who are running, then we will lose to the money-hungry and power-mad autocrats who wish to control the world. And we do stand to lose everything to them, including the very earth.
Unless we go further and point out to each other what really is happening, and collectively choose our candidates carefully, again we will lose everything. If we don’t talk with one another, all of us together, and if we don’t demand that our news media actually report the news – without commentary, without bias, and from all perspectives – we will lose everything.
We have to begin yesterday. As I debate with myself whether to go out and march about the Supreme Court decisions or sit at home and write about them, I note that inaction is not an option.
So what, exactly, are we reconnoitering? The very place we now stand, with whom we stand, and how. Please, let’s stand as one, and take an honest look at ourselves and those around us. We used to be friends, until they divided us.
Let’s reconnoiter, together. Now.