Saturday, December 23, 2006

Virgil Goode

Thomas Jefferson, Former Resident of What is Now Virginia's 5th District,
Whose Self-Written Epitaph Stated:
Here was buried Thomas Jefferson Author of the Declaration of American Independence ,Of the Statute of Virginia for religious toleration, & Father of the University of Virginia.
(Via the Library of Congress)

I don't really want to have to comment on Congressman Goode's (the 5th District of the Commonwealth of Virginia, which takes up much of the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains) remarks - my stomach turns a bit every time I think of them. But frankly, it needs to be done. So here goes.

First, let's take a gander at the letter he sent out to his constituents that sparked the entire controversy (via the Richmond Times-Dispatch):

Dear . . . Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped. The Ten Commandments and "In God We Trust" are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, "As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office." Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

Sincerely yours,
Congressman Virgil Goode
I am not going to comment on the fact that the Congressman obviously believes that the separation of Church and State is really just a vague suggestion, and that the religion should be Christianity (probably whatever denomination he adheres to at home) - that said, he has the right to hang whatever he wants in his office - see, Representative, rights work both ways. And I'm not going to comment on the fact that apparently the Congressmen did not realize the representative to the United States is not a naturalized immigrant, but an American by birth who can trace his family's roots into the 18th Century. I will say that he has obviously decided he does not like Muslims and wants no more of "those people" here - reminds me of the insults that used to be levied against folks like the Irishmen in my family. It is called bigotry, and I am horrified that a member of Congress from Appalachia is apparently proud of his. I hope the readers and writers in this community agree.
What I want to point out are a couple of key points. First, in the United States no citizen can be required to swear an oath, and no citizen can be required to swear or affirm on a religious text. This logic was worked into the earliest drafts of the Constitution and its predecessor documents in order to guarantee its support by Pennsylvania Quakers. Second, Jews in the Union have long often sworn on the Torah or extended Hebraic scriptures, Muslims on the Quran, Roman Catholics on Bibles with the Apocrypha, Mormons on the Book of Mormon, and so on - why? Because the act of "swearing", while political and legalistic, is also intimately private - legally you are swearing to the state - in choosing a religious text of your choice (or the absence of one) you are personally swearing to whatever being, beings, and/or traditions you personally revere. Again, it is religious freedom, Representative Goode.

Also, the defenders of Goode keep referring to the Jewish and Christian roots of the American political system. I'm afraid this is where they're fairly sadly mistaken. The American social system, and indeed, to a degree, the American economic system is largely based on Jewish and Christian roots. But the American political system is based almost entirely on pre-Christian, polytheist Greek and Roman political institutions and philosophy, institutions and philosophy that Christian Medieval Europe would likely have forgotten were it not for the efforts of Islamic, predominately Arab, scholars. Of course, our bureaucracy is largely based on the principles of the Chinese bureaucracy, filtered through those Greek and Roman roots, and our military is heavily influenced by native American and Mongol ideals (as well as, of course, Greek and Roman pre-Christian), but who am I to split hairs. The exception? The one place in American government that is heavily influenced by traditional Christian political philosophy? The American welfare system so generally reviled by most folks who want a Christian theocracy in the Union. Now, that's not to say that Christianity and Judaism don't have a hugely important place in the our nation, cause they do. But our political system is based on pragmatic concepts, not ideological or theological precepts - that is why people who disagree as much as all the various religious groups in our wonderful nation CAN disagree and still be politically great.

Oh, and Representative Goode, no one is trying to make you or anyone else swear on a Quran - quit acting like you're brave for not doing so.

To end, I just want to recommend the literature written by a gentleman who, were he alive today, would reside in Goode's district - his name was Thomas Jefferson, and he was from a nice hill-town of Charlottesville. After all, it was Jefferson who wrote the Bill for Religious Freedom, which made the Commonwealth of Virginia (then containing West Virginia and Kentucky) the first secular state in the history of humanity.


Anonymous said...

Goode is a Southside political hack, not one born and bred of the Appalachian clothe. When he was elected to congress, he ran on the typical bigoted Southern Democrat agenda. When the old blue bloods died, got voted out or left congress, he switched parties since the Dems were getting too uppity for his constituents' tastes. I would argue that the district lines have been gerrymandered by politicians in Richmond in order to keep certain parties in power therefor e canceling out the progressive votes of Albemarle, Nelson and certain parts of Bedford and Franklin Counties with the conservatives in Halifax, Henry and Campbell Counties. This is the only reason that he shares a limited lineage with the good TJ. Goode's base is in Lynchburg, aka Falwell City, so he has to write what he did to keep his job. You also have to question his views toward a fair amount of his constituents, especially those of minority racial backgrounds. It is odd that he's held office as long as he has yet southside VA is the most economically depressed and illiterate region of the Commonwealth. His bigoted ignorance and pandering is just another element for the argument of term limits. The man has been in guv'ment for 34 years. You have to question the motives of someone that has sought power for that long.
So, in closing, I am offended that he represents mountainous counties of Virginia when he is clearly cut of the clothe of southern antebellum aristocracy rather than that of the majority of his constituents and especially those of independent thinking.
Hopefully, that made some sense. If not, blame it on the egg-nog and this durned Christmas.
By the way, EDS, where's my book?!?!?

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, Goode also offends me as a Christian and a Bible-lover.

Anonymous said...

Ack. This is beyond appalling. Makes this Quaker scream, "What? What???"
By the way, for those of us who went to UVA, it was always Mr. Jefferson.

Eric Drummond Smith said...

AH, but CSL, I went to UVA as well - I have merely rejected the "Mr." because, well, it drove me insane. No surprise there, though.

Anonymous said...

I never said it either (and this was pre-Quaker, so it wasn't even a reaction to titles). I just enjoyed hearing the undergrads say it. Along with "the ususal beverage" on party notices to mean beer.

Eric Drummond Smith said...

WOW. . . that one, that was a flashback - I haven't thought about "the usual beverage" since, god, well, years. Wow. Wow. So awesome.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Jefferson continues to enter into this moment in history, through his library.

Bill Garnett said...

I commend you for an excellent post. Virginians need to be aware of how religious beliefs are intruding on our secular government.