John Winthrop’s City Upon a Hill, amended for 2013:

Now the onely way to ENSURE this shipwracke and to SCREW OVER our posterity is to followe the Counsell of Micah, to doe UNjustly, to SCORN mercy, to YELL LOUDLY ABOUT our God’s SPECIFIC OPINIONS ABOUT LAST YEAR’s TELEVISION SHOWS, for this end, wee must be FAR APART in this worke as CAIN and ABEL, wee must BE ARMED AGAINST each other in brotherly LOATHING, wee must be willing to GET OURS AND MAKE SURE THE OTHER GUY DOESN’T GET HIS, wee must GET TOO BIG TO FAIL AND SCREW OVER ANYONE who IS meekenes, gentlenes, patience and liberallity, wee must BE REVOLTED BY eache other, make REJOYCE IN others WRETCHED Condicions, MOCK each other, MAKE THE OTHER GUY LABOUR and SUFFER, allwayes CLOSING our eyes TO Commission and Community in the worke, our Community NOT as members of the same body, soe shall wee SCORN the unitie of the spirit in the bond of peace, the Lord will be our God AND YOU ALL HAD BETTER KNUCKLE UNDER TO OUR SPECIFIC IDEAS ABOUT HIM…wee shall finde that the God of MICHELLE BACHMANN is among us, when tenn of us shall be able TO FIRE THOUSANDS OF DRONES BY PRESSING A BUTTON IN VIRGINIA, when hee shall ROLL HIS EYES IN DERISION AT US, that men shall say of succeeding plantacions: the lord make it like that of A SINKHOLE IN LOUISIANA: for wee must Consider that wee shall be as a SHANTYTOWN IN A FESTERING BOG, the eies of all people are SENDING US CONDOLENCE CARDS.


Preamble to the US Constitution, amended for 2013:

We A FEW of the people, in order to form a LESS perfect union, ABANDON justice and REJECT tranquility, BUY BILLION DOLLAR BOMBERS and LOTS OF HANDGUNS for the common defense, SCORN the general welfare, and TAKE A DUMP ON the blessings of liberty, for ourselves and SCREW posterity, do DISDAIN and DISESTABLISH this Constitution except for the Second Amendment which is pretty cool.

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7 Responses to Amendments

  1. Withywindle says:

    This isn’t worthy of you.

  2. Timothy Burke says:

    Lot of that going around, I hear.

  3. Withywindle says:

    I do remind you:

    But even before we get to those moments, the commandment to investigate, to know, to understand, has to weigh heavily in all directions and to all things. As Inga Clendinnen argued, even to Henreich Himmler. If we say it for the Shabab, say it for everyone and everything in all the world and mean it. Which, I grant you, is a hard thing to live up to–but then our snark, our anger, our dismissal is not altogether that different than the moment where someone else’s composure slips and he or she says, “Exterminate the brutes!” The work that’s done in the world by those moments is very different, one relatively harmless and the other sometimes brimming with potency. But the thing about a commandment is that it is the worst when you lay it heavily upon others but forgive yourself an endless series of light trespasses. The injunction to understand, mind you, is not a call to love or affection or sympathy. It’s just about the deeper and harder truths inside of things, a trust that we don’t know as much as we ought but that what we ought, we can.

    You knew this a week ago; you can know it again today.

  4. VL says:

    Bravo! (Pace Withywindle.) I especially like the amended preamble.

    Seriously, it occurs to me that if the _entire_ government actually shut down — specifically, if the military were affected — the Republicans would never use this blackmail tactic.

    In case anyone’s curious, as I was, here’s what stops and what keeps going during this government shutdown period:,0,5564531.story

  5. Timothy Burke says:

    Understanding doesn’t lead to approval.

    There’s a narrow way to understand the logic or reason of the political maneuverings in the House that amounts to the following: they’re doing it to keep their seats. E.g., the gerrymandering that both parties have agreed to has produced a number of Congressional districts where there is no need to worry about satisfying a larger national vision or need and in fact quite the opposite: to secure re-election requires satisfying an intensely local and parochial sensibility.

    But this is simple. The more complicated thing has to do with that sensibility. I have been and remain devoted to understanding its character, its reasoning, its situation. Some of that, as you know, I think is a long-incubating response to the provocation of the 1970s attempt to use civic institutions and culture as a vehicle for deliberate social transformation. Some of it I think has to do with genuine class and social divisions in contemporary American–at least some of the 20% or so who really are devotedly backing the House Republicans are entitled in some sense to a populist anguish about their exclusion from economic possibility, even if I think they badly misunderstand who and what is to blame for that. You can see that on the map if you look.

    None of this means that I approve of what they’re doing. Nor do I approve of how that populist anguish is being mobilized, misused, and manipulated. In some ways the more I understand the more furious I get, because I think people who should understand where this is all leading are not even trying to do so. I think people who should understand the growing gap between their professed love of country and the actual damage they are inflicting on it should do so. All the effort that Clendennin puts into understanding Himmler does not diminish her hatred for what he did. On the contrary, it in some ways intensifies it.

    Once that work takes hold, what you choose to say next may not always be judicious or measured or calm. I don’t think it has to be.

  6. Withywindle says:

    This would appear, by your practice, to translate to, “Once I am satisfied I understand the people I don’t like, then I can engage with a clear conscience in that vitriol so akin to the utterance ‘Exterminate the brutes!'”

    I suppose I will be excessively repetitious from this point on. I will only urge you this final time (in this comment thread) to consider again whether your practice in this post accords with your theoretical prescription in the previous one.

    Or put another way: I have been seized by partisan outrage too in my time. In retrospect, it was more disfiguring than exalting.

    And even as an expression of outrage, I think your post would benefit artistically from some more polish; cf. “England in 1819”.

  7. Jerry Hamrick says:

    There are two living varieties of Homo sapiens: Varietas Democratica, who naturally work for the common good, and Varietas Tyrannica, who naturally work against it I put forward this idea years ago on this blog and endured the ridicule. Since that time the political shenanigans in the states and in Washington have overwhelmingly demonstrated the validity of my idea. Tyranni have long been the problem-makers, even before the dawn of history.

    If Charles Darwin were still alive, I think that he would say that Edward O. Wilson is one of those “naturalists having sound judgment and wide experience,” that we should listen to. Wilson has written many important books on various topics concerning evolution. His latest, The Social Conquest of Earth, may well be his most important. In it, He says that these two conflicting behaviors have a genetic basis:

    Alleles (the various forms of each gene) that favor survival and reproduction of individual group members at the expense of others are always in conflict with alleles of the same and alleles of other genes favoring altruism and cohesion in determining the survival and reproduction of individuals. Selfishness, cowardice, and unethical competition further the interest of individually selected alleles, while diminishing the proportion of altruistic, group-selected alleles. These destructive propensities are opposed by alleles predisposing individuals toward heroic and altruistic behavior on behalf of members of the same group. Group-selected traits typically take the fiercest degree of resolve during conflicts between rival groups.

    Wilson’s conclusion is that this conflict, this struggle between two kinds of humans, has only one outcome:

    An unavoidable and perpetual war exists between honor, virtue, and duty, the products of group selection, on one side, and selfishness, cowardice, and hypocrisy, the products of individual selection, on the other side.

    … In summary, the human condition is an endemic turmoil rooted in the evolution processes that created us. The worst in our nature coexists with the best, and so it will ever be. To scrub it out, if such were possible, would make us less than human.

    I can think of no better description of our present predicament. The Darwinian struggle has long been with us. In fact, Darwin foresaw that the struggle could be violent even among relatives. In the third chapter of Origin he included this section heading:

    Struggle for Life most severe between
    Individuals and Varieties of the same Species.

    The best we can do is to do our best. We must control the harmful effects of tyranni, we must control the harmful effects of James Madison’s factions—we must work for the common good. Here is my description of tyranni. As you read the list think of Ted Cruz:

    Characteristics of Varietas Tyrannica
    (These characteristics should not be applied to humans under age 26.)

    • Those who are willing to use force and deception to make others live their lives the way they, the tyranni, want. They will impose their views on others. Tyranni are willing to ig¬nore, or even break, the law.
    • In the most extreme form, some tyranni think they have an almost divine right to rule. They possess certainty based on some internal feeling, or instinct, that only they have access to. Tyranni expect you to defer to them in all things—they are often extremely intolerant. They feel superior to other people and some even require adulation.
    • The most extreme tyranni will aggressively seek power over others wherever they can find it; some are dictators and some others are common criminals.
    • Tyranni often have little or no regard for the harm they cause others to suffer, and in the ex¬treme form some tyranni are willing to take the lives of others. This taking can be of many forms: murder, black¬mail, extortion, economic exploitation, bribery, assault, torture, rape, decapitation, robbery, fraud, spousal abuse, child molestation, wars of aggression, lynching, slavery, shootings, bombings, stab¬bings, immolation, corruption of office, denial of civil rights, denial of equal protection under the law, denial of access to health care, denial of an education and more.
    • Tyranni want to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for themselves but they are not so sure about you. They may be willing to let you have them if it suits their purposes, other¬wise they may dictate how you should live your life.
    • If the liberties and rights of “tyranni-out-of-power” are under threat by “tyranni-in-power,” the “tyranni-outs” will join with democrati in the struggle against the ”tyranni-ins.” But when the “tyranni-outs” win and become “tyranni-ins” their democrato-comrades-in-arms become ex¬pendable suckers.
    • Tyranni qualify their acceptance of the Declaration of Independence and the Golden Rule of Reciproc¬ity. Tyranni believe that some men are created unequal, and that civil rights are not for everyone—certain groups are to be excluded.
    • Tyranni will say “Live and let live,” but mean it only when it is self-serving.
    • If tyranni govern then our lives will be marked by evil, unfairness, hate, exclusion, violence, war, and tyranny.

    Our current form of government, because it has no way to define and implement the common good, will continue to enable tyranni like Cruz to wreak havoc.

    I am not the only one to observe these varieties. Others have often noticed tyranni, but they have rarely noticed democrati. Apparently the behavior exhibited by democrati is tacitly regarded as “normal.” Many of those who have noticed tyranni have taken the trouble to write about them. They call them by different names. George Washington called them “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men.” James Madison described them as men who form groups that pursue policies that are inimical to the common good. He called these groups “factions,” and he described those who form them thusly:

    Men of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may, by intrigue, by corruption, or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray the interests, of the people.

    Martha Stout, an author and psychologist, called them “sociopaths,” and she observed that they have no conscience. Lord Acton called them “corrupt.” Former president Jimmy Carter called them “fundamentalists.” John W. Dean, former legal counsel to Richard Nixon, called them “authoritarians,” and “conservatives without conscience.” Former president John Quincy Adams described them as men who burned slaves “for the terror of the example,” and who believed that slavery was a natural thing which exalted the slave owner. The American Psychiatric Association describes them as men who have “Antisocial Personality Disorder,” or “Narcissistic Personality Disorder.” Lawrence E. Harrison, a scholar on culture, wrote about two different cultures that, in my view, emerge from the two varieties of human beings: “Progress-Prone” and “Progress-Resistant.” I.W. Charny, a scholar who writes on genocide, said that the two kinds of human beings have two different kinds of minds: fascist and democratic.

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