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  • This shaggy dog of a story tries to answer the question, "Can a tea party conservative and a progressive activist achieve a meeting of minds?" Or, "The people speak, but do they listen?"

    A few months ago my wife, daughter and I attended a strange little conference at Harvard Law School that brought together a grab bag of political activists, assembled by two very dissimilar groups. One was Rootstrikers, an organization built by Harvard legal scholar Lawrence Lessig dedicated to rooting out the corrupting influence of money in politics.

    The other group was Tea Party Patriots, headed by a lawyer, Mark Meckler, with a mission "to restore America’s founding principles of Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government and Free Markets." These strange bedfellows jointly convened to discuss pros and cons of calling for a constitutional convention to restore democratic control of a government grown too big for its britches or under the thrall of moneyed interests, depending on one's point of view.

    The story describes one little thread that issued from that fitful meeting and what it meant for me.
  • Of the 27 amendments to the US constitution that have been adopted, not one originated in a constitutional convention – all were proposed by a 2/3 majority of Congress. In fact, since the original gathering in 1787, there has never been another constitutional convention. So this is a heavy thing to publicly discuss doing, especially in a room full of political opposites.

    At that weekend conference, I met people with stunningly different political perspectives and agendas, not many of them moderate in their views. It was the only time in my life I can remember when I witnessed grassroots political discussions conducted outside of a partisan echo chamber, such as the Internet has become. It was intense, irritating and exhausting.

    And it was there that I met a man whom I'll call John, a courtly, 89-year-old veteran of World War II and Korea; a strict constitutionalist who desperately wanted to redeem the country from Obama-brand socialism, was building a web site and soliciting support for his efforts. I considered him a bit of a loose cannon, but then so am I. Appreciating his dedication, energy and pleasant vibes, I signed onto his mailing list.
  • John is old enough to be my father, and I'm no spring chicken. Yet, he never ceases his efforts to arouse the country to real and imagined perils. I've received anti-government broadsides from him that made me cringe, but I never delete them without due consideration, and occasionally I respond to give John my reactions.

    Last week, John forwarded a message bringing ill tidings on the health care front from some Tea Party activist to his list:

    From: (someone via John)

    Sent: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 5:24 PM

    Subject: Yikes

    What does this word mean?


    The word "Dhimmitude" is found in the new health care bill; so what does it mean?

    Thought this was interesting and worth passing on.

    Obama used it in the health care bill. Now isn't this interesting? It is also included in the health care law.

    Dhimmitude -- I had never heard the word until now. I typed it into Google and started reading. Pretty interesting. It's on page 107 of the healthcare bill. I looked this up on Google and itep, it exists. It is a REAL word.

    Dhimmitude is the Muslim system of controlling non-Muslim populations conquered through jihad (Holy War). Specifically, it is the TAXING of non-Muslims in exchange for tolerating their presence AND as a coercive means of converting conquered remnants to Islam.

    ObamaCare allows the establishment of Dhimmitude and Sharia Muslim diktat in the United States . Muslims are specifically exempted from the government mandate to purchase insurance, and also from the penalty tax for being uninsured. Islam considers insurance to be "gambling", "risk-taking", and "usury" and is thus banned. Muslims are specifically granted exemption based on this.

    How convenient. So I, as a Christian, will have crippling IRS liens placed against all of my assets, including real estate, cattle, and even accounts receivable, and will face hard prison time because I refuse to buy insurance or pay the penalty tax. Meanwhile, Louis Farrakhan will have no such penalty and will have 100% of his health insurance needs paid for by the de facto government insurance. Non-Muslims will be paying a tax to subsidize Muslims. This is Dhimmitude.

    I recommend sending this on to your contacts. American citizens need to know about it -- Health Insurance Exemptions
    Apr 13, 2010 ... Dhimmitude is the Muslim system of controlling non-muslim populations ... The ObamaCare bill is the establishment of Dhimmitude and Sharia ...

    Keep this going. Every non-Muslim in the United States of America needs to know about it

    Well I'm not a Muslim but my wife is. Should I tell her or not?
  • So I followed the link to see what had to say. What I found was quite contrary to the concerns of the originator of the message. The counterfactual content did not surprise me. John's previous emissions tended to echo theories and accusations of malfeasance of the Rush Limbaugh/Glenn Beck/Alex Jones variety. The subtext of most of them is that politicians worship false gods and Obama is the Antichrist.

    Exasperated at the sheer uselessness of that communiqué, I responded to John. I hesitated before pressing Send, wondering if what I had written was too harsh. I had tried to nudge him into reality-based politicking before to little avail. I decided to tell it like it is, briefly and plainly.

    From: Geoff

    Sent: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 9:54 PM

    Subject: Re: Yikes

    John, this message is addled. The very snopes page it cites says it would be extremely unlikely for Muslims to be granted exemptions from buying health insurance under Obamacare, and if they did it would be because they were self-insuring. How can you possibly see dhimmitude in that? Don't you have anything more serious to worry about,
    like NSA snooping?


    I hoped being sardonic would not alienate John, and I was not disappointed. The next day, a broadcast message from him arrived.

    From: John

    Subject: Egg on my Face

    Date: Jul 25, 2013 7:03 PM

    Apologies, Apologies, Apologies!!!! I know that the damage may have been done but I hope that those of you who have forwarded that horrible mistake will correct it with my Apologies. Nobody is perfect and occasionally we get caught up in the emotion of things instead of the realities and forward something which we see as a duty only to find that we were misled. I hope that every person who forwarded this will track it backwards and see if we can find out the person who probably because of something they misread or mistaken by ear decided to keep it going. Please forgive. I will certainly try to do much better the next time. Sincerely, John
  • It seemed that I had struck a blow for reality. I was impressed that, for all his alarmism, John is a true gentleman with an open mind. Thus I wrote back to say:

    From: Geoff

    To: John

    Subject: Re: Egg on my Face

    Date: Jul 25, 2013 9:33 PM

    Hi John, Apology accepted! This sort of thing can happen to anybody. How easy it is to want something to be true. I guess the takeaway is that facts matter, and when one is making a point knowing how they line up always is helpful, and denying them might help to win debating points but it doesn't contribute to solving problems. Let's carry on.


    And I got an immediate answer:

    From: John

    To: Geoff

    Subject: RE: Egg on my Face

    Date: Jul 25, 2013 10:00 PM

    Geoff, You have no idea how much your response means to me. I really pride myself in indulging in accuracy especially in my Jewel of Democracy work. I will soon be releasing the dogs so to speak and offering the public a way of overpowering the Congress in a most legal way and returning control to the People. Now using that word, People, may sound almost communistic but believe me in that I believe that when the skunks start stinking each other, it will be the great citizens of the USA that will rise up from their complacency and apathy and make a few amendments where needed and then American will be rolling again. (I know too long a sentence.) Thanks again. John
  • Hmm. What have I gotten myself into? What John proposes to do next sounds a lot like the agenda of Larry Lessig and Rootstrikers. I am at the point where I'll accept almost anyone's help to sweep away the corruption of a two-faced one-party system that enables the privileged few to get what they want from Washington at the expense of the benighted many.

    Of course, John and other Tea Party people don't yet see it that way. They see Obama as our oppressor-in-chief, bent on ushering in socialism and redistributing their hard-earned wealth to loafers, crack addicts and welfare queens. The only thing we agree on at this point is that the US Constitution is being shredded, and fast. That's weird, but these are weird times.

    So long live John, and fight the good fight! May I be so willing to admit that I was mistaken if and when I reach his age.

    For Further Reading

    Here's a skeptical account of the Harvard Conference on a Constitutional Convention by James Antle III, a conservative attendee.
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