TURN BACK THE CLOCK

Major League Baseball has this idea called “Turn Back The Clock” days, where the two teams playing wear uniforms like they did seventy-five or more years ago.

It’s for nostalgia purposes to remind the fans when players weren’t millionaires and played “for the love of the game”. Not to quibble but the players in those days all had light skin, were generally uneducated and were considered chattel by the team owners.

Though the players were great, they were not nearly as well conditioned as today’s players are. And careers were quirky long. Some players could survive 20 years or more, but often relatively minor injuries shelved them, injuries that today could be treated, surgically addressed and still permitting the athletes to reurn successfully to the diamond.

So even with this pitch toward the old-fashioned and the induced illusion (thankfully only temporary) that everything about baseball was superior in the old days, the reality is that today’s game is just fine. Your favorite pitcher can survive Tommy John surgery and resume striking out opposing hitters at a fearsome rate. An All-Star catcher can suffer a horribly broken ankle and come back the folowing season to hit .320 and steal 22 bases, a remarkable total for one at his position.

So no one really wants to turn back the clock. Nor can it be done in reality, Michael J. Fox movies notwithstanding.

Yet, many politicians today are playing their own “Turn Back The Clock” games, only this time it is with our economy vis a vis the budget of the federal government. Their rhetoric would seem to equate regulation and providing a safety net to the less fortunate with the use of steroids and  other performance enhancing drugs in baseball, though the former are deemed to be far more pernicious..

It seems our conservative politicians, at least the ones making the most noise, have this quaint notion that if we just removed government from the equation to the greatest extent possible, allowing business to flourish unimpeded, that our economy would be so prosperous that everyone who wanted one would have a job.

Further, there would be no need for social programs because everyone could fend for themselves. The few misfits not working and not enjoying at least having the basics in ample supply, were simply themselves at fault for not trying.

But then that damned federal government came along, determined that the businesses were not always playing fair and started telling them how to conduct themselves. Even worse the government has taken on the cause of those without a job or without the resources to ensure a comfortable retirement or who, individually, don’t have the power to make their employers provide a safe work environment or a decent wage.

And god forbid we should do anything to keep our citizens healthy by establishing any sort of guaranteed health care system at a reasonable cost.

But what really galls these nostalgia lovers is that none of the devices or programs created by the government to offer these protections was foreseen by our Founding Fathers and placed explicitly within our Constitution.

No matter that that wonderful document is beautiful in its simplicity and exhilarating in its potential. In some ways rigid in its enumeration of our rights, but superbly adaptable by appointing our Supreme Court as the ultimate arbiter of both its inclusiveness and exclusiveness, the Constitution has permitted a process by which developments in law and science and medicine and social thought can be embraced within our governance to better serve the people of the United States of America.

I have read the Constitution and the Federalist papers and keep them within easy reach of my reference needs. I understand the  ideals of Jay, Hamilton, and Madison from the Papers were incorporated into the Holy writ. But there was far from a 100% transferrence.

Compromise was the order of the day as it should ever be in politics. The most glaring example is in its shameful treatment of slavery. But the very notion of the Bill of Rights was a bow to certain interests. After all, they came in amendment form, not within the body of the document itself.

And while ideals are good, they also have to be able to accommodate reality, actual events and times and circumstances. The Founders knew nothing of evolution or the atom and precious little of electricity. When Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark off on their three year excursion he had no vision that the same mileage could be covered in mere hours in the future.

Likewise mighty manufacturing, commercial and financial conglomerates were nowhere on the radar in the Eighteenth century. Indeed neither was radar itself.

With advances in business and transporation what was interstate commerce in 1787 seemed laughably ancient by the onset of the Civil War only seventy-three years later, the equivalent of the span between the near end of the Great Depression and the present’s communication in an instant capablities.

To protect its citizens, to deal with the arrival of new phenomena, to adapt to changing times, those running our government in both the legislative and executive branches introduced new laws, new programs, to meet the perceived needs of the moment.

Much of this “progress” met with stiff resistance, usually by the moneyed interests. Court challenges ensued and those cases reaching the highest level were frequently decided in favor of the status quo.

Gradually the status became less quo and The Supreme Court awoke to recognize that what may have been far removed from the purview of the federal government in 1787 was no longer so.

Now were all these legislative innovations established with the wisdom of the ages? Some maybe, most no. Did they come to be accepted as necessary and proper reagrdless of wisdom? For the most part, with the holdouts generally continuing to assert their own narrow interests.

Now as we proceed through the second decade of the twenty-first century we are faced with a large group of fantacists who wish to turn back the clock to a time that never was, while ignoring that their avowed principles and the stated conclusions of the effects of applying those principles no longer are true in practice, if indeed they ever were.

The Constitution should no more be garbed today with the bygone fashions of nineteenth century thought than I should be garbed today with the same outfit adorning me when I entered first grade.

This desire to return to yesterday, far from honoring the Constitution, repudiates its existence as a living, breathing institution itself. It treats that document as a mere piece of paper with words and sentences and phrases that can only be read by rote and carry no meaning beyond its four corners.

As our knowledge grows so must our acknowledgment grow that whatever our wishes to return to another time when government didn’t do nearly so much, is the same as wishing to return to the moment just before we left the barn door open and the horse got away.

The horse of political progress has already left the barn.

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