Mistaking symbol for reality and government for God
So once again, Congress is considering a Constitutional amendment to protect the flag, while the US Supreme Court reviews decisions regarding the appropriateness of public displays of the Ten Commandments.
Alan Watts had the last word on flag burning in 1968:
“Not long ago Congress voted, with much patriotic rhetoric, for the imposition of severe penalties upon anyone presuming to burn the flag of the
That passage is from the essay “Wealth versus Money,” anthologized in
As for the Decalogue, its Commandments fall into two categories. The first four relate to the individual’s relationship to God, and the final six relate to the individual’s relationship to society.
Regarding those final six, there are some modern zealots who believe that humanity is so debased and morally stupid that it could never have figured out, without divine intervention, that lying, cheating, stealing and murdering were generally bad ideas. But that is the subject of another blog entry. The first four Commandments are the ones that interest me here.
When any commandments such as the first four issue forth from a theocratic entity (as the Commandments originally did), the explicit message is that one should be unwaveringly dedicated to one’s God, while the implicit message is that the government is God. When a modern government endorses the public display of the Ten Commandments, it is implicitly demanding a degree of respect that no government ever can deserve.
To the best of my knowledge, there is no statement to that effect in the dicta of any court decision.