Quote This, You Prick

Yes, it’s true.

So, a friend was having a debate about health care via the Internets the other day. She shared with me the following quotes that the anti-health-care-for-everyone douchebag was using to buttress his position. Here they are:

“You cannot help people permanently by doing for them, what they could and should do for themselves.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to
take everything you have … The course of history shows that as a
government grows, liberty decreases.” -Thomas Jefferson

“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the
government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of
taking care of them.” – Thomas Jefferson

These people are so fucking stupid.

I was thinking about this the other day. If you try to
argue your position using quotes and sound bites, your’e a fucking
moron. For every “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for
war,” someone can counter with “One must prepare for war in times of
peace.” It’s idiotic. Also, just because Lincoln, or Gandhi, or Einstein,
or Jefferson said something about issues in their times doesn’t necessarily mean
shit to us now. These quotes are divorced from context, and they are meant to confer a level
of authority on the speaker that is intended to make the speaker’s position unassailable. Now, that’s not to deny the usefulness of slogans as rallying points. It’s a useful tool to have a pithy, memorable statement of your general stance. But, to make a fucking argument, you need more than catch phrases. Duh.

That said, why not get to the usage of the quotes themselves, for some
further stupidity? “Depend on somebody other than the government for
their own well being” doesn’t automatically mean “depend on yourself.”
What about charities, churches, family, friends, etc? And, if it is
the case that you automatically go from “government” to individual,”
even if you allow for that false dichotomy, then it begs the question:
Why do we have a military? Police force? You can go on with that.
If that quote summed up Lincoln, then he never would have fought the
Civil War. “Hey, those slaves can and should free themselves. If we
go in and do it, we won’t be helping them permanently.” (Now, if
someone agrees with that statement, then there’s just no hope for that

As for “Republicans taking care of themselves”: If that’s the case,
why do Republican businesspeople accept government contracts? What
about subsidies, tax breaks, writeoffs, lobbying, preferential
treatment of wealthy people (not synonymous with “Republican,” I know,
but there is significant overlap between those categories) by all
institutions of society, caps on payroll taxes, or any freaking thing
else that Republicans want? Using the government to your own ends, to
advantage your group at the expense of others, is now “taking care of
yourself?” Bullshit.

The Jefferson-attributed quotes are a little more substantive, but remember: When
Jefferson lived, there was no General Electric, no Nike, no Microsoft, no Allstate, and no Blue Fucking Cross.
There were, really, three poles of power: Government, the People, and
the Church. The Church was effectively neutered in America due to
(intra-Protestant) competition for believers. No one faction was
strong enough to exert a decisive overall (not just regional) influence in Colonial/Early America.
And the Federalists and anti-Federalists took pains to ensure that
organized religion and secular government didn’t intrude on each other.
So that leaves the People and the Government. No gigantic
corporations, no armies of lobbyists, no wage-slavery in factories.
Hell, the Industrial Revolution hadn’t hit America when Jefferson
wrote that. So, in a basically bi-polar world, a gain in power by one
group almost certainly necessitates a dimunition in power of the other.
Today, however, we have another tri-polar system: Business,
Government, People. When Government sides with the People (e.g., the
New Deal, the Great Society), then what you see is protection of
workers and citizens from the most egregious depredations of Business
(but the businesspeople still make boatloads of money–they’re just
slightly smaller boats). When, on the other hand, Government sides
with Business, you get fewer protections for everyday people, and crap
like we have now–busted unions, wrecked communities, regressive taxes.
I’ve left out the third possibility of two-on-one alliances, Business
+ People vs. Government, because we really haven’t seen that one. Perhaps in a dystopic future novel, but not in any historical case
that springs to mind right now.

Now, I have very little training in political science. I possess no
advanced degrees. Those two facts are germane because they point to
this conclusion: This shit is obvious. If people don’t see it, it’s
because they’ve never tried, or they just don’t want to.

Finally–here’s the best part. NeitherLincolnnorJefferson actually said the things that are attributed to them by our teabagging friend up there. Which, you know, is kind of obvious from the prose. The closest thing to an actual Jefferson quote is the “I predict future happiness…” thing, which kind-of, sort-of, if you squint a little, captures the essence of something Jefferson did say. As for Mr. Lincoln, those are the words of a Reverend William J. H. Boetcker, who published a list commonly called the “Ten Cannots.” This happened fifty years after Lincoln was dead. Saint Ronnie made the common misattribution of those words to Lincoln at the 1992 Republican Convention. As far as “Government big enough to supply…” goes, well, Gerald R. Ford is the first known user of that particular phrase. But hey–Jefferson, Ford, what’s the difference? At least they were both Presidents.

Ain’t that a kick in the head? Of course, five minutes with Teh Great Gizoogle would have sufficed to make Mr. Quote-o-matic there not look like the fool that he is. Oh well. Sucks to be him. Remember, Quote Master–admitting you’re an asshole is the first step.

What we have here, dear readers, is an unassisted double FAIL.

10 thoughts on “Quote This, You Prick

  1. That is a very perceptive post. And, much of it applies to almost every attempt to determine what the “founders” wanted so we can apply that. For example, “the right to bear arms” cannot possibly mean the right to possess a few nuclear missiles, nor can it mean the right to possess poison gas stockpiles, nor can it mean the right to possess a fully armed B-52, nor can it mean the right to possess a depleted uranium bullet armed A-10 attack jet, so it really means absolutely nothing today. It would be like looking to the “founders” for guidance on how to operate the Internet or ration heart transplants.
    Frankly, I think the “founders” meant for conservatives to all be locked up in institutions for life.

  2. I saw those quotes, started reading and was wondering when you’d get to “they never said that shit”. They didn’t say it and none of the other 1.7 million conservatives at the Constitutional Convention did either. Or was it 2 million?

  3. Once again, resources are being squandered on crap that don’t matter. Any thinking decent human being has already realized that these people lie. Why bother to feed it.
    Besides that this is not a democracy, it is an oligarchy. The oligarchy own almost all of the “news” organizations, don’t even bother to feed them.
    We’ve got other problems that need attention. We’ve got Bush III in the White House. We’ve got two winless wars with the military screaming for more more more. The waste in Iraq alone would pay for full health, dental, and mental insurance for every single man, woman and child in the united states. It would, also, pay for the VA to add 25,000 psychiatrists for the PTSD victims who are going to be a real problem soon.
    While tax revenues drop like a stone, the state and federal governments increase the waste by using the “war on drugs” as an excuse. We have the largest population of prison inmates per capita in the damn world. Does a pot smoker really need to go to jail?
    Did this “report” add anything to the solving of problems? NO.

  4. Just for completeness, the second quote is the often misattributed quote of Gerald Ford. That kind of changes the air of authority around it a bit, huh?

  5. +1.
    BTW, Jefferson also stated orangatans preferred black women to their own kind (See Notes on the State of Virginia) and while philosophically opposed to slavery thought it best that african americans be repatriated to their home country. Use that info out of context any way you wish if it annoys a righty.

  6. Make that a triple fail.
    While Bush was expanding the govt (including spying on Americans / Total Information Awareness / tapping the internet / etc., where were the conservatives chanting, “as a government grows, liberty decreases”

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