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"Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Matt 7:16 ).

What that means in the case of Nidal Hasan is that we know him to be a shooter and a killer.  We do not know his motive or intent and it really doesn't matter.  The fruits of his behavior are thirteen dead and many more injured.  

What we also know in the case of Nidal Hasan is that he's not a terrorist.  We know that because we are not defining him by his intent or his effect on the injured victims and witnesses to the behavior.  That people are frightened or terrorized by a particular person's behavior does not define that person as a terrorist.  Indeed, it's entirely possible for people to inspire fear and terror and to suppress resistance to their rule without doing anything more than signing their name, as we have recently seen.

What's the connection to people who have a "D" after their name?  The answer follows.  

My point, in a nutshell, is that we need to judge people by their actions, regardless of their intention or their effect.  Another way to say that, especially in the context of the current controversy over who's going to provide adequate health care to the American people, is "never mind the victims."  That forty million Americans are without health care and are being left to die in the prime of life is a shame.  However, focusing on those forty million distracts us from who's responsible, just as surely as looking at Hasan's thirteen victims would.

In addition, as far as providing health care is concerned, we already know that, despite having accepted a public office tasked with insuring life, liberty and the security of the person, Republicans have announced their disinclination, like  so many Bartlebys, to fulfill their obligations.  So, it falls to those agents of government (h/t to Justice Kennedy for the agency terminology) who identify themselves with a "D" after their names, implying their intent to serve the American people--i.e. the public interest.

But, "ye shall know them by their fruits" is still pertinent, especially since it seems a number of public servants, despite their claim to be Democrats, have little appreciation for agency, stewardship or obligation, and, like their Republican colleagues, have assumed a moralistic and punitive stance.  Instead of insuring that Americans enjoy life, liberty and security in their persons and possessions, some nominal Democrats are actually promoting the deprivation of those human rights.

Deprivation is word with which people are generally familiar.  It's what the deprived suffer.  However, like victims, the deprived derive no benefit from this designation or our attention to it.  That's because the perpetrators of deprivation--the deprivators--remain unidentified.  Who knows who's responsible for the fact that 44,000 Americans are expiring in the prime of life (let's not forget that the very young and the aged are being provided with necessary care)?  It's a statistic in which the deprivators don't show up.

Republicans, being for the most part people who prefer to assume that, whatever happens, the victims of insult, injury or disaster are responsible, if only by having been in the wrong place at the wrong time, are probably incapable of recognizing that a public office is a bundle of obligations, not a symbol of status.  Democrats, who pride themselves on empathy and compassion for their fellow man, should know better.  So, perhaps the explanation for Democrats turning a blind eye to deprivation is that they're really Republicans who haven't come out of the closet--i.e. real Democrats aren't deprivators.

On the other hand, perhaps the problem is, in addition to the fact that we haven't inquired as to the cause of deprivation as we try to ameliorate it, that it doesn't occur to most people that depriving others of property one doesn't want or need for oneself is rather common behavior.  Maybe we just have to look harder.  After all, deprivation under color of law has been a Constitutional principle at least since the Thirteenth Amendment was passed.

Of course, the problem may also arise from the fact that the function of the Constitution as a prescription for the exercise of duties and powers of the agents of government has been downplayed in favor of the supposed protections and rights citizens can expect to get.  That is the role of the Constitution as protector and provider of rights--i.e. as a paternalistic entity--has been substituted for the original intent--to secure individual rights and restrain the use of force.  It's a reversal that's been accomplished by a simple verbal transposition--a substitution of the obligation to secure individual human rights for the intent to secure the nation.  That's how the rights of the person were left out of the equation and out of the question.

When you come to think of it, since our agents of government are tasked with securing out rights and insuring life, liberty, property and person, the rise of private insurance of all kinds is really a scam.  The American people are paying twice for the same service and neither, at least in the security of the person is entirely adequate.

Who's responsible for this kerfuffle?  At the moment, it would seem to be Madam "Free Lunch" Landrieu and her ilk, who not only share the attitude that whether a person lives should be conditioned on having earned the right, but relish the fact that the public/private partnership relieves them of the obligation to deliver the security they are elected to provide.  Canadians apparently recognized that "pursuit of happiness" is too ephemeral and substituted "security-of-the-person" as a more specific objective of government, and a more reliable measure.

The problem with "looking at the forest for the trees" is that while you're looking at the forest, any number of trees are likely to be cut down in their prime.

Originally posted to hannah on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 05:01 AM PST.

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