Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Supreme Court Psychoanalysis

Ok this is my first real blog. My other posts' have so far been papers that i had written previously for school. Now I'll start writing what's on my mind.

First of all, I'd like to dabble in a brief psychoanalysis of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court's authority relies on a civic religion of Constitutionalism. Supreme Court Justices wear robes. They convene in a building designed to look like a Roman Temple.

Furthermore, beyond the ocular similarities, Justices consider themselves the final authority on questions of law and policy. They derive their peculiar teleology from the quasi-spiritual "We the People". Like God this entity is omnipresent and yet ultimately unidentifiable. Also, like in religious proceedings The Supreme Court speaks in strange tongues and uses an archaic language - latin - in order to mystify proceedings. Finally, Justices elicit the will of "The Founding Father's" to support their decisions. In determining questions of law Justices must summon spirits to explain to them the meaning of their holy text - the Constitution. Justices are modern shamans who apparently commune with the spirits of Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln in order to gain unique insight into American policy.

Now I am no conservative reactionary. Judicial shamanism is; therefore, disputing it is to dispute the entirety of the entire idea of US consensual government. You see, The Supreme Court has no explicit power. The only thing supporting its decisions in opposition to the President and Congress is the moral force of its words. The quasi-religious nature of the Supreme Court is an essential component of its institutional function, as a check against presidential and even Congressional or majoritarian tyranny. I support the Supreme Court. They function as the US's Platonic philosopher kings. The noble lie in this case is the story of the Founding Fathers and the idea of Universal Rights. The legitimacy of both the Founding Story and the idea of Universal Rights are highly contested, but regardless of their Truth, these stories are important in that they can be incorporated into social battles to heighten legitimacy. Both Lincoln and MLK invoked the principles of the Founding generation in their struggle to rearrange evil systems of control.

Now, having established that the Supreme Court (SC) is a religious institution with a claim to divine authority we can better understand why the SC uses an extremely low threshold when granting standing to plaintiffs who charge the state with violating the First Amendment's Establishment of Religion clause. As we have discussed, the state already has a civic religion. The establishment clause is a particularly sensitive issue for the SC, because they hold claim to a great deal of power due to the civic religion derived from the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The tenets of this belief system include a focus on Reason (over irrationality), Universal Individual Rights, and the ideal of Freedom through Consensual Government. Any other religion that claims state support is - in a sense - a direct threat to the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Courts identity is rooted in the Supremacy of secular (and most importantly reasonable) institutions. The only stronger moral authority in the US may be its peculiar devotion (when compared to other Western nations) to religious organizations. Faith - the essentially irrational basis of all religions - threatens the Supreme Courts own preference for on Reason guided by founding principles.

The low threshold granted to those who want to challenge religious devotions can be accounted for not because the Supreme Court is anti-religious. On the contrary, they have espoused a religion and are merely using any opportunity they can to assert its supremacy over other religions. The same yearning for recognition that drives "Fundamentalist Christians" to gain state support for prayer in schools is, ironically, also fueling the Supreme Courts rejection of such non-secular invocations. (I use quotations because a true Fundamentalist is secure in their belief and does not want or need validation from the state. In fact the involvement of secular institutions waters down spiritual practice.) The SC's religion like all others demands an exclusive right to knowledge and is threatened by anyone who claims otherwise within the sphere of their control. They are insecure because the basis of their religion is really pretty and relies on at least a modicum of popular support - since they are constantly invoking the name of "We the People" in their defense. Therefore they must act with full moral force in asserting themselves as preeminent within the realm of governmental institutions.

The tables have turned on religious institutions. Whereas, the Catholic Church once used state power to censure the admittedly irrational and un-rigorous "science" of Galileo; now the Supreme Court removes from government the irrationality of religion. The prevailing theme which arises of course is that of the inevitability of irrationality - Reason can never be proven or even found only the modes of knowledge/power production have changed. Ironically, nowadays it is religion not Galileo's mad science which acts as a site of resistance to the prevailing knowledge production.

The people of the US can be said to be a bi-theistic people. On average they have two belief systems. First is the uniform set of secular beliefs of the Founding, and the second are their particularist religious beliefs. I personally think this is a cool tradition. This underlying tension between our two selves is a unique opportunity for USians to invision and contemplate pluralism. We are schizophrenic, we live in two realities. One foot in the secular world and one in the spiritual. I would not, If I were you, simply cast one half aside focusing wholly on the other. This will simplify your life; But if you are instead able to life in flux than this uneasiness created between the secular and the spiritual can enhance our perspective on life.

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