Saturday, September 26, 2009

I don't want to be in that number...

The naked, gagged, bound body of William E. Sparkman, census worker, was found hanging from a tree in an isolated cemetery in Clay County, Kentucky, but no one is saying he was murdered. Asphyxiated, yes, with "FED" written on his chest, but the state troopers will go no farther than "not a natural death." The investigation continues. What is not in question is the seething hostility to all things relating to the federal government, particularly next year's scheduled census, among the fringe right. Census workers who have survived report being greeted with racist epithets and loaded shotguns in rural areas, and spokesmen for the tinfoil helmet community have made no secret of their conviction that the fascist socialist Kenyan Nazi in the White House plans to use data gathered by his minions to further oppress white people, a/k/a "real Americans." If this is found to be murder, I think we can rule out the Weather Underground, the Black Panther Party, and the Wobblies.

Clearly Mr. Sparkman's terrible death is not covered by that condescending cliche "teachable moment," i.e., an opportunity to learn and grow from police imbecility (the Gates case) or thuggish behavior (the Joe Wilson episode). This does not mean, however, that some good may not come of it, in the same way that the murder of Emmett Till energized the civil rights movement in the 1950s. I don't believe the teabigots have thought this all the way through.

Contrary to the voices in many people's heads, the census is not a terrorist plot but a regular event mandated by the Constitution (Article I, Section 2). The founders wanted to be sure that, within the very narrow strictures they had created, the apportionment of Representatives would be as democratic as possible. Anticipating population growth and westward expansion, they provided for a census every ten years. Today the census determines not only representation but federal funding for the states. So what happens if (hypothetically speaking) the people who keep electing Michelle Bachmann decide they don't want to be counted? They don't have to be counted. The Constitution says the government has to conduct a census, but it provides no legal penalties for refusing to cooperate. All that happens (still hypothetically speaking) is that when the census is published, the Minnesota legislature studies the numbers and re-draws the map, and Bachmann's district disappears. Michelle goes back to spritzing perfume at Nordstrom, or whatever she did before. I'm fine with this. More money and power for reality-based America.

Let's conduct the 2010 census entirely by mail. Make forms available in post offices and other public places for people who don't get mail. Hire some of the millions of unemployed clerical workers to assist the non-reading and weed out the joke submissions. Let's see if white Americans become a minority even sooner than predicted.

An accurate idiot count is not worth even one more life.



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