Imagine if you will legendary Western philosopher Socrates encountering pseudo-Republican philosopher Sarah Palin one day. Watch the deconstruction of the Sarah Palin myth through the use of the Socratic method, which is the classical technique of asking questions to dismantle preexisting ideas.
Socrates: I am glad to have the opportunity to talk to you, Sarah.
Sarah: I can’t tell you what an honor it is to share this evening with you. And oh my gosh we will we will have fun tonight. Are any of your students reporters?
Socrates: Before now, Sarah, Americans had a high reputation among the peoples of the world for their embrace of liberty and for their egalitarian ideals. In their founding documents, they proclaimed that all men are created equal and possessed certain natural and inalienable rights. I do not know about natural rights, Sarah. Forgive me but I am poor as my fellow citizens in this. I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance. Are they something that can be seen, or touched, these rights?
Sarah: You can see them you betcha, and touch them too, dontcha know. Those Founding Fathers of ours, all of them really, came collectively together to form this union and wrote the Constitution.
Socrates: So the Constitution contains these rights?
Sarah: You betcha!
Socrates: Forgive me if I have trouble understanding this. Are you saying that these rights exist because they were written down?
Sarah: The Constitution, our dear Constitution, did not give us our rights, Socrates. May I call you Socrates?
Socrates: By all means.
Sarah: Our rights came from God and they are inalienable rights. The Constitution created the government to protect our God-given and unalienable rights.
Socrates: I do not see that said in the Constitution you refer to but perhaps that is of no matter. We shall see.
Sarah: It says “creator,” which is another word for Almighty God, and I just ask the Holy Spirit you know to just fill us up.
Socrates: Yes, well I understand the idea of a creative principle. There are many ways to understand the divine. But we shall proceed as if your thesis is correct and on that basis. So in the country of the Americans people can do what they wish?
Sarah: No, there are some things we can do and some things we cannot do. It’s the same in this great nation and we’re just so blessed to live here, as in your City States. The government regulates these laws, but the government is regulated by the Constitution. You can’t pursue happiness, Socrates, if it means breaking the law or violating other people’s rights.
Socrates: I see. So in the United States you say that the founding documents state that everybody has a right to seek life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but that this is a mere formality, a reaffirmation of rights already a priori known and agreed to exist.
Sarah: Yes, that’s right, and you know, Socrates, loving America and praying for her, really it is our solemn duty.
Socrates: Let us examine this quest for a moment. Perhaps we can learn something after all about these natural rights after all, and I might go away from this meeting wiser. Does everyone possess them equally?
Sarah: The Constitution says that all men are created equal.
Socrates: Then all citizens have the same rights. There is no distinction among them.
Sarah: Yes, that’s right.
Socrates: Then, all things being equal, as they seem to be if what you say is true, if a man wishes to marry a man, he can do so.
Sarah: I don’t support defining marriage as anything but between one man and one woman, and I think through nuances we can go round and round about what that actually means. I’m being as straight up with you Socrates as I can in my non- support for anything but a traditional definition of marriage.
Socrates: Perhaps I am confused again, my girl. Does the Constitution say this?
Sarah: It’s in the Bible.
Socrates: But not in the Constitution.
Socrates: But the Constitution, you say, is based on the Bible. Do you agree or not?
Sarah: I do, Socrates.
Socrates: I am no expert in this matter but I do not recall it speaking of rights but rather of restrictions. Does the Mosaic Law in the Bible speak of pursuing happiness or of inalienable rights?
Sarah: No, Socrates. But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about…
Socrates: Does it speak of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
Sarah: No. But It’s still snowing in Alaska, and new snow falling and…
Socrates: Interesting. Tell me this as one who has more knowledge of these affairs then I. Which has precedence in the United States? This Constitution or the Mosiac Law?
Sarah: The Mosaic Law is the basis for the Constitution! Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant — they’re quite clear — that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the ten commandments.
Socrates: How so? Did you not say that your Mosaic Law says nothing about pursuing happiness?
Sarah: I have said all along that America is based on Judeo-Christian beliefs and, you know, nobody has to believe me though. You can just go to our Founding Fathers’ early documents and see how they crafted a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution that allows that Judeo-Christian belief to be the foundation of our lives. And our Constitution, of course, essentially acknowledging that our unalienable rights don’t come from man; they come from God. So this document is set up to protect us from a government that would ever infringe upon our rights to have freedom of religion and to be able to express our faith freely.
Socrates: How then can one be based upon the other when they are in disagreement? Let us say you take this matter before a court. Upon which basis will the judge render his verdict? Would the judge open the Bible and point to a page or would he point to the Constitution?
Sarah: He would point to what the Constitution says.
Socrates: Let me see if I understand what you are saying. A person has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex if that is the person they love, but a person may not marry a person of the same sex if that is the person they love. It does not seem, as you claim, that the quest for life, liberty and happiness, is an equal one.
Sarah: It is equal. I don’t have the right to marry a person of the same sex either. To grant that right would be to grant extra rights to homosexuals and nobody has a right to extra rights.
Socrates: How is it an extra right if the Constitution says that everyone possesses it, but some do not? It seems to me that an existing right has not been extended to all concerned, despite the lofty claims of the original document.
Sarah: Well you know, Socrates, we dedicate our country to god. Our country has been touched by god; our country was dedicated to god. We need to get back to that.
Socrates: It follows from this reasoning, Sarah, that natural rights, though you say they come from God, appear to have the most unnatural quality of not applying equally to all, but rather being restricted to a few, which seems an odd species of right. It seems more on the order of natural restrictions than rights that you speak, that by nature some people have more rights than others and that not every citizen enjoys equal fruits of citizenship. Perhaps you are a wizard, Sarah, that you can make restrictions and rights to be one and the same. If what you say is true, then I must profess that I know nothing at all.
A special thanks to PoliticusUSA’s resident Palinolgist Sarah Jones for her vast knowledge of all things Palin, and her tireless provision of assistance and information necessary to this post.