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Robert J. Elisberg

Robert J. Elisberg

Posted: December 26, 2006 01:30 PM

When Goode Congressmen Go Bad


During this past Christmas season of joy to the world, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) sent out his holiday letter to supporters, condemning the election of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), solely for Mr. Ellison's religious beliefs.

Amid the presents now-opened and crèches taken down, it's the shining star that lingers. Bright. And unextinguished. And still uncondemned by the White House.

Kudos, Mr. Goode. You've done America proud. It's important to know that religious intolerance and cruel, divisive thoughtlessness lives in your district, where it can stand as a clear reminder to all why we are sending Americans to die in Iraq, fighting for freedom for all.

That is why it is a message of peace on earth and Goode will that bears repeating as we head into the new year. As yet unrepudicated by the Bush Administration.

It is a message condemning an entire United States congressional district which in open, full-knowing judgment voted for the candidate they believed was the most qualified to represent them. An action which speaks loudly to understanding the American Spirit towards religious tolerance, and the dream of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness for mankind.

Okay, so Virgil Goode missed that part in civics class. Just because you're a Congressman doesn't mean you can know everything. Though, sure, the basics would be a nice starting point.

In his letter, the Congressman harangues, "...if American citizens don't wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran."

Remarkably, in some ways, this is eerily similar to the Robert Elisberg position on politics: if American citizens don't wake up, there will likely be many more racist, intolerant bigots elected to office and demanding use of the hangman's noose.

My position is that Americans must first and foremost understand the U.S. Constitution if they are going to swear to defend it - whatever book they demand to use, be it the Bible, phone directory or "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

It's hard to tell if Virgil Goode is pandering to his base, or simply being base.

What isn't hard to tell is that the eerily silent Republican Party - notably starting with its Compassionate Conservative ™ leader, George W. Bush - hasn't loudly repudiated Rep. Goode for his indecent, demeaning, un-American statements about a fairly-elected fellow-Congressman. And fellow American.

Apparently, therefore, this is a Republican value. Religious intolerance, political intolerance, human intolerance. You'd have thought that the recent "thumping" in the elections would have taught them something, but then - given the proposed increased in troops for a war opposed by 75% of Americans - the concept of "learning something" shouldn't be counted on.

Keep in mind that Virgil Goode did not comment on Rep. Ellison's political beliefs, character, or sports preferences. All he complained about is that Keith Ellison is a Muslim.

Now, mind you, Mr. Goode clarified that he isn't against Keith Ellison using the Koran to swear himself into office (although, he did say that). He insists he's only against immigration polices that allow people of the Muslim faith into America. (As if that's more palatable to the U.S Constitution.) If U.S. immigration policy rubs you the wrong way, and if you deeply don't like Muslims - or Baptists, Lutherans or Catholics - that's a personal choice. And an intolerant one. Me, I don't like mushrooms. And bad ones can cause botulism. But if people want to vote for a mushroom, as did the voters of Virgil Goode's district, that's their right.

That's their right.

But if you want to restrict Muslims from entering the country, to keep them from voting for other Muslims, then why stop there? Why not restrict American citizens from converting to the Muslim faith? Indeed, if you want to restrict one religion, then you're willing to erase the line of religious tolerance. You are acknowledging that Hindus could be next. Or Calvinists, Jews and Episcopalians.

Virgil Goode hates terrorists who are Muslims. We get it. Most Americans, though, hate terrorists of every creed.

Keep in mind that Timothy McVeigh was a Roman Catholic when he blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building, an act believed to be religious-based. So, if you're erasing lines for religious tolerance, be careful you don't get chalk on your own pants.

In his letter, Rep. Goode notes with pride that on his office wall are The Ten Commandments and "In God We Trust." But nowhere does he say if the United States Constitution is up there. Given that that's the only thing a Congressman swears to defend, Goode's priorities demonstrate his unfitness for political office. I include that of dog catcher and gas meter inspector.

Of course, President Bush has been quoted as referring to the Constitution as "just a piece of paper," so Mr. Goode has company in unfitness.

Mr. Goode refers to Keith Ellison as "the Muslim Representative from Minnesota." But he's not. He's the Democratic Representative. Just as Mr. Goode was not elected the Christian Representative of his district. If Virgil Goode would like to be a Christian Representative of something, of course, I'm sure the papacy has application forms in the Vatican.

If Virgil Goode had had one of those U.S. Constitution thingees on his wall, he might have understood that.

A fat lot of goode it would have done him, though.