Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Stand Up and Be Counted

By now my census form should have arrived at its destination.

This was Lauren's first time being counted, though Tabitha made it into the last one by the skin of her teeth. I showed them their information on the form before I mailed it back. It's their information. They should know.

I kind of like the whole notion of a census - that every so often, the nation pauses to try to figure out who exactly is floating around inside its borders. There's a lot of us Americans and we move around quite a bit, so figuring out how many of what kind where is something of a challenge. Plus, historians can use this data to find out all sorts of things about the way the country was made up at various points in our past. Someday someone who has my job will look at my census record and wonder who I was. Not that they'll find out much about me particularly, beyond the names of my family and what I thought my race was (a notoriously difficult and subjective judgment). But there you go.

So I am somewhat appalled by the blithering nonsense coming out of the radical right wing in this country about how awful the census is, how it is somehow unconstitutional, a prelude to ... well, something bad, surely, and how they plan to boycott it and willfully break the law by not filling out their forms. Because lawbreakers are so American, you see - patriots, every last one of them, they have the right to choose which laws they will obey and which they will not, unlike the rest of us. But don't you try to break any of the laws they support, because then you are a traitor and the terrorists have won.

So there.

Well, I for one say that those people should do their bit for paranoia and ignore their census forms entirely. Then we sentient Americans can fill in ours and have their Congressional representatives reapportioned toward us, thus sparing us their indignant howls from our centers of government. Go ahead, morons! Please place your noses in the box over there, your knives in the box next to it, and rest assured that your faces have been good and spited. Pay no attention to the gales of helplessly malicious laughter surrounding your self-righteous stand for whatever you were self-righteously standing for. They aren't coming from Real Americans. Just Americans who count.

Honestly, people, how stupid can you get and still walk erect?

The thing I find most grimly amusing are the assertions that the census is unconstitutional. Have these people read the Constitution? There are very few positive duties enjoined upon the federal government by that document. The Constitution lays out quite a number of things that the government CAN do if it wants to. It can coin money, for example, and negotiate treaties, though nowhere does it say that it must do those things. The Constitution also lays out a number of things that the government is FORBIDDEN to do, such as impose religious tests for public office, or pass bills of attainder. But there are very few things that the federal government is REQUIRED to do.

The census is one of them.

It's also one of the few things that is required of the government that is actually fun.

When I was in high school my family was chosen for some long-term census project. My dad would fill out this extra-long form, and about once a year some well-dressed minion from the Census Bureau would show up with a briefcase full of paper and spend an evening interviewing my parents about their demographic information. This went on for a few years - not the whole decade, I don't think, but long enough to get a pattern going. Sometime in about forty years, all that information will be public. I may or may not be around to see it, but perhaps Tabitha and Lauren will.

And when they do, they can be glad that their family has done their bit for their country.


Jack Lynch said...

The Census is obviously unconstitutional: I defy you to find any passage in the Constitution that authorizes it. Except, of course, for the big explicit reference in Article I, Section 2.

Beatrice Desper said...

Thank you, I learned something today. The census is required.

In France, they don't ask about race or religion. We're all integrated. We don't have communities. It's hard to get used to.