The Dallas city government's push to remove visible reminders of the Confederacy (e.g., a splendid equestrian statue of Robert E. Lee) has put in my mind a constructive notion.
This country needs much more than a good 5-cent cigar, as was said by one of our vice presidents back before lighting up became a crime. This country needs a Committee on Approved Thought -- whose task would be keeping Americans on the straight and narrow, rewarding the right-thinking, punishing the wayward.
For entirely too long we've had the idea, based on the First Amendment to the Constitution, that it must somehow be OK to think and speak. Well, it's not OK. And it's time-consuming. A Committee on Approved Thought, funded by the federal government and appointed by the president without congressional review (because review might bring to light unapproved thoughts), could save a world of trouble. We no longer would have to debate. We could just thumb through the committee's handbook, indexed, illustrated and footnoted, with explanatory text by Middlebury College, Harvard Law School, MSNBC, The New York Times and a Dallas City Council focused on making the world forget Texas belonged to the late Confederacy.
Say we wanted to know what we're to think about particular dead people. We thumb over to page 1,984 of the manual, and there it is: "The historical harm wreaked by explorers, missionaries, pioneers, Confederate officers, economic exploiters and riffraff of the same ilk renders these offenders unmentionable, as well as un-commemorate-able. Statues of them, if any exist, are to be removed instantly, without debate or compensation; then buried in a coal mine designed for long-overdue closure."
Streets, schools and public accommodations named in honor of such like would be appropriately renamed: for instance, XYZ Drive; 12345 Elementary School; and so on. Shielding of the public's eyes from sights of unapproved horror would be a central mission of the Committee on Approved Thought, along with the banishment of unapproved ideas from daily discourse.
How simple and timesaving, how agreeable to the needs of our stressed-out age: your thoughts written down for you in advance; explanations provided. Had the founders of the country but considered such possibilities they could have eliminated the First Amendment and saved paper.
The Committee on Approved Thought would have the duty, naturally, of overseeing interactions on college and university campuses. Reining in conservative professors -- all 11 of them in the U.S., by recent count -- would free students to consult their Facebook pages during lectures as opposed to entertaining unapproved ideas. The approved ideas of all the other faculty -- e.g., donate oil profits to Zimbabwe's cash-starved government, establish Bernie Sanders University as a refuge for students resistant to class attendance -- could then make their various and much-desired impacts on public opinion.
The committee would be a useful arbiter of disputes in Congress. In fact, thanks to its determinations we would know in advance -- certainly The New York Times would advertise the fact -- that Republican proposals aimed at rationalizing failed or failing programs were heartless and quite likely racist. Page 767 of the approved-thought manual would show that Republicans hate poor people, especially poor nonwhite people, whereas Democrats would do anything for them, especially with other people's money.
House Speaker Paul Ryan's speeches could be vetted in advance for excision of references to the rights of ordinary people to live more or less according to their own unmediated desires. As is well-known, ordinary people -- witness the election of Donald Trump -- sometimes display tendencies at odds with approved thought. They are wont to assert their desire to pocket in large measure the fruits of their labor rather than hand those fruits to the government for forced redistribution.
Don't you see? If there are no forced redistributions, there's no budget for the Committee on Approved Thought to go around looking over our shoulders, instructing us what we're to think and not think. And allowing unapproved thoughts in the land of The New York Shut-Up-and-Listen Times and the Dallas How-Dare-You-Disagree-With-Us City Council -- we wouldn't want anything like that to happen!
Would we? Well... would we?