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Daniel Ruth

Even wackos need to stand and be counted

No, that is not The Internationale burbling in the background. No, this is not a communist plot to take your guns. And no, no, no, a thousand times no (insert sigh) this is not a Trilateral Commission/United Nations/New World Order scheme to invade your precious bodily fluids.

It's just — oh dear — the census. Please, put down that pitchfork. Go ahead, put it down, now.

And yet there some elements of the paranoid Planet Zircon 9 wing of the Republican Party who have expressed distrust toward the census — as if efforts by the federal government to count how many people live in the United States are something akin to Red Dawn II.

Both Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who is quickly becoming the Mommie Dearest of the tea party handwringers, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the Mr. Dithers of delusion, have decried the census as an egregious intrusion into the privacy of Americans, raising dark fears over how the information collected by government head-counters might be used for good or (cue The Phantom of the Opera theme) — pure EEEEEVIL.

This was probably inevitable. After all, we have devolved into a conspiratorial, fearful society that sees Che Guevara lurking behind every postage stamp. There are actually folks who suspected President Barack Obama's speech to schoolchildren to study hard was really a coded message to lure them into a Marxist/Trotskyite/Leninist re-education camp.

Bachmann and Paul, the Barbie and Ken of the Glenn Beck lemming crowd, accused the jackbooted census takers of overstepping their legal authority as they go about the nefarious business of trying to find out what your exact age is, which would seem to be a problem only in Charo's household.

Both the Steve and Eydie of the "You talkin' to me?" movement argue the census goes way beyond its constitutional mandate, representing a virtual police state intrusion into the sanctity of our private lives.

And when you stop to think, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, that since 2009 there has been a 244 percent jump in the number of so-called patriot (read: the sky-is-falling) and militia groups populated by more twitching conspiracists since Lyndon LaRouche last dined alone, it is not unreasonable to conclude Bachmann and Paul have no shortage of fellow travelers of Branch Davidian/Ruby Ridge wonks hanging on their every demagogic utterance.

Since 1790, the federal government has been taking the measure of the citizenry. It is probably the most banal of all civic responsibilities citizens are asked to participate in. And over the years, there have been far more detailed census forms, which asked households how many cars the resident possessed, or how many toilets were in the house, or how many phones.

Bachmann has taken the bold, profile-in-courage position that the only question she intends to respond to in the census is the number of people (heaven help them) who are residing in her bunker. Well, that's about all the census takers want to know anyway. Thanks for your cooperation, congresswoman.

The current census form, which literally takes less than five minutes to fill out, or about the same length of time that it takes for Michele Bachmann to make Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction look like Sandra Day O'Connor, only has 10 lousy, stinking questions to answer, most notably how many people live in the same household.

The form asks if the residence is owned or rented. The census also asks for your phone number, but since George W. Bush was probably tapping it during his administration, the government already has that bit of information. Just kidding, sort of.

And finally, the census Stasi asks for name, gender and age/date of birth, and the race of the residents. This is not exactly 1984 meets The Prisoner stuff.

For the sake of Bachmann and Paul and their spear-carriers of the lunatic fringe, the census does not ask how many camouflage-attired gun-toting survivalists living under your roof are more certifiably insane than Ezra Pound. It does not ask how many black helicopters are currently hovering over your residence. It does not inquire as to whether you are a member of the NRA, or a Michigan militia, or the Posse Comitatus.

It does not ask how many pythons you own, or if you have a tattoo of Sarah Palin cradling a Tech 9 on your …, well nobody wants to know that.

And when the census asks if someone living in your residence sometimes lives someplace else, it is not referring to the speaking-in-tongues-to-himself Uncle Billy Bob, who also believes Barack Obama is the Antichrist, and who occasionally sleeps in a cave, eating small rodents while awaiting the coming Armageddon. We'll just not count him, okay?

So go ahead and be brave, so very brave, and fill out the census form. After all, in a society that freely invades its own privacy every day via Facebook and Twitter and blogging, there isn't much the government doesn't already know about us.

Even wackos need to stand and be counted 04/15/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 15, 2010 11:10pm]

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