Back in November, my mother ran for tax collector of Clay Township as an unopposed write-in, and naturally she got the position. Despite her support of free choice. What does a tax collector have to do with women's rights? Nothing, of course. But while my mom stood outside the township building and talked to voters, a man apparently approached her and asked her if she was pro-life. My mother's surprisingly level-headed response was that she herself could never live with getting an abortion, but she felt there were situations in which the procedure was acceptable. The man considered this, then went inside to vote; on his way back out to his car, he stopped with my mother again, informing her that he did not vote for her, because she supports the murder of innocents. As tax collector.
But it didn't matter because my mother, the baby-killer, won anyway with an overwhelming majority of votes (seriously, like eighty-four or something), and so last week she had to go to the Lancaster County Courthouse and be sworn in as a civil servant. My dad went with her, and at her swearing in ceremony, he was appalled. Why? Because she was given the option to swear on a Bible. The option. Meaning she was not compelled to, she could have sworn on anything, or on nothing.
My father was incredulous. What could just plain swearing achieve? If you didn't swear on a Bible, then what was the point? That made it so you had to tell the truth. Apparently. Or what? Be struck by a lightning bolt and sucked straight down into Hell? It was a sign of where our country is headed, he told me, shaking his head. And I agreed; we are growing more and more diverse and less and less superstitious with every generation. What would the point of me, as an atheist, swearing on a Bible? If I'm not going to tell the truth on my own, putting my hand on a book that I don't put an ounce of faith into isn't really going to influence me to do any better. What about a Muslim or a Jew or a Zoroastrian? They might as well swear on a ham sandwich, I said, for as much good as it would do to swear on a Bible. To which my mother's friend who was over responded that an adherent to the Jewish faith probably wouldn't go for the ham sandwich thing. Touché.
I've never really understood the whole swearing on the Bible thing anyway. Especially for people who are being accused of murder or embezzlement or just about anything that involves dishonesty, hate or violence to have done in the first place. As if they'll have a moment of clarity when they see the book; it sends a shock up through their arm to remind them that the Ol' Surveillance Camera in the Sky has, indeed, got its red light on. If you need to touch the Bible to make you tell the truth, you've got some bigger issues at hand to deal with first. Because you are a sociopath. And you probably shouldn't be on the stand for anything.
As for me, if I ever need to take any kind of oath, I think I'll bring my own book for the ceremony. You can have your Bible or your Qur'an, but the only thing that is going to make me be a little more truthful is Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. What book would you swear on? Let's make this interactive.