Our day of reckoning…

It is time

Our Founding Fathers established the dichotomy when they declared that the right to rule is not a “divine right”, it emanates from the will of the governed, not princes and kings. The concept of freedom as an inherent right was becoming more popular at the time. It was not understood to be a universal one, extending to all men and women, which determined our limited embrace of it from the start. How different our history would have been had the Founders recognized that freedom and liberty were ideals that were absolutes — -if they pertained to one, they must pertain to all. And so, America has lived with this inconsistency knowing it must somehow, some time, be resolved. It is as if we have failed to recognize that the denial of rights to anyone and for any length of time could be mitigated by a gradual process of “perfecting”.

Our history is replete with events that demonstrated the toxicity of our failure to impose systemic freedom, which allowed a systemic racism to corrode our democracy. The Civil War was the most obvious result and a harbinger that a moment of reckoning would come. Whether we choose to recognize it or not, this is another moment.

Constitutional Democracy

This administration has brought us to the end of that road. The “incrementalists” who believed that they would win out have miscalculated. There are no “paths to” freedoms, no comfort in a long protracted conferring of an inherent right. Persons are either free or not. No matter their race, gender, or sexual orientation, they are either equal or not. Liberty can not be dispensed in degrees. The so-called “arc of history,” it was thought, favored true democracy. Our history has proved that it favors those who wait, who stall. who obfuscate, who delay. Given time those who delay, win (see ACB).

Our argument should begin with what may have been an “originalist” miscalculation in our founding documents. Using the word “unalienable” to refer to those rights inherently possessed by virtue of one’s humanity, the presumption that these rights could be given or taken away becomes moot. Unlike what some may believe, the rights enumerated in our nation’s founding documents could not be conferred, they were inherent. In the first draft of the Declaration of Independence Jefferson and John Adams had first considered identifying those rights as “ inherent& inalienable”:

…T he Rough Draft reads “[inherent &] inalienable.” There is no indication that Congress changed “inalienable” to “unalienable”; but the latter form appears in the text in the rough Journal, in the corrected Journal, and in the parchment copy. John Adams, in making his copy of the Rough Draft, wrote “ unalienable.”

— “The Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas” by Carl Lotus Becker

Adams was an avowed abolitionist, Jefferson, a slave owner. The “unalienable” rights of the enslaved were bartered away by compromise. It was and remains an omission of choice. They debated the issue of slavery and consciously subverted their own perceived principles. They chose not to recognize these rights for an enslaved population because it would be costly. Altruism was limited by the weight of their purses,

Today, we have no such excuse. The Republicans have taken a different tack in their adherence to the “original” denial of rights. Just as the Founders knew better and still embraced their hypocrisy, Republicans have decided to choose to limit those rights through subversion of both the spirit and the letter of our Constitution. Voter suppression and gerrymandering have placed an onerous burden on the exercise of these rights by those who simply seek equality. Similar limitations are applied to the rights of groups not favored by the current ruling cabal. Women and the LGBTQ community also must fight for rights they should own without question. The problem with those who would limit the rights of others is that they fail to understand that our Founders, imperfect as they were, considered their revolution and the justifications they employed to legitimize it, as a means to constrain majoritarian overreach. Ours is a constitutional democracy. our Bill of Rights and our amendment process argue for the rights of the minorities as a bulwark against the power of the majority. The protections enumerated within the founding document of record is the best argument against any limitation of rights that apply to segments of, rather than all the governed.

The Prince of Nonsense

“One thing we’ve seen in a lot of the Black community, which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about, But he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful.”

Those born to wealth and power often take Kushner’s point. If only they would bootstrap — -as if bootstrapping was the difference between poor young blacks and Kushner’s situation. The condescension is only exceeded by their lack of awareness and arrogance. The racist stereotype engendered in Kushner’s statement is neither new nor surprising. The idea that the “Black community” is done in by an inner failure to help itself serves the purposes of both rich and powerful white men and their less advantaged white counterparts:

Racism serves the interests of both white people in power (the elites) materially and working class white people psychically, and therefore neither group has much incentive to fight it. — Critical Race Theory definition of racism (partial)

Kushner’s racism is grounded in the Black Codes of post Civil War south. It survives today as the systemic racism that is found in our institutions and our laws. Folks like Kushner fail to recognize it because it is so deeply ingrained in our culture as to be accepted:

The black codes enacted immediately after the American Civil War, though varying from state to state, were all intended to secure a steady supply of cheap labour, and all continued to assume the inferiority of the freed slaves. There were vagrancy laws that declared a black person to be vagrant if unemployed and without permanent residence; a person so defined could be arrested, fined, and bound out for a term of labour if unable to pay the fine.

— brittanica.com

A New Revolution

Originally published at https://vincerizzo.substack.com.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Vince Rizzo

Former president of the International Association of Laboratory Schools (IALS) and a founder of a charter school based on MI theory.