Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights
Note: title inspired by a tweet from Congressman Adam Schiff.
In Congress, July 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown, that mankind is more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Source: National Archives
Just spitballing, but “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all [rich, cisgender, propertied white] men are created equal” is probably how the “founding fathers” understood, wrote, and read the text. Conservatives are after all, all about “original intent.”
Thom Hartmann has a nationally syndicated talk show discussing political opinions that I generally agree on. One particular essay on his blog (short for weblog, which is the ultimate digital spitballing), talked about Russell Kirk, the architect of arguably the Bible on conservatism: The Conservative Mind. An excerpt:
All over social media people are asking, “Why would anybody embrace fascism? Why would they be willing to overthrow a functioning democratic republic?”
The answer is simple: safety.
Safety is at the foundation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. If a person doesn’t feel safe, they’re not able to even think about other dimensions of life. And, increasingly, working-class white men in America are feeling unsafe. It’s a new and shocking feeling for a group that’s been in power for over 400 years, and producing a predictable backlash.
In 1981 Ronald Reagan and the GOP began a 40-year project to disempower and gut the American middle class, including white people in that economic basket.
He wanted to take away their safety.
There was an actual rationale for this, laid out by Russell Kirk in his 1951 book The Conservative Mind. Kirk argued that without clearly defined classes and power structures, society would devolve into chaos. He essentially predicted in 1951 that if college students, women, working people, and people of color ever got even close to social and political power at the same level as wealthy white men, all hell would break loose.
African Americans, women, LGBT, Hispanic/Latino, Millenials, Gen-Z represents the “hell breaking loose.”
Joe Manchin just lied about changing the filibuster to a talking filibuster, and a simple majority vote is “unprecedented.” News flash: it’s not.
“In total, 161 exceptions to the filibuster’s supermajority requirement have been created between 1969 and 2014, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution’s Molly Reynolds.” The Filibuster, Explained, Tim Lau, The Brennan Center
Just spitballing, but if I, a non-lawyer, can find this info, what contempt do Manchin, Sinema, and every Republican senator HAVE for American citizens? They frankly think the electorate is dumber than a box of rocks, and their actual constituents are their donors.
We treat our founding documents as sacred political texts, but not as in the translated kind that can be read by all (King James is a translation into at the time, the common “street language” of the day). In this case, the text regresses; devolves. It requires some legal training to discern the ins and outs of its machinations, like one used to need Hebrew and Latin to read and understand scripture. It requires citizens to be trained in civics to KNOW what their rights, privileges, and responsibilities are as citizens.
“One of the things taken out of the curriculum was civics,” Zappa went on to explain. “Civics was a class that used to be required before you could graduate from high school. You were taught what was in the U.S. Constitution. And after all the student rebellions in the Sixties, civics was banished from the student curriculum and was replaced by something called social studies. Here we live in a country that has a fabulous constitution and all these guarantees, a contract between the citizens and the government – nobody knows what’s in it…And so, if you don’t know what your rights are, how can you stand up for them? And furthermore, if you don’t know what’s in the document, how can you care if someone is shredding it?” “Notes From the Dangerous Kitchen,” a review and a quote from Frank Zappa, Critics at Large, also: Apathy, Crises, and Zappa.
Van Bullock (R.I.P.) was my ninth-grade Social Studies Teacher. He was a short, stocky man with an impressive bearing and presence, white-haired mop hairdo kind of like Moe Howard of the Three Stooges in wire progressive lenses. It was 1976, our country’s Bicentennial year, 8 years after the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy as the country tried mightily to build bridges in the place of previous De Jure and De Facto walls. Mr. Bullock’s teaching technique was using stenciled notes he passed out to all of us, particularly me and Ve Pauling (my Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother), lecturing with the fire of a camp meeting preacher.
Van Bullock would lecture and captivate a crowd of 25 fourteen-year-old teens that HAD the notes in front of us: we still took notes in the margins, on the back of each stenciled page. Tests were open book, open note, and challenging: he expected great detail and essay answers. The name of the class was Social Studies, but what he was teaching was lessons of citizenship: Civics.
Mr. Bullock was teaching Civics because he had the freedom to do so. He was not held to the standard of preparing students for a high-stakes standardized test because no such machination existed from the testing industrial complex.
Van Bullock was teaching all of us, in a forced-bused integrated class in East Winston the rudimentary fundamentals of citizenship. Though forced, it exposed us beyond our cultures and expanded our tolerance, friendships, and spheres of influence. We were learning – side-by-side – together. We looked different, we lived on different sides of town and if we attended worship centers probably had different perspectives on that as well. We could all agree that learning those building blocks to take on the responsibilities of adulthood and the world we were all growing up into was important. We had classroom debates; mock elections: history came alive in that man’s room! We learned (hopefully putting a few at ease), to make, change or ABOLISH a Constitutional Amendment it takes a 2/3 majority in both houses of congress (67 senators; 292 house members) and 3/4 of the states – 38 in our case – to ratify it in their legislatures. I tried to capture and emulate that magic every time I taught physics and math at Manor High School. Sometimes I was successful; sometimes I wasn’t.
I assumed wrongly that this would always be the focus of our nation’s education enterprise, preparing citizens for ownership of our federal republic.
I am sadly aware Mr. Bullock, quite clearly, that it is not. Source: Van Bullock
Just spitballing, maybe ignorance and fascism was always the “break glass” scheme in case of expanded democracy (“too much democracy“) overwhelmingly demanded by marginalized groups? “All hell breaking loose” if you’re a Russell Kirk conservative. EVERYBODY voting beyond rich, cisgender, property owners is a catastrophe to fascists. Am I the only one who feels our historical poetry of this nation’s origins amounts to four centuries of self-gaslighting? Did climate change, income inequality pointed out since Occupy Wall Street, science denialism, the pandemic, and January 6, 2021, just rip the scales off our eyes, and REVEAL who we truly are?
I don’t think we’ll ever know.
And we sadly didn’t clone Mr. Bullock for a time such as this.
“The reason they call it the American Dream is that you have to be asleep to believe it.” George Carlin