July 7, 2003
Some historical myths have become pervasive because they are repeated
and repeated and repeated without any dissent.
Numerous articles are currently appearing that strongly oppose the existing and upcoming Patriot Acts. Many invoke a long-standing myth that the founding fathers were ardent advocates of the Bill of Rights.
From grade school days those founding fathers have been ennobled for ushering into the world a radical new liberating political system. But most of the framers of the Constitution, if not actually opposed to those rights, were certainly not supportive. They needed the backing of the common men to fight the revolution so they proclaimed noble ideals. But it was a dubious morality, for their words and actions were similar to baby Bush's, whose pre-election "compassionate conservative" rhetoric is the opposite of his policies.
Recall that Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and other worthy humanitarian documents, was a slaveholder as well. He had as many as one hundred and eighty-five, twenty-five of them house slaves.
The Constitution was custom-built by a group of very wealthy men. They had been instructed to modify the Articles of Confederation, a compact entered into by the thirteen states. Instead of performing that task they secretly created a new document, the Constitution, vastly different from the Articles that they were to change.
Because their new Constitution would give them a government more suitable to their desires and needs.
Under the Articles, the states ceded very little of their jurisdiction to the union. Political power was retained in the states where it was closer to the people. The Articles consisted of only one branch of government, a legislature with one vote for each of the states. Its adoption required a unanimous vote.
The designers of the Constitution feared democracy. They feared a government of the people who might dilute the wealth and power of those elite founders. Therefore, the new document was designed to protect their wealth and insure that the elite shall permanently retain their wealth, power, and control of the government.
The Constitution ceded more power to the central government than the Articles. In addition to a legislature, it had an executive and judicial branch. Only one part of the new government would be directly elected -- the lower house of the legislature, the House of Representatives. The upper house, the Senate, would be appointed by the elite governing bodies of each state; the President by elite electors of each state; and the judiciary by the president and Senate. The checks and balances of the various branches, rather than fostering democracy, were a means for maintaining the status quo. Property rights were sacrosanct.
A splendiferous accomplishment! The new elite government would write the laws and enforce them through their control of the legislative and executive branches. Should there be objections their judicial branch would know how to rule. An ideal system to legally rob from the poor and give to the rich!
Knowing that the people preferred the Articles, ratification by the states would be difficult so the founders provided that only nine needed to approve it for it to become effective. But to overcome objections and get even nine states, they had to respond to the people's demand for a bill of rights. They promised that those rights would be added within a year of ratification.
The Bill of Rights was not included in the design of the Founding Fathers' 'property rights' constitution, but was forced upon them by popular demand. Even after making that promise it was only through subterfuge and coercion that the constitution secured the necessary ratification.
Over the years, the United States has been governed as the founders desired, by the elite of the country. It was rare for an ordinary citizen to achieve a position of power unless he/she had already shown willingness to support their agenda. Just look at those who occupy the important offices today, including those directly elected, in the Senate and House -- are they not millionaires?
How can legislation be enacted to provide for the needs of the people -- health care, welfare for the poor, prison reform, rights of immigrants, etc. -- when those who govern are, if not antagonistic to those needs, ignorant or unconcerned with the desperate conditions of so many?
The major advances -- extension of suffrage, civil rights, social security, minimum wage, Medicare, welfare, etc. -- resulted from long hard-fought efforts of the people over the resistance of the elite who felt that each advance somehow chipped away at their precious property rights.
The '60s were a unique period in American history. The voice of the people resounded more loudly than previously. The Vietnam War was only one among many issues for public outcry. Among others gaining adherents were civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, and the environment. To stem the tide, the federal government entered into an area that until then was almost exclusively a state operation -- criminal justice. Prosecuting drug use, a victimless crime, became the vehicle for squelching the proponents of these issues.
Repressive laws were enacted and vigorously enforced to mete out extremely harsh sentences. Police forces were expanded, new military type equipment was supplied, and funding was increased.
Substantial numbers of the underclass, the potential activists, were sentenced to long prison terms. After their sentences were complete, they frequently discovered that they had lost their right to vote. Fear struck many potential activist recruits. While the poor schnooks were being whomped, the privileged, including the CIA, major banks, corporations, politicians, and judges, exploited the drug trade to extract enormous winnings.
The criminal escapade has been so successful that the U.S. is now number one in the world in criminalizing its citizens. With five per cent of the world's population, it has a quarter of the world's prisoners. More are imprisoned in the U.S. than all European countries combined. This is in spite of the fact that many states are now releasing prisoners before their terms are complete because of shortages in the state budgets.
How could a country that continuously proclaims how wonderful life is within its borders have such an enormous criminal population? Either there is something wrong with the system or there is something wrong with the citizens and residents of that supposed paradise. The ballooning of the prison population did not result from a drastic crime wave hitting the country since about 40 per cent are incarcerated for victimless crimes.
Could this wonderful system that thrives off the misery of millions but provides profits in the billions to its military-industrial complex, its prison-industrial complex, its H.M.O.-Pharmaceutical rip-off system, its monopolistic subsidized media conglomerates, etc. really be in the wrong?
The drug war counterattack effectively halted an accelerated progressive pace and gradually reversed many of those hard-won gains. As a result, the tables were turned and with the aid of subservient think tanks and media they lulled the majority to support various reactionary remedies that have eroded the hard-fought victories of the past.
9/11 was for the elite almost too good to be true. The administration hurriedly pushed a slew of unwarranted legislation before a pusillanimous congress that quickly and almost unanimously passed them. A paralyzed citizenry passively tolerated the erosion of the many hard-fought gains.
The reactionary momentum initiated by the drug war was so accelerated that it permitted the administration to ride roughshod over the constitutional guarantees of the Bill of Rights.
An aroused public forced a Bill of Rights into the Constitution. Aroused groups of citizens, often engaged in lengthy struggles, pushed through the major progressive benefits that Americans were able to enjoy.
An aroused public all over the world -- while originally sympathetic to the plight of the United States after the disaster of 9/11 -- now regard the abominable foreign policies of the Bush cabal as the greatest danger in the world!
An aroused US public must now stem the unconscionable policies of this administration and regain what is rightfully theirs!
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America the 'beautiful' on Swans
Philip Greenspan on Swans (with bio).
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