Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Spirit Of The American Constitution

Many political writers, invoke the spirit of the American Constitution – as something that is extinct. This ’spirit’ has been a matter conjecture, dispute and speculation - due to subsequent actions.

PT Barnum (The Propaganda Slayer) says

“Truth is, this spirit of the Founding Fathers is a mythical animal,” . He continues, “It never existed. Ever. To all those who claim (or feel) that America today is not what the founding fathers meant it to be, you have two options. Option one - Take a cold shower.”

PT Barnum’s second option cannot be reproduced here. But the expose by PT Barnum (the Patron Saint Of Propagandists) on the American Constitution is given below.

Regrettable Statements

Much before the American Constitution was being put to paper, an American luminary declared,

“I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!.”

His name was Patrick Henry. America then went on to give death to the Red Indians and took away the liberty of millions of Black people.

PT Barnum’s take on this - Enslaved Blacks and all the Red Indians, all marked for genocide and slavery, for the glory of the White race - conspired and claimed that Patrick Henry had included them in this declaration.

When Jefferson Dined Alone

‘All men are created,’ declared Thomas Jefferson. When confronted with the need for a solution for the Black slaves, (who, he considered, as NOT equal to Whites), he suggested that they should be sent back to Africa! Where in Africa could the slaves be sent back to? He suggested that US should create a new colony for them.

The result - Liberia. Another land of the free? Of course, the local population living in the soon-to-be-Liberia, were not consulted. They were unimportant.

Of course, he forgot to add, as long as you are White. The White Gods had decided what was best for the Black people. Benjamin Franklin’s views are illustrative of this mindset, when he said of the American Blacks, “But the majority, are of a plotting disposition, dark, sullen, malicious, revengeful and cruel in the highest degree.”

Thomas Jefferson also made some promises that all people would be allowed “pursuit of happiness” – if I remember correctly. The devil is in the details. Jefferson forgot to mention that this “pursuit of happiness” was a privilege for Whites only.

This principle of “equal in the eyes of law” was another matter of regret for Jefferson later. The US Supreme Court did decide, in the Dredd Scott case that Blacks were barred from approaching American Courts.

Jefferson had written,

“Our laws have applied the only antidote to this vice[intolerance], protecting our religions, as they do our civil rights, by putting all on equal footing.”

“Equal in the eyes of the God” created yet another problem. Women demanded the right to vote. How could women (it did not matter that they White) be allowed to vote? In yet landmark case, the US Supreme Court decided, (Myner v. Happerstett) that being a US citizen did not give women the right to vote. Finally, after more than 100 years of Women’s Suffrage Movement, the right to vote was given to the women in the US in 1924.

Land Of The Free

1798: Criticism of Government, a criminal act?

John Adams made it a crime to criticize the US Government. Fearing a French invasion, the US Congress and President John Adams passed the Alien and Sedition Acts. These gave the US Government sweeping powers to deport any person considered dangerous to the nation’s welfare, to imprison anyone found guilty of criticizing the government. Numerous people were imprisoned.

In 1800, Thomas Jefferson made this into a campaign issue - as Whites (his favorite color) were getting affected. After his election, Jefferson pardoned all those convicted under these laws. Nearly 200 years later, in 1964, the US Supreme Court found courage to declare these law as unconstitutional.

1861: Abraham Lincoln detained thousands, ignored US Supreme Court

Lincoln’s face adorns Mount Rushmore. The same President Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, suspended habeas corpus (a cornerstone of Western claim to liberty and freedom), allowed the Federal Government to run amok. Southern sympathizers were arrested without submitting evidence against them or giving them a trial. Hundreds of draft resisters are imprisoned, including newspaper editors, judges, lawyers, and legislators. An estimated 13,000 people were arrested. Lincoln ignored Chief Justice Roger Taney’s judgment which ruled that the President’s actions were unconstitutional. Lincoln used the might of the State against pro-South newspapers.

1917-18: Under Woodrow Wilson, socialist leader imprisoned for years

Distrust reached the zenith during WW1 when American citizens were suspected of being German spies. The US Congress and President Woodrow Wilson approved the Espionage and Sedition Acts. The acts gave the government authority to censor foreign language press, restrictions against use of US Mail by antiwar publications. After this if any one did express ‘disloyal or antiwar sentiments; they could be imprisoned. Suspects were targeted by the Espionage Act (1918). In a familiar routine, all dissenters were smeared as Wobblies, legal proceedings instituted against them and imprisoned. John Reed, (writer of Ten Days That Shook The World, about the Bolshevik Revolution), captured these sham trials, reporting from the Chicago court.

An estimated 2,000 people were prosecuted. Eugene V. Debs, a socialist candidate in the Presidential race, was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Charles Schenck, an author against the draft was also imprisoned. The US Supreme Court, in their long tradition of rubber-stamping many abusive laws, upheld Schenck’s conviction.

1942: 120,000 residents of Japanese Descent Interned

After the Pearl Harbor attack (1941), President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order to set up a concentration camp for 120,000 Americans residents of Japanese descent - two thirds of these are US citizens. Their crime - their Japanese descent. They were released four years later, in 1946 - one year after the surrender of the Japanese forces. Even after enemy soldiers were released. The US Supreme Court rubber stamped this decision also. Some 40 years later, in 1988, the US Congress granted surviving internees $20,000 each. A proforma official apology from the US government was also conferred on these American citizens.

1949-54: McCarthy era - Communists imprisoned

During 1950s, American leadership fanned fears of an imminent communist takeover of the world. Eisenhower stoked the fires of anti-communism and proposed the Domino Theory. Sen. Joseph McCarthy led this crusade against ‘communist traitors’. This paranoia led to the prosecution of leaders of the Communist and Socialist Parties under the Smith Act (1940). This law, 10 years after its passage in its 10th year was used with devastating effect. This act made it a crime to advocate violence against the government. Some individuals were sentenced to prison for studying works of Marx and Lenin. The US Supreme Court rubber stamped convictions under this Act.

Most egregious was the McCarthy era. The persecution of dissidents in the world’s largest democracy was no less than in any military regime. Left leaning Hollywood personalities were implicated in fabricated cases and criminal charges foisted on them based on thin (or no) evidence. The Hollywood Ten (Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Ring Lardner Jr., John Howard Lawton, Albert Maltz, Sam Ornitz, Adrian Scott and Dalton Trumbo) were banned by the Hollywood corporations. Under pressure from the Government, Hollywood’s production corporations, blacklisted alleged Communists. Eric Johnston released the Waldorf Statement on behalf of the Hollywood studios.

For many years, after the end of the witch hunt, these Hollywood corporations continued with the blacklist. Popular press targetted all the witnesses who co-operated with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) Hearings and Senator Joe McCarthy - but not the perpetrators of the witch hunt. Heads of these Hollywood corporations (who could have resisted) and figures of authority like Eisenhower, Truman, McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover and the various perpetrators went scot-free. Victims, like Elia Kazan, who collaborated, under pressure, were smeared as rats and further persecuted.

1996-2006: New laws - Secret evidence, for those on the death row

After the Oklahoma City bombing, by Timothy McVeigh, many laws were passed. The infamous Patriot Act is one such specimen on display. Congress passed other counter-terrorism laws limiting habeas corpus. But what takes the cake is the restriction on appeals for death-row inmates. Who can imagine that any law can restrict appeal against a death sentence. Any system of jurisprudence will be very circumspect about passage of such laws. But not in the land of the free.

These laws also allowed discriminatory behaviour by the US Government towards immigrants, suspected of terror activities, to be detained and deported based on ’secret’ evidence.

The American Melting Pot was another issue that the American’s did a tom-tom dance. Rightly so. They managed to melt everyone into one WASP profile. No other languages were allowed. For 200 years (nearly), Catholics (Red, White or you) could not become President in the land of the free. It took a rich Catholic man (never mind how the Kennedy clan got their money) to become the first non-WASP president. Till such time, that the Italians maintained their identity, they were kept at the fringe of American society. We are not even started on the Blacks and the Native Americans.

Americans were not allowed to learn or teach non-English languages for the best part of 200 years. All other language groups had to become American by giving up their own languages – and adopt the language of the land of the free.

America created the Monroe doctrine – supposedly an anti-colonial doctrine. But they anyway ahead and bought Philippines and Puerto Rico, illegally, removed the Queen Of Hawaii (for which they have now apologized), and have waged a war against Cuba for the last 100 years. Of course, I am not an expert on the American Constitution! Was this allowed under the American Constitution?

The new one that the Americans are now talking about is the establishment of the Federal Reserve. Some claim that the Federal Reserve was not a part of the original constitution.

After the Propaganda Slayer, PT Barnum pointed these aspects of Great American History, I am lost. Completely.

Can someone tell me what was there in the original American Constitution? Equality! Freedom! The Rule of Law?!

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