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Friday, 09 May 2014 06:24

Constitutional Creationists Like Scalia Are as Dangerous to the Promise of Democracy as Biblical Creationists

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aconstconvUS no longer looks exclusively like the white male founding fathers. It shouldn't. (Photo: Visit Wikipedia)

The facts of the US Constitution speak for themselves: However lofty and noble the document, the US was founded as a democracy for propertied white males.

 

This is fact.

 

After all, women were not even granted the right to vote until the beginning of the last century. Slaves were each considered three-fifths of a person for the purposes of allowing slaveholder states larger representation in Congress, but obviously, "chattel" was not granted a vote. Native Americans, whose land was confiscated by the expanding states, were not US citizens. There are more examples, but suffice it to say, the white males who pretty much ran the colonies under King George were the same white males, more or less, who ran the newly "emancipated" nation of the United States.

 

The most important contribution of the US to world governance was hardly who was running it. Yes, the country broke away from the reigning concept of monarchal rule by bloodline, but it did not change the principle of governance exclusively by propertied white males. However, the so-called "founding fathers" did do something differently: They created an elastic, resilient Constitution that was subject to amendment and allowed for the evolution of democracy to become more inclusive over time.

 

When Antonin Scalia and the Federalist Society speak of "strict constructionism," they are referring to the Constitution without its amendments. They are also evoking what the governance of the nation looked like when it was founded: white, male and predominantly Christian (although actually many of the revolutionary leadership were deists). Scalia's concept of originalism is as much a historical longing for the gender, religion and race of people who governed and owned property in the US's first couple of centuries as it is an attempt to justify regressive policies, using legal rants that take the shape of twisted pretzels.

 

BuzzFlash at Truthout recently posted an informative video overview of some of the pertinent historical iniquities in "A Brief History of White Privilege, Racism, and Oppression in the US."

 

It should also be recalled that although the United States was founded as a "democracy" during a revolution that declared it was no longer a colony of England, it immediately adopted the colonial strategies of empire-building. Indeed, the expansion of the original 13 colonies to eventually include all the land between the Eastern seaboard and the West Coast (and eventually Alaska, Hawaii and various commonwealths and territories including Puerto Rico) was a colonial expansion, accomplished through war and purchases from other nations. Of course, it included no payments to the real owners of the lands: Native Americans.

 

In fact, the indigenous population of what is now the United States was nearly decimated through war (with the US holding the upper hand, thanks to the type of firearms they used) and deadly germs that decimated many of the Native Americans who were susceptible to them (including smallpox).  The mass murder of indigenous people, including women and children, was merely an extension of what the European nations were doing in their colonial empires, where land seizures and horrid extermination of native populations regularly occurred.

 

The Eurocentric history of the US that so many of us learned in school - the jingoistic one about rugged individualism and manifest destiny - is symbolized in the phrase newspaper publisher Horace Greeley popularized before the Civil War: "Go West, young man!"

 

Even though Greeley was considered a relative progressive at the time, his exhortation implicitly acknowledges that the expansion of the US was for white men. After all, Native Americans already had been living on Western land for centuries upon centuries. For even the liberals of the North, the US was a nation of white men blazing a trail for a new style of colonial civilization called a "democracy," in which only those of a certain gender and skin color could participate.

 

Recently, the Supreme Court upheld once again the "constitutionality" of prohibiting affirmative action - in this case at Michigan colleges, as imposed by a state referendum. The United States still has a long road to travel in counterbalancing at least two centuries of an institutional political and economic structure created in the interests of maximizing white male power.

 

Bill O'Reilly could debate that point all he wants, but he is a living embodiment of it.  He is a key spokesperson for the angry Christian white males who are furious and bewildered that power is being shared with women and people of other skin colors and religions.

 

The Constitution is a magnificent document that allows - through the amendment process - for an evolutionary democracy. It is also the role of the courts to adapt it, when necessary, to contemporary times. Otherwise, it is like taking the Bible literally.

 

When it comes to the founding document of this country, we should have no tolerance for "creationists."

 

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