Sunday, August 4, 2013

Our Founding Principles

"When economic interest is seen behind the political clauses of the Constitution, then the document becomes not simply the work of wise men trying to establish a decent and orderly society, but the work of certain groups trying to maintain their privileges, while giving just enough rights and liberties to enough of the people to ensure popular support."
-- Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States

I have only just started reading Zinn's book, but so far nearly every chapter has held some revelation about the real nature of the U.S. constitution: it is, at bottom, a classist, racist, sexist document designed solely to maintain the wealth of the aristocracy that had already grown up in the American colonies by the 18th century.

The framers of the constitution were not trying to make an egalitarian society, by any stretch of the imaginaiton. In order for the Revolution to take place, The People had to be convinced that they had a stake in opposing the British, but the rich instigators of the rebellion had also to make sure that they did not become targets of the inflamed rabble themselves.

The exclusion of blacks (who, as slaves, comprised 20-50 percent of the population at the time, depending on which area you counted), non-property-owning whites, native Americans and women from participation in the new government pretty much says it all.

These are things we all know, but until now, I have written them off to the prevailing social norms of the times during which the constitution was written and the country formed. Not any more. The next time someone tells me the social safety net has to be destroyed because it goes against the wishes of the original framers of the constitution, I'll believe them, in a way.

Take a look around: What Charles & David Koch have done to Wisconsin through Scott Walker's governorship, they fully intend to do to the rest of the country. Representative democracy is all but dead in Walker's Dairyland. The original constitution was designed to hold real democracy at bay.

This is anti-democratic, anti-commoner, and inhumane. But it is also the original intent of the founding "fathers."

1 comment:

  1. It is interesting that even in the midst of its flaws in intention, the language has inspired better ideals. It is not a democracy that was created, it is a republic, a series of layers of representation. There is no real "one man, one vote" when the popular vote has to be vetted by an Electoral College.

    Democracy should mean the equality of all the people in terms of access to information, education, basic health care, good work. The responsibility of all people to pay attention to their town or region, and the option of standing for elected office, regardless of occupation or income.