The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

The Founders’ Failures and Our Own

I am not a nationalist, which is but another form of collectivism. I have long considered myself a citizen of the world, which I put into practice over the years by living in five countries, from Africa to Germany to New Zealand. Nor am I a “patriot” in the sense most people mean. I hold a commitment to certain principles on which this nation was founded and to those principles I have loyalty.

But these days we see mobs of patriots who spit on the Constitution and hold individual liberty in utter contemp. They are more cultists following a Hitler reincarnation than they are patriots in the sense of loyalty to certain American values. And that brings up the Founders, the goals they outline and their failures, along with our own

Many people damn the Founders for all their perfections and do so by pointing to their principles. There is a great deal of privilege in hindsight. But I think something important is forgotten.

The principles and values extolled by the Founders were goals not accomplishments. Many of the Founders were quite honest that they had not achieved the values they preferred for all sorts of reasons including human fallibility. This is something the gang of five on the Supreme Court ignored. They argue the Constitution only protects those rights the Founders protected when the document was written. It is stuck in time, the way evangelicals interpret the Bible and the barbarisms found in it.

So the evangelicals want to kill gays as God commended, and Supreme Court “originalists” have said they want to criminalize being gay again because that was what the states did when the Constitution was written. Even the Founders knew there was no way to do what these traitorous “Justices” wish to do. The Court cabal argues only rights explicitly listed by the Founders are legitimate and all the other unnamed rights are not rights at all, but privileges granted by state governments as they wish.

The Founders wrote the 9th Amendment saying the very opposite: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

As the Founders thought at the time, the Constitution protected all rights, even those not listed but government power was delegated explicitly and unless stated government did not have the power. So we don’t look for an amendment saying “sodomy” is legal, we look for an enumerated power allowing them to make it a crime. Even then this wasn’t enough as the states argued they could be tyrannical if they wished, something Texas is arguing today, as is Florida. The 14th Amendment was added to say that rights can’t be denied by the states either: “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The so-called “originalists” on the Court totally ignore the 9th Amendment and regularly ignore the 14th. Some of these conservatives have gone as far as to say the 14th only applies to slaves, in spite of it saying “any person” which is all-inclusive.

To this day America is still trying to achieve the beginning point where all individuals are created equal and endowed with the same rights. Of course, today the Republicans viciously fight those founding principles and want, not to return to them, but to mimic something more akin to the old Soviet Union where individuality is stamped out and differences are cruelly subjected.

The Founders had similar problems with Southern colonies violently opposed to equality of rights and threatening the peace and stability of the new nation if it tried achieve those goals. And when they didn’t get all the repression they wanted they resorted to armed violence against the nation — much as Republicans did January 6th and continually threaten to do.

We are not achieving these American values today because violent thugs, intent on imposing a dictatorial theocracy, are biting at the bit to take over and start their own pogroms to rid the country of liberals, gays, trans persons, immigrants, secularists, etc. They are working to reverse every major advance toward equality of rights over the last 200 years and the highest court is cheering them on.

In the past free states offered sanctuary to escaped slaves from the repressive South. Now we see “free states” doing the same thing for trans kids having to escape the vicious South yet again. States such as Alabama — one of the worst failures of all the states in every sense — and Texas passing laws to arrest parents or doctors who treat trans kids. States such as California are passing laws to offer sanctuary to such victims of evangelical hatred.

The Alabama thugs in the legislature pulled an Orwellian version of Newspeak calling their repressive measure the Alabama Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act. Alabama is protecting vulnerable children the same way Putin is liberating Ukraine.

While claiming loyalty to the Constitution Republicans ignore the 9th and 14th Amendments and demand locally based tyranny when that is all they can accomplish but federal tyranny when that’s in their reach.

Well, the Founders had similar problems. Decent individuals wanted to achieve those values. Others with mixed premises only wanted them selectively. And some came along who didn’t want them at all. The reality is the Founders were never fully able to achieve the values they outlined. They failed for the same reasons we are.

Now, one important positive in this is the values outlined served as a constant reminder throughout history of our nation’s failures. It pushed previous generations to try to expand rights and liberties to groups previously ignored. We had set backs but the general trend was toward the values the Founders extolled but never achieved. The ring words of our founding documents shamed them into concessions they didn’t want to make.

Now we face the most toxic, vicious threat to genuine American values in the history of this country. We have traitors invoking patriotism to push values the Founders opposed. We have a rigged Supreme Court interpreting the Constitution in ways to strip away rights, not protect them.

We have a nation founded on individualism being swamped by bigots pushing a form of collectivist bigotry — as all bigotry ultimately is — a complete betrayal of individualistic concepts such as individual liberty, and individual rights.

All we can do is double our efforts to fight the bigotry and push toward the goals of individual rights. It is sad, thanks to the corrupt Trump, that the Supreme Court has become an open enemy of American values. We must acknowledge that the Republican Party is to us today what National Socialism was to the Weimer Republic, though they prefer to replace Jewish scapegoats with transgender ones. These cruel people may stop the nation from doing what is right, but it shouldn’t stop us.

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.