Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Second class citizens


This is one of those show-stoppers that people drag out in discussions, a phrase that wins the day merely by being spoken. Like "separate but equal".  Or in a pinch, "Jim Crow."

As a matter of fact, I am in favor of different classes of citizens. The mania for levelling everyone is, well, a mania. One of the great weaknesses of the Enlightenment was that its devotion to reason turned out to be vulnerable to huge levels of abstraction. I more and more regret Jefferson's "all men are created equal." He might have said more defensibly, if far less elegantly, "all men are created with equal right to life, liberty and property, and the pursuit of happiness." But, brilliant Founding Father though he was, he was a Francophile and given to moods of rhetorical excess.

Our Constitution still enshrines second-class citizenship, actually mandates it. When some people wanted Austrian-born Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for President, calls were made, of course, to erase the discriminatory clause which, barely concealing its xenophobia,  limits this office to natural-born citizens. In our age of global blah-blah, how can this antique requirement, blah blah, which insults our immigrant fellow-citizens and new arrivals, blah-blah, depriving us, blah-blah.

Our nation's capital has long been deprived of a full voice in Congress. And is it an accident that Washington "Chocolate City" DC is more than half Black...I mean African-American? To say nothing of all the mostly People of Color felons deprived of the vote for life.

And then there is a group of folks, not negligible especially here in the People's Republik of Laputa By The Bay, who find the restriction of voting rights to citizens to be "discriminatory". (You can smell the racism.) Do you remember the calls for a "global voice" in the selection of the US Prez during ourlast elections, on the grounds that since we have so much influence, it's only fair to let the "world community" which holds us in so much contempt take part...and possibly correct our bad choices.

There's also the rank ageism. According to the Constitution, you have to be 35 to be President, 30 to be a Senator (and a citizen for at least 9 years) and 25 to be a Congressman. Sheer unconcealed arbitrary hatred for youth: ephebophobia, even pediaphobia. And people under 18 are cruelly restricted from voting across the board...an insult to our young people and our children, who, after all, are our future. And in many cases, innocence and hope still intact, they can see more clearly than so-called adults.

And I really wonder why folks get all bent out of shape about the Electoral College but hardly raise a whisper about the grotesque inequality of the bi-cameral Legislature. The House of Representatives is pretty representative, with seats apportioned by population. But then all that fake people-power gets erased by the ridiculous notion that each State gets 2 Senators, regardless of size. The practically empty state of Wyoming's 570,000 (86% White) citizens get an equal voice with (oh so diverse) California's 30 million --50+ times larger!--, or Texas' 27 million or New York's almost 20 million, etc. That system really renders massive numbers of Americans --racial and ethnic minorities especially--second-class, their voices diluted beyond recognition just to please some misguided 18th century obsession with "States".

So many second-class citizens.

I wish there were a lot more.


Anonymous said...

1. Maybe Jefferson should have said, "All men are created equal, and then use their unalienable freedoms to go equally wrong somehow."

2. The 1% aren't in this world to live up to the expectations of the 99%. And the 99% aren't in this world to live up to the expectations of the 1%. But if the 1% and the 99% could find each other it would be beautiful.

3. "A regime divided against itself cannot stand? That's the whole point! Weak politics, baby, weak politics! So don't rock the democratic Leviathan with accusations of white maelstrom privilege all over the place." Baron Montesquieu

P.S. "I never metanarrative I didn't like." Will Rogers Lyotard

Anonymous said...

»Whales and dolphins 'should have legal rights'
The Guardian - ‎Feb 20, 2012‎
Campaigners who believe that dolphins and whales should be granted rights on account of their intelligence are to push for the animals to be protected under international law. ...«

Call me Ishmael if you want, but my sense is that the whale and dolphin community is the proper global voice that the American judiciary should recognize as constitutionally entitled to control nominations for the American presidency.

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