Updated: Jul 1, 2022
A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect.
--W. E. B. DuBois
There is a malignant cancer festering in this society; a spiritual, a physical, a psychological dis-ease that Europeans brought with them when they were lost yet claimed to discover a “New World” that was already ancient when they arrived. Tragically, many of the indigenous people that literally rescued them are now extinct and their descendants are now endangered. The “Big Lie” did not begin with the MAGA President Donald Trump. It began when Europeans hijacked this continent in the name of a sinister vengeful God and a zealous belief in their “manifest destiny.”
American lies metastasized when the English Founding Fathers eloquently proclaimed a democracy based on the concept that “all men are created equal,” while they knowingly fashioned what can more accurately be described as a slave-ocracy erected on the foundation of chattel slavery and the philosophy of white supremacy. The white men that established this nation, created it for the white men who owned property in particular and for white people in general. Eight American presidents were slave owners during their tenures in office. Most notably, Thomas Jefferson, knew that enslaving Africans was evil, but they valued property and profits more. He wrote, “… I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever….”
Toxic notions of race, class and gender have always been the proverbial elephants “in the room” in American society. In an 1824 letter to Lydia Huntley Sigourney, Jefferson wrote, “I rejoice also in your advocation for the Indians rights and concur in all your sentiments in their favor…. I wish that was the only blot in our moral history, and that no other race had higher charges to bring against us. I am not apt to despair; yet I see not how we are to disengage ourselves from that deplorable entanglement, we have the wolf by the ears and feel the danger of either holding or letting him loose. I shall not live to see it but those who come after us will be wiser than we are, for light is spreading and man improving. To that advancement I look, and to the dispensations of an all-wise and all-powerful providence to devise the means of effecting what is right.”
Donald Trump is not the first President or the first politician to lie and to cynically manipulate the American people. Americans have been misled for so long, the historical lies have become their twisted hallowed truth. The recent Supreme Court decisions to overturn Roe v Wade and to strike down a New York law placing restrictions on carrying a concealed gun outside the home make it plain that too many so-called leaders in today’s America are not “wiser.” This is not the first time the Supreme Court has reversed itself. The 1896 Plessy v Ferguson and the 1954 Brown v Board of Ed rulings speak to the “Which way are the political winds blowing?” nature of The Court’s decisions.
The Founding Fathers were flawed men that chose blindness in the face of their own glaring contradictions. They produced an imperfect document. They were predominately landowning white men who glorified their whiteness in the name of a self-serving approach to God. They waged genocidal wars against the native peoples they claimed they “discovered” and carved out a new nation in a strange New World. They rationalized the brutal exploitation of their indentured servant class. They reduced enslaved Africans to “beasts of burden” and codified them as chattel. In their arrogant patriarchal way of thinking, they designated women as one of their more precious possessions.
It is painfully clear, the light Jefferson envisioned is not shining very brightly on this nation today. Even as the January 6th Committee is detailing the depths of Donald Trump’s brazen attempt to overturn the 2020 Presidential election results, Trump sycophants are winning Republican primaries trumpeting the same lies. MAGA-world means returning to a Puritanical past, when a fanatical minority could impose its will on all the people in the name of American values. It means putting women back in their place—seen, not heard, without voice, without power. It means putting the descendants of enslaved Africans back on the plantation—invisible but hidden in plain view. It means keeping the descendants of the true natives out of sight and out of mind on reservations. It means perverting the 2nd amendment to concoct a rationale to make it easier to put more guns into more hands in response to more Uvaldes and more Buffalos.
That our understanding of the Constitution should be shaped by what we think the Founding Fathers “meant” in their time is the problem. Their narrow 18th century Eurocentric worldview does not fit America’s current 21st century multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-religious reality. It is more than evident; the Founding Fathers never imagined the demographics that are transforming this nation in ways beyond their wildest dreams. It remains to be seen if another generation of shocked Americans are outraged enough to finally compel their political, their religious, their educational and their civic leaders to “devise the means of effecting what is right.”