Archive for the ‘special interests’ Tag

Thom Stark on States Rights   1 comment

Thom and I are having fun with our back-and-forth discussion. I said this on special interests and this on states rights last week and this is his reply this week. Lela

Thom StarkI’m sorry, but you’re WAY off base on the American Civil War.

First of all, there is NO provision in the Constitution for secession from the Union – so there was NO legal basis for the Confederate states’ withdrawal. Period, end of discussion.

Secondly – and this is crucial – South Carolina began its secession attempt with a 34-hour bombardment of Fort Sumter. That could not, under any circumstances, be considered anything other than an act of war, and the Union responded accordingly.

Had the Confederate states simply announced their secession from the Union without attacking the Union fort, a diplomatic solution might have been possible. But South Carolina chose to underline its withdrawal with an unprovoked attack on a Union military base. NO country could – or can – afford to let such an action simply pass without military response. It was South Carolina’s act of war that forced the Union into the bloodiest domestic conflict in American history, not the Union’s inflexibility on the issue of slavery. Or secession, for that matter.

As for the issue of “us” vs “them” – Lela, I went to considerable pains to frame that locution in terms of individual (rather than government) choice and perception. By “us”, in the framework of this discussion, I meant “whatever group you, as a person, consider yourself to be affiliated with to the exclusion of those outside the group”. Which is to say “them.”

The whole point of civil rights legislation is to codify the notion that, in the USA, there is no legal basis for discriminating between “us” and “them”. We are all at least theoretically equal under the law – and it seems to me that we solidly agree on that precept.

In my mind, elected officials have a Constitutional duty to uphold that principle, by passing civil rights legislation where necessary, and by NOT proposing or voting in favor of discriminatory legislation under any circumstances. The whole Palinesque “real Americans” vs (presumably) false Americans dichotomy is purposefully divisive gnatpuckey, deserving only of general contempt.

That you are of Indian ancestry is something I didn’t know prior to this discussion. I think it’s kind of cool. It adds another layer of identity to the Lela Markham I’m coming to know: woman, Alaskan, Christian, author, free-thinker, and now Indian.

Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedAs for discrimination against whites on the reservation, ever since John Marshall’s majority opinion on Cherokee Nation vs Georgia in 1831, the status of Indian reservations as sovereign nations has been enshrined in U.S. law – and repeatedly upheld since then. Therefore, as nation-states, formally-recognized Indian tribes naturally have the legal authority to make any kind of damn-fool laws they desire. If that includes sanctioning racial discrimination on their reservations … well, it’s deplorable, but completely legal, because, in the eyes of the law, Indian reservations are NOT U.S. soil. They’re their own countries, and they can do as they please, so long as they do not make war on the USA.

I will note that, given the long, sad history of discrimination against Indians by American whites, it’s not especially surprising to hear that Indians on your tribe’s reservation relish the opportunity to return the favor. Revenge, after all, is a dish best served with a small side salad and a nice Chianti.

Lela on Group Politics and the Evil of Special Interests   2 comments

Thom Stark and I are engaged in friendly debate about our societal divisions. Last week he offered his take on things.

 

DSC01494Seriously, Thom? Us and them? How can there be a definable“us”? Given the group politics of our era it’s at best a moving target.

How does an elected official (or, worse an unelected bureacrat) decide whose values are higher?  Southern politicians thought they were protecting “us” (whites) against “them” (blacks) by passing Jim Crow laws. Today white racists are “them” and non-racists of all colors are “us” … or are they? I’m a member of an Indian tribe and on the reservation, white people are “them”. My cousins talk about “them” like lower animals and do it in front of me, because I’m supposed to be a member of the tribe and hostile to white people, but they forget that I spend most of my life as just a person among  people. The law says Indians are allowed to discriminate against Thom Stark (and my husband Brad) on the reservation.  It’s racist as hell, but the tribal coucil and my cousins don’t see that. It’s just “us” and “them”.

Government officials like herds. They’re easier to direct , control and marginalize. It is easier to choose winners and losers among groups and to ascribe antisocial motives to individuals who fail to comply with their herd.  It’s also easier for the officials to justify marginalizing one group over another based on the selected criteria of the moment.  A century ago as an Indian woman, I had no rights in American society. That wasn’t in the Constitution, but government officials said my grandmother was a member of a group that was outside the law and therefore had no rights. Now as an individual I have all the rights that you do, but as a member of a group, I have the authority (I won’t deign to call it a “right”) to discriminate against you on the Rez because elected officials (the tribal council) say I may do that and federal officials have agreed the council has the authority to make that judgment. Wow, that sounds suspiciously like a Jim Crow law, doesn’t it?

Thom StarkI don’t see you as a member of some “other” group. I see you as an individual and it is a whole lot harder to look an individual in the eye and treat him as if he weren’t really human. Special interest politics has gone by a lot of different names, but it really comes down to limiting the opportunities and marginalizing the humanity some people in order to maximize the opportunity and magnify the humanity others. It’s choosing winners and losers in society and patting ourselves on our backs for our continued lack of self-awareness.

 

I’m running out of time to post today and covering both of Thom’s topics in a concise manner has proven difficult, so this is going to be a two-parter.

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