John G Bell
Fall '03 - Gomez & Unsel
Week 3 – Critical Integrative Comment
Territorial Expansion and the Colonial Project: Dispossession of Native Americans
“WE1 hold these Truths2 to be self-evident3, that all4 Men5 are created6 equal7, that they are endowed8 by their Creator with certain9 unalienable10 Rights, that among these are Life11, Liberty12 and the Pursuit13 of Happiness14” - The Declaration of Independence
In The River People, there were several comments made to question to professions of the Constitution when compared to the actions of the citizens and the government. This mirrors the memorial protest of the Cherokee. There's an implicit comparison of the claims made to the actions performed.
The professional of ideal are matched by the self-interested actions, the imperfect implementation of those ideals. The high standards of behaviour in the Declaration or Independence, the Constitution and the Treaties are all matched with the reality of people's natures. The hard between ideal and action is the reflection on the hard balance between collective and individual rights, between the collective and local government, between the collective good and the individual good.
There is a constant mediation between the self-serving agenda and the amendment of public policy by opposition. There's a nullification of special interests by the mediating force of dissent. The cases of the greatest failure in the checks and balances are when there's a unified opinion without a strong opposition. In other words, dissent is a requirement to ensure continued liberty.
In The Other Founders, the work to develop the Constitution, the fortuitous alienation and disenfranchisement of the radical localist agenda, and the general disenfranchisement of vast numbers of people (non-white, female, non-European, or poor) created an opportunity for the special interests to orchestrate the adoption of a nationalist agenda. In the case, of the Cherokee Removal, when Andrew Jackson was elected with a mandate to remove the Native Americans, the fact that he was able to nullify opposition from the national government allowed the special interests in Georgia to act unilaterally and without fear of reprisals. They had the opportunity to abridge the ideals of freedom and liberty in favour of self-interest and advantage.
In other words, the protection of liberty only functions when there is strong opposition opinions. Dissent is a required condition of liberty because it is the dissenting opinions that help mediate any specific agenda. Therefore, the suppression of dissent is a function not only of power, but an opportunity for special interests to advance ideological agendas. Further, this suggests that anywhere that dissent is suppressed, that special interests are at work. Therefore, suppressing dissent is not a function of preserving order, but of promoting specific agendas.
A requirement for liberty and the ideals, espoused in the Declaration and Constitution, to be applied in practice, requires a healthy public sphere of diversity. This diversity is of opinion, agenda and experience. At the same time, this diversity has to be in some way mediated in order to move from open-ended dialogue to a discussion toward decision. The presence of diversity helps mediate special interests and the need to move toward decision mediates diversity.
Perhaps, if the devil is in the details, it is in negotiating details that virtue resides.
1By “we” they mean the select group of enfranchised white male European colonists with enough power and influence to be part of the political system.
2By “truths” they mean assertions of value that are relevant when they provide advantage, but are otherwise silent when they might be used against them.
3By “self-evident” they mean not so much obvious, since they are clearly having to state them, but that these are clearly useful in claiming freedom from prior obligations.
4By “all” they mean every single person left after having ignored the slaves, women, children, poor, etc ... Not so much all, but rather all that's left.
5By “men” ... oh, they really did mean just men. Nevermind.
6By “created” they mean in the Christian sense, not the Judaic, Native American or any other sense.
7By “equal” they mean relative value based on gender, ethnicity, race, property, social class, etc ... otherwise, completely equal.
8By “endowed” they mean those that drive SUVs and race cars as well as those actually endowed.
9Here is the key precursor to the doctrine that everything not prohibited is mandatory, which conditions much of the rest of the document and future public policy.
10Some restrictions apply. Void where prohibited. Not available in all states. Not valid in time of war.
11Unless you are drafted, sentenced to death, poor, suspicious or otherwise get in the way.
12Much like how you could have any color of Model T as long as you wanted black; by “liberty” they mean free to do anything mandatory that's not prohibited. Either that or they were hoping to proactively boost sales of the Jeep Liberty.
13By “pursuit” they, perhaps unintentionally, started a trend of ubiquitous chase scenes presented in motion pictures. This may or may not have been an intended effect. If it was intended, it's a testament to the foresight of the Founding Fathers to make provisions for a motion picture industry that didn't exist yet. Clearly, this foresight is evidence of the way the words of the Founding Fathers are clearly and pertinently relevant to any modern issue or time.
14Here is another example of foresight. This word “happiness” was clearly a reference to what would become known as the doctrine of medicating our ills. However, again, this is conditioned on by the prior use of “liberty” which meant “mandatory, but not prohibited.” So, here is the foresight of the Founding Fathers at work in guaranteeing a place for the pharmaceutical companies to require the use of marketable compounds, but effectively prohibiting unprofitable natural or well-known curatives.