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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Karenga on the Tea Party, the Constitution, and Black America.

In this Tea Party era there is a lot of talk about the Constitution by right wing Tea Partiers who lack understanding of the document.   There is a "faith" endorsement.   Like they love the Bible they love the Constitution, even when they have no idea what it says.  Representative Michelle Bachman recently stated that the Founding Fathers, including John QUINCY Adams, wrung slavery right out of the Constitution.  Dr. Maulana Karenga puts this white nationalist offensive in perspective.  RGN

Quoting the Constitution in Public: Whistlin’ Dixie in the Dark

Dr. Maulana Karenga

It is a sign of the rough and jagged edges of the times in which we
live, this surreal juncture of history where we encounter and are
cultivated to accept, with minimum and often misguided response, various
forms of fear-and-hate mongering, lies, illusions and political
lap-dancing – all deceptive by nature, diversionary by design, and
ultimately unfulfilling. Passed off as a time and arrival of a new
politics, it is a time and context in which hype and hypocrisy are
packaged and peddled as patriotism; the reform and reality of universal
health care is portrayed as something akin to sin; and corporate funding
and manipulation of anti-government sentiment is camouflaged as
constitutional concern and love of country.

For all this flag-draped drama and related talk of constitutional tests
and of turning the country back over to the American people, hides the
continued strengthening of corporate power, evident in the increased
funding of candidates, including Tea Party members; proposed
deregulation; rampant privatization; an ever-growing military budget and
prison-industrial complex; tax preference for the rich and continuing
foreign aid to friendly dictators and brutal allies in open and
unannounced wars and occupations around the world.

It is a time and context in which gun-totin’ and gun talk of “targeting
and taking out” opponents serve as both appetizers and main meal on the
menu of rightwing radio, and their political discourse and campaigns,
and where such vicious rhetoric and social craziness mix and merge with
personal anger and insanity to provoke and produce tragic results as
recently witnessed in Tucson. For in spite of denials, such a context
gives company and confirmation to the mentally disturbed and violent who
put in practice the right wing’s irresponsible and provocative call for
“Second Amendment remedies”.

Last week, the new colonists came to Washington town, Constitution in
hand, corporate interests in mind and chaos in their announced
intentions. Indeed, they came wildly dedicated and determined to
disrupt, reverse, repeal and otherwise neutralize the laws, legislative
initiatives and any and all efforts of President Obama to successfully
govern – a concentrated hostility which, in spite of ritual denial,
suggests racial implications. Thus, it is seriously suspected that they
quote the Constitution in public and whistle Dixie in the dark. Like the
original colonists, whom they seek to model and mirror in their confused
and fantasized conceptions of history, they are in acute and constant
denial concerning the contradictions in their beliefs, behavior and
exalted claims. And likewise, they are woefully unwilling to concede the
destructive and divisive nature of their self-righteous and exclusionist
ideas and activities, which foster and fuel racist and nativist hatred
and violence.

They began their public show, lining up like elementary school children
to read the Constitution on the House floor in deference to their doting
Tea Party foster parents. It was for the true believers a religious
ritual, the reading of a sacred text with related claims of the
brilliance and anointment of the Framers. But to hold to the myths, they
had to call for an amended version of the Constitution. For the original
version of the Constitution, like the men who wrote it, was too flawed
to justify the flowery claims made for it. It, like its writers, needed
to be remade into a more acceptable image, free of the racism, sexism
and classism that stained it. Indeed, the original version sanctioned
African enslavement, denied the wholeness of African humanity, setting
it as 3/5 of a person and rejecting our right of freedom even thru
escape. It also denied women the right to vote, favored property owners
and set aside the Senate for the more noble White men among them. It is
these inconvenient and uncomfortable facts in the Constitution’s
original construction that the new colonists sought to erase and not
reveal by reading a revised and sanitized version of it with its
corrective reconsiderations called amendments.

Such immature and uncritical conceptions of the document and attempts to
talk about it as a holy writ, unchanged and unchangeable, and to force
others to accept it is both self-deceptive and dangerous. It calls for a
paper patriotism devoid of real people with real problems and real
struggles to solve them. In other words, such an approach to the
Constitution denies its original flaws and the flaws of its Framers;
denies the changes made to correct these flaws; denies the history and
the life-and-death struggles required for the changes; and denies the
ongoing need to constantly reinterpret and change the document in light
of deeper and more ethical understandings of how we ought to live
together and relate.

The late and renowned Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, in his
1987 Bicentennial Speech, urged us to move beyond such mindless and
uncritical celebration of Constitution and country. He noted that such a
celebration cultivates a tendency “to oversimplify and overlook the many
other events that have been instrumental to our achievements as a
nation.” Moreover, it “invites a complacent belief that the vision of
those who debated and compromised in Philadelphia yielded the ‘more
perfect union’ it is said we enjoy now.” For Justice Marshall, the
Constitution was not “forever fixed” at Philadelphia. And he noted, he
did not “find the wisdom, foresight and sense of justice exhibited by
the Framers particularly profound.”

Indeed, he states “To the contrary, the government they devised was
defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and
momentous societal transformation to attain the system of constitutional
government and its respect for individual freedoms and human rights we
hold fundamental today.” Thus, in recognizing the progressive changes
made from enslavement and exclusion to our unfinished struggles for
freedom and inclusion, “the credit does not belong to the Framers. It
belongs to those who refused to acquiesce to outdated notions of
‘liberty’, ‘justice’ and ‘equality’ and who strived to better them.” He
concluded that a rightful reading and a “sensitive understanding of the
Constitution’s inherent defects” will let us “see that the true miracle
was not the birth of the Constitution, but its life, a life nurtured
through two turbulent centuries of our own making.”

Justice Marshall argued that this history requires more than
“festivities with flag-waving fervor.” Rather, it calls for
commemoration of “the suffering, struggle and sacrifice that has
triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document.” And
it deserves our viewing the document and its history “with hopes not
realized and promises not fulfilled” and therefore, with a commitment to
ongoing and increased struggles to achieve the hopes and promise, and
open up new horizons of human life and history.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor of Africana Studies, California State
University-Long Beach; Executive Director, African American Cultural
Center (Us); Creator of Kwanzaa; and author of Kwanzaa: A Celebration of
Family, Community and Culture and Introduction to Black Studies, 4th


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