The New “We the People”
by Ezrah Aharone
This July 4th marks 234 years of US independence. And although America’s ongoing “melting pot experiment” is theoretically unbiased to Blacks, Latinos and Muslims, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that hate groups, like the well-armed Hutaree militia, have increased 200 percent since President Obama’s 2008 election.
Texas, the former rebel republic and current headquarters of the Guardians of the Free Republic is now waging new ethnic and ideological battlefronts, by arming schoolchildren with conservative-bent textbooks that re-sculpt some of America’s most traditional outlooks. In Arizona, new immigration legislation now gives a tacit eyewink for police to roundup and shakedown Latinos. And if you didn’t know, the catchy slogan “If you see something, say something” is a discreet way of saying “keep a close eye on all Muslim people.”
The resulting rifts over the civil liberties of US citizens and Obama’s recent speech on immigration reform, offer a perfect platform to dissect the definition and discrepancies of “We the People” as spoken of constitutionally and historically.
It was German cartographer Martin Waldseemueller who named the Western Hemisphere “America” in tribute to Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci in 1507. As early as 1782 when colonists were still blasting their British kinfolk with musket balls, J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur posed the question “What is an American?” in his famed book Letters from an American Farmer. So who then exactly are “We the People” in modern terms and times?
Certainly, when these three simple but significant words were first penned in the US Constitution in 1787, the founders didn’t envisage America becoming a vast multi-ethnic society in a world of international laws, where state-sanctioned slavery could have them prosecuted today for the likes of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Certainly, when the ironfisted but seldom-mentioned, President James K. Polk, swiped an unprecedented 1.2 million square miles of territory from Mexico as spoils of war in 1846, it was never intended for millions of Mexicans to sneak across “America’s” border with impunity today. But as the saying goes, “Mexicans aren’t crossing the border, the border has crossed them.”
And certainly, as for Japanese-American citizens, “We the People” became constitutionally meaningless when Franklin D. Roosevelt decreed Executive Order 9066, which unleashed the US military to mass-incarcerate 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
While the malice of the founders and ethnic crackdowns of Polk and Roosevelt do not detract from their “American greatness,” there’s comparative objection from Blacks and liberal Democrats because the new textbooks in Texas place positive spotlights on people like Jefferson Davis and Sam Houston. Based on the outcry, you’d think that Davis and Houston were more crippling to the cause of African Americans, than say, George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.
If you’ve noticed however, there’s an overall process at work to politically repackage the image and ideals of America’s founding history. As such, despite centuries of known ethnic mistreatment and “Whites-Only” privileges, America conversely portrays itself as being uniquely constituted with rights and freedoms that were always meant for “everyone” to partake . . . As though “We the People” signified Blacks, Native Americans, Latinos, Asians and even Muslims all along.
Sure, this promotes feel-good nationalism, especially during these days of protracted warfare in Muslim countries. But the unedited political truth as cited in Foreign Affairs magazine is that: “For substantial stretches of US history, it was believed that only the people of English origin, or those who were Protestant, or white, or hailed from northern Europe were real Americans.”
Although the founders bequeathed a largely-Anglo nation, what they didn’t politically calculate were a few societal probabilities . . . That demographic shifts could eventuate a “New We the People,” causing Anglo people to teeter on the brink of becoming a minority on American soil, where “one man, one vote” would become an establishment threat. Moreover, that the “New We the People” could send a Black man to the White House in the 21st century.
On the downside, along with secretive hate groups, the “New We the People” has attracted mainstream opposition from Tea Partiers who openly aim to “take their country back,” which among other things is a coded expression of “ethnic displeasure.” The fact that a group like the Tea Party has almost instantly become a fully-financed movement of scale, is a foretelling omen that the “New We the People” can expect continued ethnic resistance well into the future.
So the celebratory fireworks and barbeques on the 4th of July may mask the nation’s racial complexities for 24 hours. Yet the much-hailed ideals that the Declaration of Independence proclaims are still nevertheless A Dream Deferred, given that lingering ethnic prejudges and political contradictions remain endemic 234 years later . . . and still counting.