Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Middle Way - As Applied to Washington

The legend is that as Buddha had realized that the path of asceticism, which uses pain and renunciation as a way to defy the body, was not allowing him to attain the enlightenment he sought. A barge passed on the river, on whose bank he was sitting. A musician was on the barge playing a lute. Buddha realized that if the string of the lute was pulled too taut, it would break. If it was too loose, it would not sound. It was that balance in the middle that allowed the string to sound its note. From that point on, Buddha endorsed the path of 'the middle way.'

In Washington and across the country today, the middle way is really the road less taken. People are pulled to the left and right. For instance, on the topic of banking and corporations, those on the right tend to think they provide a needed service in providing stability to our economy and provide jobs for millions. As such, they should be entitled to some economic perks from the government to encourage them to continue to provide these services into the future. Those on the left have seen the incursion of bank and corporate money into the political system, and have seen that the perks provided to them by the government have been abused and turned into unethical, parasitic practice that has funneled money from the bottom of the economic food chain to the top. The reality is that both are correct. The right sees the solution to the problem in allowing more freedom for the banks and corporations to have more freedom to be innovative in increasing the wealth of the country. The left would like to see the banks and corporations fall to their knees and yield to community banks and industries. Neither is a very productive solution.

There is a person who has epitomized the middle way in Washington the past few years, and that person is Barack Obama. Because of his centrist views, he is under attack from the right for being too liberal, and sometimes for being too dark-skinned. He is under attack from the left for being friendly to banks and businesses, and not being liberal enough. The reality is that his middle way probably saved capitalism.

In very general and sweeping terms, the right of the country likes to look backward, viewing the past as a more simple and friendly time. If we could only go back to the 1950s, or the 1890s, then life would be as it was, and things would be better.

The left, on the other hand, wants to re-invent the wheel. They would like to get rid of all the systems in place that create unfairness, and replace them with bold, new ideas that, in their minds, create a more balanced society.

I, personally, fall more in this liberal camp, but I see the value of the center.

Barack Obama propped up the existing banking system with bail-outs (of course these bail-outs, one should remember were initiated by George Bush, and the idea came from Henry Paulson, the former Goldman-Sachs exec. who was the Secretary of the treasury at the time) saying that the American banking system was "too big to fail." He also saved the auto industry in the US. These things were not bad things unto themselves, as one can only imagine the strife that the whole country would feel if the baking system did fail and millions upon millions of people lost everything. The anger comes from the fact that the bankers took these big hand-outs, and just continued the practices that created the problem in the first place. Their bonuses are bigger than ever, they still gamble on peoples' misfortunes, and they continue to find places to extort people for fees and increased interest rates. That is what the Occupy Wall Street movement is upset about.

The middle way is also about compromise, and President Obama has compromised well in many, many instances. If we look at the example of the debt ceiling, Obama worked with both sides to try to broker an agreement while the right refused to accept that cuts needed to be balanced with revenues. A striking thing he said during his TV appearance when he was trying tom pressure congress was something to the effect that the people had sent a strong message in the recent elections that they wanted deficit reduction, but that it needed to be done wisely. That is one of the first times I have ever heard an elected representative talk about supporting the wishes of the people that were contrary to their own.

Obama has always said that he considers himself to be one of the 'blue-dog conservadems.' However, the media, and the nation continue to paint a picture of him as a radical liberal who is either too liberal, if you are a Conservative; or that he is not supporting his Progressive Liberal base, if you are on the left. These are labels that have been put on him by others, while he has never wavered from being a moderate with more liberal social opinions and more conservative economic opinions.

The times that have worked well in this country, politically, have been when the moderates were in control. People like Bob Dole and George Bush the Elder were strong, centrist legislators who were practiced at the art of compromise. They were people who put the needs of the nation first. Even Ronald Reagan, a radical conservative for his time, had many instances of compromise. This really changed when people like Newt Gingrich came to Washington, and refused to budge. He created a toxic environment of division. He refused to compromise, and refused to put the needs of the nation first.

Since that time, Washington has been made up of too loose and too tight strings, and it has not been able to create music. we continue to be driven farther and farther apart, and, in the last couple years, the Legislative Branch has all but ground to a halt with its inability to compromise and find the middle way.

The solution is that we need to fill elected offices with people who are willing to be diplomatic, compromise and work together to find creative solutions to our problems. If we continue to send people who are from the extremes, we will basically have to bury our democracy.

The Framers on whose vision this country is founded never wanted a party system. They wanted a chamber of free-thinkers who supported the wishes of those who elected them. The Constitution itself was developed as a compromise of two plans - The Virginia and New Jersey plans. One of these plans called for a congress made up of a specific number of representatives from each state, regardless of population. The other called for a congress dictated by the population of each state. The resulting compromise created the two-chamber house, which, when it is working, is a better solution than than either plan alone.

This country was built upon the idea of the middle way, works best when operating in the middle way, and needs to be there.

As much as I would love to see a country that has universal healthcare, a more fair distribution of wealth, and generous entitlements for the sick, elderly and unfortunate; As much as I would like to see a country built on small, community businesses and banks, and have strong regulation on our economy; I also am aware that I, like everyone else, has to be willing to flex my utopian ideas to allow the ideas that best serve the masses to take hold.

It is high time for us to make music once again, and all tune our strings to the middle way.

Monday, January 16, 2012

On Reason and Faith - Use the Right Tool!!!

I came across and article this morning that got my hackles up a little: It was about an MIT professor of Atmospheric Science, Kerry Emanuel, who has declared himself a Conservative Republican, making some statements about climate change. His research has shown that there is undeniable evidence that we are being affected by climate change. He felt that, because of his political beliefs and his scientific background, he could carry some weight with his party, who have vehemently denied the existence of this phenomenon. His statements did not sway his party, but, instead, resulted in threats being made to his family by angry, fellow Republicans who disagreed with the findings of his research.

Here is a video which features him, toward the end, discussing his views, along with a number of other Republicans who support the idea that there is, indeed, a current problem caused by carbon dioxide emissions:

The problem I have with this is that Dr. Emanuel has conducted countless experiments, weighed evidence, considered options, and put his undeniable expertise on the subject through a series of empirical, logical tests to come up with his conclusions. Those who oppose his ideas do so simply because it makes them mad to think that the world might be changing and they, and all the rest of us, need to make some radical changes in our lifestyle to prevent the destruction of the planet. One argument seems, clearly, to carry more weight than the other. In fact, the non-scientific, non-logical argument actually carries no weight at all!

We have come to a point in our country where it has become OK to dismiss the evidence presented by experts in lieu of what our guts tell us. And, in fact, our political system has become based almost entirely on emotion.

Our economy is currently in ruins because we moved from making decisions based on looking at the cause and effect of growth and recession in the past, and have been trying to fix the economy based on Ayn Rand novels and the gut feeling that if the country operated like a family, the problems would be fixed. We have cast off the lessons of economic history, and instead are doing things that have failed, time and time again, in the past.

Now, I do believe there is a place in the world for both reason and faith, and I hope to tease them out in this essay.

Though I am certainly a person of only average intelligence, I probably meet the profile of the intellectual. I have multiple degrees, and have studied music, art, philosophy, psychology and education. I am an avid reader, and wear glasses. In Maoist China, this would have been sufficient enough evidence to have me killed. But this is to say that I have grown up in an environment that values reason, perhaps to a flaw. I have always been taught to support what arguments I make with evidence from multiple sources, and to be truthful to that evidence.

I believe that repeated outcomes are a very strong indicator of reality in the material world. Psychologically, I like the argument that insanity is defined by trying the same thing over and over and hoping for different results. I also believe that when multiple experts agree on something, it is worth consideration - but I am also skeptical, and like to read multiple sources, and opposing views. I am not a trained scientist, but I have read a great deal about many aspects of science, particularly physics, and within that discipline, particularly quantum physics. That being said, I do believe that there is much more evidence to support climate change than there is evidence in opposition. That is how I make my decisions.

Religiously, I also veer toward science. I have been a student of Yoga for many years, which is the basis for Hinduism and Buddhism. I do not follow the 'isms' as closely as the yoga. Yoga philosophy is, in religious terms, quite scientific. Yoga is a collection of techniques. Over a period of more than 7000 years, millions of people have successfully employed these techniques of meditation to achieve high levels of concentration, of inner peace, and of compassion toward others. Societies which have been built on these principles have served their citizenry well.

Reason also tells me that there are many paths. Within yoga, itself, there are many, many paths; but certainly many people have achieved high levels of concentration, peace and compassion through Christianity, Islam, and many other paths, both religious and not religious.

So is there a place of faith? Of course. One of the teachings of yoga talks about balance of intellect (gyana), devotion (bhakti) and action (karma.) The issue I have is when any of these three areas becomes out-of-balance, people make poor decisions. The problem is that a lot of people are out-of-balance.

Most philosophy gets, at some point, to faith. Descartes took this step right at the beginning when he said "I think therefore I am," which any good meditator would disagree with. The best example is Kierkegaard's leap of faith. In his essay on anxiety, he discusses how one makes a 'leap' from one to the other, and that they cannot exist simultaneously. I also don't agree with Kierkegaard's rigidity that the two cannot co-exist, but in general, if we think of each as a tool, generally situations call for one or the other in larger doses:

For instance, in solving climate change it will require a great deal of reason to solve this problem, but faith that we can do it will be very helpful. How about generating internal ecstasy? Well, that's more of a faith job, although reason will help us know if we are getting there and if it is helpful, and how to refine our practice. It is very true, according to multiple studies that those with great material wealth and comfort are often less happy than those who have very little, but are faithful.

People like fundamentalists of most faiths have not come to this same conclusion - that there is a time for faith and a time for reason. They try to apply their faith to the material world, where it doesn't have the same effect. Certainly it would be nice for changes in our atmosphere to go away merely by believing this, but that has never been a very effective way to solve material world problems.

The same can be said of materialists, who discount anything than can not be explained with cold, hard science.

Faith can have a huge affect of attitude in the material world: which is to say that believing that we can solve the problem of climate change through collective action makes it more possible than having an attitude that there is nothing anyone can do. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a phrase to describe faith that I like, it is "Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase. " It has a nice implication that faith is about accepting, and not about denying.

So, I'm sure anyone who knows much about Yoga, Buddhism and Hinduism is thinking that the fundamental belief of all these systems of thought is that the material world is an illusion. And, yes, that is at the core of these faiths... the key word being 'faith.' The material world may be an illusion, and both Einstein and Osho have shown how people can pull at the fiber of this illusion - but the bottom line is that it is an illusion that follows predictable rules, and until someone becomes remarkable enough to step in and out of the illusion at will, we are controlled, to a great extent, by this environment. So, even if the goal is to overcome the illusion, one must treat the illusion with respect while one is a part of it.

Faith is vastly important, and I pity the person who has no faith, and wish that I could have a better balance of less logic and more faith in my own life.

So, how does faith tug at the fiber of the material world? Certainly denial is not an effective way. I have tried at times during my life to wish something away, and it has never worked. There are some studies that talk about attitude and its affect on outcome. I read somewhere sometime ago that people who enter into a task with a positive attitude typically have around an 80-90% success rate. People who enter in with a poor attitude have a much lower success rate.

There have been experiments conducted with random number generators, and advanced mediators can affect the randomness of the generators. With these same random number generators, large groups of people contemplating the same thing, such as the reading of the verdict in the OJ Simpson trial, 911, and such events, have created measurable changes in the randomness of the numbers generated.

There is also an idea that is popular called "The Law of Attraction." This gained widespread attention when the movie "The Secret" came out. According to this idea, like energy attracts like energy. "The Secret" applied this toward material things, saying that sending out desire for certain objects or money would yield such. I think this may be somewhat likely, but not very consistent. It does, however, work on a more energetic level, and physicists like Amit Goswami talk about it happening in terms of attracting people with like ideas to yourself. This seems to carry some weight in relationships of people I have observed. I have known people who seem to attract the same, often in a negative sense, person to themselves over and over, and then, after doing some real internal work, suddenly are having much better relationships.

This is a song called "The Silence of a Candle" by the group Oregon. There is something about it that moves me. I have analyzed it, and there is no 'material' reason I should find it more beautiful than any of a million other songs, but I do. This moves away from the realm of reason and moves into the realm of faith:

I can only think that there is something about the passion with which the song was written and the energy with which the song is performed that moves me so much. It is something beyond which I can understand, rationally.

Yoga is all about creating energy, and it is a basic tenant of Yoga that surrounding yourself with people of high energy to help generate your own energy, in addition to movement and meditation practices of Yoga.

Most folk wisdom, and Yoga is included, looks at the brain as the organ of reason, and the heart as the organ of faith and devotion. There are scientists at The HeartMath Institute who are doing some amazing research about the heart. They have found that the heart has it's own neural system, and that when the heart and brain are properly attuned, people function better, emotionally and physically. They have created an inexpensive device to help people synchronize, or entrain, these organs. It is fascinating, and I would suggest reading about some of their work. Their is a great book called "The HeartMath Solution" that gives a great overview.

The debate has come to be popular lately as to whether science is real or not, largely because many rigid-thinking faithful are unwilling to bend their faith to accept new findings of science. It is interesting that many fundamentalist religions, and religions that are deeply organized, have fought the findings of science, whether it is if the sun or the earth is the center of the universe, or climate change. More flexible thinkers were able to change their thoughts around to accept new 'realities.'

This is an odd dilemma we find ourselves in today. There are many who flatly deny 'science' because they feel it contradicts books like The Bible. Others have denied faith because books like The Bible did not allow for the new findings of science. Many have been able to see science and faith as different elements, and do not see them as contradictory. Still others have found that when combining reason and faith, the findings of science and books, like The Bible, can be found to work together.

We find that the belief in science and faith has drawn political lines: Many Republicans deny science, and many Democrats deny religion, except in social aspects. I think this just shows more how we are out of balance as a species than how politically divided we are. I would further question the legitimacy of some of this 'faith,' as it seems to come from the brain, and not the heart, and seems to be accompanied by the emotion of hatred, which, I don't believe, has anything to do with true faith. I think these people are just justifying their rigid thinking, lack of intelligence, and emotions over which they really have no good control.

I like to think of reason and faith like tools, each with its own use. Like it would be stupid to try to drive a nail with a screwdriver, using faith to analyze problems of science, like climate change, is ridiculous. We would not use a hammer to twist in a screw, and likewise, people who have tried to find infinite happiness in the world through reason alone have never been successful. There is a need for more than one tool in a tool belt, and there is need for more than one tool as we navigate our lives.

This can be employed in questions of theology, as well: No one has yet ever proven the existence of God with arguments of reason. It takes faith to come to that understanding. Whether there is or is not a God, and what that God is like is purely faith-based. However, we try to employ faith to answer questions, such as 'why did God allow this war to happen?' Well, God had nothing to do with it. Wars are acts of man, and are often based on religious disputes. We have the tool of reason to help us get out of wars. God gave us the tools of faith, reason and action, and gave us free will to employ them wisely. All problems can be created and also solved with these tools.

I have been around some remarkable people, of many faiths, who exude a feeling of enlightenment that is beyond any description. These people tend to be intelligent as well as faithful, and have no capacity for hatred. In India, these people are known as Saints, and they are the leaders of the 'religion.' Hinduism and Yoga are, in general, not organized, and people go to gurus rather than churches, and learn from those enlightened souls directly, instead of from books and other teachers. These Saints exist everywhere, but in Christianity, they are normally denied until after they die. I wish in the west we had more of a tradition of being around enlightened souls, instead of angry souls.

One Saint who lives in my town in Sai Maa. Here is an example of real faith:

And an example from The West, Father Bede Griffiths:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Remembering the 14th Amendment on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday

 Text of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the
United States of America

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

During the 2010 election cycle, Civil Rights came under attack from the Tea Party and right wing of the Republican party as part of their racist attack on immigrants. This occurred shortly after Arizona's SB 1070 allowed police officers to racially profile people and question them for their papers, and arrest those who could not produce adequate, on-the spot documentation. Many people running on the Tea Party ticket, as well as mainstream Republicans like John McCain then began calling for repeal of the 14th Amendment, because it allowed people born on US soil to be citizens. They said that because of this Amendment, people were coming to the US to have babies that would be citizens. They also came up with a mad idea terrorists were coming to the US and having babies that were citizens, that these babies would be trained to be terrorists, and then, years in the future, that Al Qaeda would have a strong-hold on US soil... all because of that pesky 14th Amendment, that just had to go! (It was also noticed, later, that many of the AZ representatives who had introduced and voted for this bill were stake holders in private, for-profit prisons which at the time were mostly empty. Filling them up with suspected illegal immigrants awaiting trial generated great profits for the prisons and those who supported them)

Well, a look at the 14th Amendment shows that, while the Citizenship Clause is a part of the 14th Amendment, it also is the basis of many of our basic rights, blocking the government from legislating racism in many ways. It is my opinion that while the Tea Partiers were talking about the Citizenship Clause, their intention was to roll back all protection of our 'minority' citizens, and begin to move power back to the white men of the nation.

There are a number of very important clauses in the Amendment. The most important, perhaps, is the Equal Protection Clause:

"no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

This simple statement was the basis for the major Civil Rights cases, such as 'Brown v. The Board of Education,' which put an end to 'Plessy v. Ferguson,' which, for the greater part of a century, had been the basis of the segregation laws that prevented whites and non-whites from going to school together, sitting in the same restaurants, using the same bathrooms and so forth. Without this clause, we could again see states choosing to limit the people to whom they offer services, and allowing businesses to discriminate.

This second intention was made clear in the campaign of Rand Paul and others who said, straight-out, they they would like to roll back some of the provisions of the Civil Rights Act itself, saying that the section which prevents businesses from discriminating against their clientele limited the rights of businesses. Rand Paul stated that he felt the government had no right to tell businesses that they had to treat everyone equally.

While this, as simply a discussion of logic and the limits of government, might make some sense to some people, let's look at the practical implications.

Do you remember the Walmart discrimination cases? And the Denny's case?

Walmart has been cited in any number of lawsuits involving discriminatory practices; first, against their employees, when Walmart routinely would promote white employees over 'minority' employees who had the same performance rating, seniority and training. Walmart also locked minority employees in the stores until the finished their assigned duties, and refused to pay them overtime if their scheduled sifts did not allow adequate time to complete their assigned tasks. There is also a current case which cites Walmart for spying on African American patients in clinics that had contracts with their stores. Denny's had to pay out some 54 million dollars as a result of multiple lawsuits that alleged that at their restaurants, there was a policy of paying more attention to and giving better service to white customers that non whites.

These are just two examples of companies who have demonstrated discriminatory practices in a world where discrimination is a crime. Without the Equal Protection Clause, it would be much more rampant.

The "Due Process Clause"

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Remember the days of Lynching?

Before widespread enforcement of the 14th Amendment, beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, white people accused of a crime were given a trial by jury, and served their terms, if found guilty, in a prison facility. Non-whites were dragged out of their homes and hung by their necks, with only the jury of public opinion and mob mentality.

This was illustrated in the case of Leo Frank:

He was an factory superintendent at a sweat-shop in Atlanta. One day, Mary Phagen, a 13-year-old employee, came by the factory to pick up her check. She was brutally raped and murdered. Since Frank was Jewish, the people of Atlanta immediately suspected him, even though there was considerable evidence that another man who was in the factory that day had committed the crime. There was a trial. During the trial, the jurors were paraded across the street each day. Their pictures and names were in the paper. Crowds gathered outside the courthouse each day calling for Frank to be lynched. They threatened the jurors and their families with violence if Frank was not convicted. After the trial, Frank was quickly convicted, and sentenced to death.  The governor, having weighed the evidence, commuted Frank's sentence, changing it to life in prison. He was sent to a prison in Marietta, GA, while appeals were being drafted. There, Frank was dragged out of prison by a lynch mob, spurned on by Tom Watson, and hung from the branch of a tree. People celebrated the lynching, and took pieces of his clothing and his body as souvenirs.

There were also calls for the lynching of the governor who commented his sentence, and the National Guard had to protect the governor's mansion from the large lynch mob.

"The Incorporation Clause"

"nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Prior to this Amendment, the case of Barron v. Brooklyn (1833) held that The Bill of Rights applied only to cases of federal jurisdiction, and that states did not need to follow it. While there are several aspects of The Bill of Rights that have been excluded from applying to states in subsequent cases, states no longer have the rights to deny their citizens protections outlined in The Constitution. This far-sweeping clause insures that all people have the right to free speech, the free practice of religion, due process, and so on.

Without the enforcement of this aspect of the Amendment, we witnessed Southern states creating their own policies, in regard to segregation, that defied national precedence; such as when Arkansas refused to integrate their schools, resulting in "The Little Rock Nine" incident.

In 1957, nine African-American students attempted to go to school at the segregated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Knowing they were coming, the governor of the state, attempting to uphold Arkansas's segregation laws, and refusing to acknowledge the Brown v. The Board of Education ruling, called out the National Guard to prevent these students from coming to school. There was a riot, with people calling for the lynching of the students as they tried to enter the school. They were turned away, after being harassed and abused. President Eisenhower, upholding the ruling, sent military troops to Arkansas to force the issue. The students were picked up in military vehicles, preceded and followed by armed soldiers. Once at school, they were escorted through the day by paratroopers, who ensured their protection and the incorporation of The Constitution by the state of Arkansas.

This is another big area the Tea Party would love to delete from the Constitution.

States rights people refuse to accept this, and other lessons of history which show the importance of laws from a central government. Certainly it can argued that The Civil Rights laws of the 1960s resulted in the creation of a greater central government. Again, while one can make an intellectual argument for the sovereignty of states, there are clear lessons, such as the one above, in which states have violated peoples' rights because it is a cultural norm in their own states.

As the Republicans continue to attack the rights of minorities and the poor, it is clear that incorporation of  Constitutional rights by the states is imperative in the protection of those who do not hold power.

"The Citizenship Claus" 

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

It is clear, also, to see that The Citizenship Clause itself, which the right wing tried to make controversial, is crucial in allowing rights to be applied to those born within the US. Without it, such as during the pre-Civil War years, African Americans or others could be denied citizenship, and therefore the rights that come with being a citizen. It took until the 1920s for Asian, Latino, Native Americans and others to receive citizenship  in the first place. Do we really, less than 100 years later, to establish a precedence to deny anyone citizenship once again? The sad truth is that there are those who do. As the way of life of white Americans is once again coming under a challenge of sorts, with the undeniable, mathematical reality that whites will soon be in the minority, there are those who are trying to cement their place as the power-brokers of the country and deny it to 'minority' groups. This is a threat as real and frightening to people as was the end of segregation.

Other Civil Right implications of the 14th Amendment are in Section 2, which gives assures all men (Women received the right to vote in 1920, and Native Americans, who are excluded in the 14th Amendment, were given citizenship in 1924, and those Amendments and Acts supersede the 14th Amendment...) were given the right to vote, and that they were counted in the apportionment of representatives in congress.

Other provisions of the 14th Amendment establish actions against rebellion, and establish who will pay off debts after rebellion and the validity of public debt. These would comprise an additional essay.

So, I think it is clear to see that the repealing of the 14th Amendment would be many gigantic steps backwards. This Amendment must be protected. I consider it one of the most important Amendments of all. Much of Dr. King's work was directly involved with pushing for the enforcement of this Amendment. His practice of non-violent resistance centered around testing the provisions of 14th Amendment over an over, (such as by sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters) suffering the violence that resulted (being beaten by those enraged at seeing non-whites at said lunch counter) and arrests, and doing it all over again the next day. By being non-violent they allowed the light of public opinion to be shown specifically on the violation of rights, and these repeated violations made clear the lack of enforcement of Constitutional Rights.

The Tea Party and the right wing of this country have created a pretense of worshipping The Constitution, but at the same time, trying to rape it, and undo the protections it provides (Civil Rights) while pushing for the rights they desire (right to carry weapons and states rights.) They interpret The Constitution much as they do The Bible, looking at the letter of the law, without looking at the intent of the law; while at the same time interpreting it in a narrow light that highlights those things they see meaningful (the devil is mentioned in passing only three times in The Bible, and only once in The New Testament) while discarding those things they dislike (love is mentioned 64,015 times in The Bible, 5453 times in The New Testament.)

As they look upon Ayn Rand's Objectivism with wet-dream lust; her stark, post-apocalyptic images of laissez-faire capitalism and anarchic government, "every man for himself" (Ronald Reagan and Paul Ryan are two people, among many, who have said they went into politics inspired by "Atlas Shrugged") much like those who framed The Soviet Union, who killed millions in order to push forth their vision of 'equality,' these Tea Party activists are misguided by a vision of a utopia which exists only in novels of the 1950s, which play into their selfish struggles to attain personal power at the expense of others.

"All Men are Created Equal" is a basic foundation of our country, which the right would also love to strike from the record. Martin Luther King, Jr. is great because he devoted his short life to this, simple truth. He selflessly pursued the dream of equality through many heroic acts, which were as simple as walking from Selma to Montgomery.

Here is another view of life without the 14th Amendment. This is the voters-rights march from Selma to Montgomery, during which the marchers were stopped by state troopers at the Alabama state line, and then attacked, unprovoked, the marchers on a day known as Bloody Sunday. The next march was led by Dr. King. They were again stopped by state troopers. The marchers knelt and prayed, and they then turned around and went back. On the third attempt, they had a military escort who cleared the way, and were able to get to Montgomery. This all for voters rights, which were ensured by the 14th Amendment, but which states, like Alabama, refused to incorporate.


The result of this march was the Voter's Rights Act of 1964. Now, even though equality was far from being assured, all adults had the right to vote, and now had a say in who was elected, and in the laws of the country.

The events illustrated in the events outlined above are only about a single Amendment to The Constitution, and not the far-sweeping implications of The Civil Rights Acts and The Voter's Rights Act. If anyone doubts the potential energy of The Occupy movement, this should be enough evidence to show how a country's paradigm can be shifted through collective, selfless action. Of course the catalyst for this action were people like Martin Luther King. 

So, as we celebrate Martin Luther King day, let us not forget how the world used to be, and what the world could be like again if some of the misguided elements of power continue to take hold in our country. 

And, of course, there is only one way to wrap up a tribute to our nation's greatest, unelected leader: