Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Mindless Rant"?

Today is Monday, 24 January 2011.


When I referred to “Justice” Scalia as a “pasta-gorging non-Aryan”, it wasn’t “mindless rant”, it was sarcastically making a point: I believe it’s obvious that many, and perhaps most, of the Framers would have perceived him that way.

Strip away all the high-flown rhetoric of the Framers meant to camouflage them as high-minded, forward-visioned children of the Enlightenment, and it’s obvious that the Constitution was meant to perpetuate in power their kind, and only their kind: a minority of males of Anglo-Saxon descent, higher-net-worth, and low morals, who either owned slaves or tolerated slavery, which is to say mass theft, mass rape, and mass murder.

T. Jefferson, for example, didn’t intend to be ruled by “wops”, "skirts", and the less prosperous. Clarence Thomas? Jefferson enjoyed owning Blacks, not taking orders from them.

As to “rant”. It was T. Jefferson himself who coined the phrase, “merciless Indian Savages”. It was, of course, the English invaders who were the merciless savages, crossing the Atlantic to conquer and plunder, killing all who stood in their way, and who would doubtless have exterminated the Native Americans, had they only the technology. As have political gangsters from every time and place, Jefferson delighted in libeling the victims as the aggressors.


Anonymous in context said...

Prior to the development of a modern Western notion of freedom, most people lived in a world shaped by the normal network of kinship ties of dependency, protection, obligation, and privilege, a system that included various forms of patronage and servitude.

Slavery evolved in a social system radically different from our own, one that regarded servants and laborers as base people, that used hunger and the lash as a goad to productivity, that maintained discipline by means of maiming, dismemberment, torture, the rack, beheading, burning at the stake, impaling. Between white laborers and black slaves, the differences were more in degree than in kind.

A debtor could be sold to pay off his debts, vagrants and vagabonds might be bound over to the highest bidder, their labor sold for a term, and criminal offenses were routinely punished with sentences of forced public service, sometimes for life.

Many whites became indentured servants in America, they bound themselves to a planter or company for four to seven years in return for free passage across the Atlantic and some starting-up provisions. Like English servants, bondsmen in America were frequently bought and sold, or used as gambling stakes. In these circumstances, it was often difficult for the colonists to perceive the distinctive peculiarity of black slavery.

Native American Indians practiced slavery on each other, long before Europeans arrived to practice it on them. For several tribes in the American Northwest, slaves constituted between 10 and 15 percent of the population. The Cherokee employed "slave catchers" to retrieve wounded combatants from other tribes, although the Cherokee preferred to kill enemies rather than take them captive. In some Indian tribes, slaveowners routinely killed large numbers of slaves in potlatch ceremonies to prove how wealthy they were.

Contrary to popular belief, Europeans did not typically invade African tribes to chase down and capture slaves. Many slaves purchased by Europeans were already slaves in Africa. Income from the salve trade made many African chiefs and tribes rich. The grim reality of the African slave trade between Africa and America was summed up by Zora Neale Hurston, the great black writer of teh Harlem Renaissance in the early part of the 20th century: "The white people held my people in slavery here in America. They had bought us, it is true, and exploited us. But the inescapable fact that stuck in my craw was: My people had sold me...My own people had exterminated whole nations and torn families apart for a profit before the strangers got their chance at a cut. It was a sobering thought. It impressed upon me the universal nature of greed."

The original framers of the Constitution were obliged to recognize the practice of slavery, whether or not they condoned it. They were attempting to fashion a national government; were provisions for ending slavery to be included, the Constitution would certainly not have been ratified by the Southern states (thus, the three-fifths compromise).

Insofar as the "English invaders" being the merciless savages, and Jefferson's "libeling the victims as the aggressors" - just simply not true.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous my thoughts said...

To "In Context" -
Thank you for your clear and concise explanation, putting a brighter light on the subject.

To HH -
You say "Sigh" in your post. I say take a deep breath. Based on what you wrote, you are essentially stating that the United States of America was built on greed and arrogance alone. We know that is not true (as so eloquently described above by "In Context."

You will lose readers if your columns take a stance without a broader base of facts to hold it up.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous rtr said...

Thank you 'In Context' for your post.

With respect to HH's attribution of the term 'Merciless Indian Savages' to Jefferson, I am neither shocked nor surprised. Borrowing the contextual theme, I would be surprised if Jefferson's frame of reference when coining the term has been translated through two and one half centuries with his meaning untarnished.

With all due deference to HH's nod to the imapct of the enlightenment on the educated colonial elites, 'Indian Savage' is lifted directly from Rousseau. The term 'merciless' echoes an ambiguity that crystallizes one of the philosophical conflicts between Hobbes and Rousseau. Having no knowledge of the specific context that produced Jefferson's characterization, it would be an open question to me whether Jefferson's meaning was more aligned with the Calvinistic Hobbes or with the natural morality of Rousseau. Certainly, Jefferson's more intimate contact with the immediate results of the projection of Rousseau's idealized natural man onto Native Americans and the political/moral complexity of their choice of alliances and cultural approaches to defending hearth and home would provide fertile ground for Jefferson's developing ideas about morality.

To say that Jefferson enjoyed slavery unfairly overstates the case that HH attempts to make. I take no issue with a statement that Jefferson enjoyed many of the fruits of slavery. His intellectual ambivalence toward the institution however, is well represented in his writings.

6:04 PM  
Anonymous HH said...

Thanks for these comments. You each raise interesting questions, and I'll return to this shortly. Turmoil in the house regarding Emma's surgery demands much time at the moment. Anyone read "Citizen of the Galaxy" by Robert Heinlein?

6:57 PM  

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