The Meaningless Constitution and Constitution Day

Remarks at St Xavier U Constitution Day Event (September 15, 2005). Congress mandates that all universities that accept federal funding have programming on the Constitution. It is similar to we give you money and you must earn your dinner by honouring a slave document that is meaningless given the power-elite structure in this country. You want to assess a constitution. Look at the elites; they are the ones who own it and intrepret it to pursue their narrow self-interest. Again the document is meaningless. Now the following were my remarks:

I admire Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. I have read his book, Losing America, on the Iraq war, and am inspired by his continuous opposition to the terrorist war in Iraq. He is a great man but I do not believe he was correct in authoring legislation that requires universities, that accept federal funding, to have a Constitution Day programme each year. While it is against federal law for the Department of Education to establish a National Curriculum, and while this Constitution Day requirement is based upon an honour system, instead of monitored compliance, and does not mandate or legislate outcomes, I think the Congress should keep its hands off universities and not provide legislative mandates for any kind of programming. Audit institutions of higher learning; insure that federal monies are spent in an appropriate manner but do not require quid pro quo with sub rosa agendas of patriotism and ratifying the present order. Universities can think for themselves and establish programmes and curricula that reflect on the vital documents of America. My remarks will test the alleged purpose of this dangerous law to encourage discussion and not mandate conformity or blind submission to the American ethos.

I was asked by my department chair to address the Free Speech component of the Constitution. The Constitution of 1788—what is this 1787 nonsense! The document entered into force in 1788, who cares when it was written by slaveowners and men of capital?– omitted free speech, free press, or the right to petition for a redress of grievances. It was a racist, slave document that supported slavery, removed the president from electoral politics and provided a fig-leaf of democracy with the election by and of only white males to the House of Representatives. Senators were appointed by state-legislative majorities. It required that only Congress, not the Executive, could Declare War. This has been rendered meaningless and inoperative by microwave, fast-track imperialism and terrorism since World War II. Warmongers, who allege liberal jurists deviate from original intent, or a strict construction of the Constitution, have no qualms in essentially rendering the Constitution meaningless when they approve wars in a manner never intended by the Founders and that expressly violate the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights contains the 1st Amendment that we are supposed to adulate although I was asked to comment on just the portion dealing with “free speech”:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

This only provided Federal guarantees of free speech despite James Madison’s urging that the states also assume the protection of citizens’ rights. Not until 1925, in Gitlow v. New York did the Supreme Court extend or incorporate the Bill of Rights into the 14th Amendment and specifically require states to protect free speech. Yet ironically that case decided against free speech in upholding the imprisonment of Benjamin Gitlow. His crime? He published, “The Left Wing Manifesto” that the court suppressed due to its socialist ideology. We all know on this campus the perils of expressing provocative antiwar speech even when intended to be private, much less a manifesto. (Reference to my suspension for an e-mail that condemned “the aggressive baby-killing tactics of collateral damage” and other antiwar outbursts—we need them!!—in an e-mail to the Air Force Academy.)

In either case the First Amendment was a fraud from its inception. Just seven years later in 1798, Congress passed a law that Josef Stalin would have admired and that James Madison described as a “monster that forever must disgrace its parents.” This was the Sedition Act. It persecuted anti-Federalist, antiwar speech during a period of rising tensions with France.

Congressperson Matthew Lyon of Vermont was one of about seventy (70) persons who were arrested and imprisoned under the Sedition Act. Congressperson Lyon criticised President John Adams’s “continual grasp for power” and his “unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice.” Newspaper editors, most of whom were Irish and opposed the pro-British policy of the Adams’s administration were imprisoned under this law for anti-administration editorials.

The Sedition Act made it a crime punishable by a $2000 fine and two years in prison:

[To] “write, print, utter, or publish…any false, scandalous and malicious writing against the government of the U.S., or either House of Congress…or the president…with intent to defame…or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the U.S.” I guarantee you, I would have been prosecuted and sent to prison had that law not expired in1801 and was in force during my tenure here.

During the Civil War, that was supposedly fought for freedom, the Chicago Times (June 1863) was censored and actually shut down by Union General Ambrose Burnside in 1863 because of “disloyal and incendiary sentiments.” Lincoln did reverse the order. President Lincoln ordered the suspension in May 1864 of publications of the New York World and Journal of Commerce due to advocating a national day of pubic humiliation and prayer for this war and publishing an incorrect story that Lincoln would draft 400,000 more men. Other newspapers censored were the Louisville Courier, the New Orleans Crescent, the Baltimore South and the Philadelphia Evening Journal.

Also the first amendment does not protect the free speech of academicians employed at private universities but only at public universities since the 14th amendment incorporation requires “states” not to abridge free speech. Such protection is lacking for private-university professors that do not fall under Congress or state jurisdiction. This is another example how this irrelevant little document has been attenuated by narrow interpretations and the whims of five to nine elite person majorities on the Supreme Court.

This entry was posted in Academia/Academic Freedom, Politics/Music/Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply