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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Some Historical Perspective for H.R. 1

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History, Slavery, Three Amendments and H.R.1.

I’ve read a few reports indicating that some conservatives now feel that Fox is not conservative enough for them.  They seem to dislike that Fox does not attack the legitimacy of President Biden and reported his victory in November. They are now turning to Newsmax and OANN (One America News Network). The positions voiced on these two news sources, however, often perpetuate the “big lie” that Trump really won the election and President Biden “stole” the election.  This reinforces those who actually believe these lies. 

These outlets also minimize the severity of some of the acts of insurrection carried out by right wing extremists at the Capitol on January 6. Such seditious acts did not even take place in the nation’s capital after the Civil war, but they did occur in the South in some of the States which were being brought back into the Union with “reconstructionist” governments and where the defenders of slavery, the losers in the Civil War, did not accept them.  It’s still the same battle going on today, but never before had it been brought to the nation’s capital, as it was on January 6 when the flag of those seceding States, the Confederacy, was taken into the Capitol.  That was an abominable act which should be punished.  

Andrew Johnson,
17th President,
was no foe of slavery

The Thirteenth Amendment (Emancipation), the Fourteenth Amendment (Defining citizenship) and the Fifteenth Amendment (Voting rights) were designed to protect the rights of the newly freed Black population after the Civil War.  Since their passage in the late 1860s, the losers in the Civil war have been attempting to bypass them through the loopholes in them which, of necessity, were included to help their passage in Congress and by three fourths of the States.  

Over the years, they have been aided by a President who really favored slavery, a Democratic Party which until 1964, catered to the States of the former Confederacy in order to get their votes in Congress, the withdrawal of troops from the defeated South in 1877 and a usually compliant Supreme Court.  An observer from another planet as the Nineteenth Century came to an end might think that the Confederacy had actually won the Civil War, not the Union, 35 years earlier.

Currently, the passage of H.R. 1 would continue to do the job that these three Amendments were intended to do.  The battle over H.R. 1 in Congress is merely an extension of the struggle to bring Afro-Americans, and other minorities, fully into our society which has been going on since the Civil War.  The legislation just passed by the Georgia legislature and similar legislation pending in other States where the Republicans control State government are simply more attempts to get around these three Amendments.  These legislators are un-American. 

We are living in a historical process which started in 1619 when slavery was brought to these shores and which continues today, as we try to rid the nation of the misery it has caused the enslaved, their descendants and the country.


Item added on April 2

Basketball Jerseys

When I see some college basketball players in the NCAA tournament wearing jerseys with the word “Equality” emblazoned on them, I am reminded of Michael Bellesiles’ 2020 book, “Inventing Equality … Reconstructing the Constitution in the Aftermath of the Civil War” which I just finished.  In it, the author deals with:

·         the lack of equality in our country prior to the Civil War,

·         the failure of the Constitution to live up to the promises of the Declaration of Independence and

·         the efforts to bring about equality after that war through the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, abolishing slavery, defining citizenship and establishing the right to vote.

He goes on to point out how the Supreme Court, in effect, eventually negated these Amendments without objection from a nation which did not seem to mourn the ending of Reconstruction’s promises of equality. While Americans might have been outwardly proud of the patriotic words of these Amendments, they often showed a preference for “inequality” when it affected them personally.  In the courtroom, we are beyond that point today, but too many Americans still prefer a degree, however reduced, of what is still "inequality."

“Equality” should be more than an aim affixed to a basketball jersey.  Passage of H.R. 1 and successful enforcement of its provisions would be steps in the right direction toward “Equality.” We still have a long, long way to go.

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