The founders of the U.S. Constitution recognized that many colonists had come to America to gain freedoms that they could not enjoy in 18th- and 19th-century Europe, such as religion, speech and assembly, as well as the opportunity to own land.
The overbearing caste systems of Europe that existed 100 to 200 years ago are the basic structure of ancient world civilizations since humans began farming the land instead of being hunter-gatherers. European nobles, many whose families had owned the land for generations past, employed the commoners in their communities. The commoners had no real method of getting ahead or advancing in their careers. They were dependent on the whims of their noble lords – some of whom were just, but many who were not as kind.
Eighteenth- and 19th-century America offered European commoners the chance to own land and gain wealth. Even the Mormon pioneers who settled Utah sought to own land, in addition to being able to practice their preferred religion.
But somehow, over time, America has reverted back to 19th-century Europe. Many American cities and states are dominated again by the wealthiest of the wealthy, who are leaving the working class in poverty.
This trend has been apparent since the beginning of our nation with the use of slaves, indentured servants, and migrant workers. Racism has been utilized to maintain a caste system – to say, “I am more important and more powerful than you.” Despite religious principles, such as taking care of the poor and the Golden Rule – doing unto others as you would have them do unto you – it seems that the basest instincts of the “natural man” have dominated society’s thinking on this.
Now, we still have a need for farm workers, factory workers and the more recent fast-food workers, despite technological breakthroughs since the 19th century. This kind of work is honorable, and it also deserves a fair wage that will pay for modest housing, food, health care, transportation and other needs. For more than 50 years, corporations have gotten away with not raising wages to match the rate of inflation, which has put many in the working class back in the same place as the European commoners of yesteryear.
It seems that the nail went in the coffin when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United in 2010, which permitted corporations, nonprofits and other associations – not just individuals – to donate to political candidates without restriction. In the decade that has followed, we have seen the funding for elections skyrocket. This phenomenon has created an unfair barrier to entry – only political candidates who are funded by the wealthiest of the wealthy have even a chance of getting elected.
But is that wise, when many of the wealthiest are more motivated by greed instead of the people’s welfare? For example, Trump was willing to give trillion-dollar tax cuts for the rich in 2017, but this year, the Senate under Mitch McConnell struggled for six months to pass a second Covid relief package to help those experiencing unemployment and eviction from their homes, citing the high deficit spending was prohibitive. Somehow Republicans didn’t consider the deficit in 2017 when they passed the trillion-dollar tax cuts for the rich. Could it be that they were more concerned about pleasing their rich donors?
The Nazi phrase “blood and soil” was first used by German commoners in the 1870s who felt that people of their own race who have lived there for centuries should own the land. This nationalist phrase was chanted by American white supremacists during the 2017 riot in Charlottesville, Virginia.
We have seen radicalized white-supremacist groups become more mainstream under the Trump administration, and they have become what we saw in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which we are learning was a coordinated attack with the intention of stopping Congress from their ceremonial role of certifying the 2020 presidential election. The rioters, who brandished T-shirts with white-supremacist and QAnon logos, intended to kidnap and kill Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They literally intended to take over the Capitol at the expense of our democracy, simply because they disagreed with the voice of the people. They have allowed President Trump to convince them that the election was rigged, despite a complete lack of evidence and more than 50 failed court cases. These radicalized groups seem to feel entitled and above the law, although nothing about their behavior is protected under the Constitution.
Since the founding of this country, we have passed multiple Constitutional amendments that recognize the equal rights of all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or cultural background. Even if the original Constitution did not acknowledge people of color as equals, they are recognized legally as such now, as a result of a rigorous Constitutional process. But changing the law and changing our culture are two different things. We have seen how, in just a four-year period, President Trump has lessened multiple protections through the removal of key regulations and statutes. For example, the Trump administration hampered the Voting Rights Act, which permitted several conservative states to revert back to creating barriers specifically designed to discourage and even bar people of color from participating in the most fundamental of democratic processes.
Sure, I support states’ rights, but not if they impinge on federal law and Constitutional protections. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who don’t see it that way. There are people who want to maintain their current lifestyle even if it means stomping on the rights of other U.S. citizens.
I have always admired participants of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s. We’re talking about people who became politically active because their fundamental rights to life, liberty and happiness were being infringed upon. I cannot imagine being afraid of getting beat up just because I needed to use the only available telephone or restroom that I was not permitted to use. Can you?
I cannot imagine the fear that the mothers and fathers of African Americans and other people of color still feel in the great U. S. of A, that their child, on any day of the week, could face the real possibility of being unjustly harassed, pulled over, or detained by their local peace officers, all because of centuries-old practices and an outdated, unjust hierarchical belief system.
But for the first time, I am feeling personally threatened by this radicalized, white supremacist, QAnon movement. Even though my family doesn’t subscribe to the most violent parts of this group, many believe that the election was rigged, that Trump is a victim, and that the Democrats intend to take away their rights. It hurts me to my core to observe my family being sucked into these lies, when it is current democratic policies that would provide more liberty and justice for all, hands down.
Is it really such an impingement to you if everyone can have access to affordable health care? If the police can treat everyone equally under the law? If we can take measures that would provide us with cleaner air and water? And if we can preserve lands that are sacred to Native Americans?
The United States is a really a big country filled with all kinds of people, and so is Utah. If we are to maintain our democracy, we must acknowledge that Constitutional freedoms are afforded to all.
Morrissey, Edward. “Nothing about ‘blood and soil’ us American.” The Week, August 15, 2017. https://theweek.com/articles/718444/nothing-about-blood-soil-american
Collins, Ben. “QAnon’s Dominion voter fraud conspiracy theory reaches the president.” NBC News, November 13, 2020. https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/q-fades-qanon-s-dominion-voter-fraud-conspiracy-theory-reaches-n1247780
Cummings, William, Joey Garrison and Jim Sergent, “By the numbers: President Donald Trump’s failed efforts to overturn the election.” USA Today, January 6, 2021. https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/news/politics/elections/2021/01/06/trumps-failed-efforts-overturn-election-numbers/4130307001/
Vella, Lauren. “Sasse: Capitol rioters ‘came dangerously close to starting a bloody constitutional crisis.’” The Hill, January 15, 2021. https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/534484-sasse-underscores-seriousness-of-capitol-attacks-amid-reports-rioters-aimed
Clarke, Kristen and Ezra Rosenberg. “Trump administration has Voting Rights Act on life support.” CNN, August 6, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/06/opinions/voting-rights-act-anniversary-long-way-to-go-clarke-rosenberg-opinion/index.html