Article Image

A Revolution still to win: Ratify the ERA

Written by Subject: Declaration of Independence

A typically smug and self serving article by a man identifying himself as the Reverend Rusty Waller was published on the cyber pages of Freedom's Phoenix recently; the aforementioned article purported to 'prove' that women are not legally enabled to run for the office of President. The Reverend's line of argumentation depends on an interpretation of the intentions of the writers of various laws regarding gender specific words. The Reverend went on to cite 'Constitutional' authorities he neglected to name. A thorough reading of the piece reveals that The Reverend Waller is seeking time on the radio and in print to promote his 'campaign.'

The Reverend is asserting a different interpretation based on uncited opinions and what amounts to minute consideration of the words, 'he, and 'man.' Now cast your mind back to the floods of abuse heaped on women activists who insisted that gender used in language impacted them and their rights; remember the sneers and jokes over suggested changes.

I have to confess I thought then that those feminists were making a mountain out of a mole hill. Evidently I was wrong. To most reasonable people issues of this sort are viewed as sophist haggling, intended to prevent the clear intentions of the majority. It is exactly the kind of tactics we have seen used over and over again by the NeoCons as they move towards interpreting American law to support a monarchy.

If that were the only point to be raised from the Rev.'s article I would have just closed the window. But this pubescent doggerel also gave me a clear insight into other, far more interesting points.

Why would The Reverend Waller waste our time on such a marginalizing issue in the face of the threat presently hanging over our Nation?

The answer is money and power and the advancement of an agenda that continues to marginalize attempts to create a united front with which to oppose the NeoCons.

We have seen similar assertions made ad nauseum by other spokesmen promoted and sponsored by NeoCons and other centrist authoritarians before them on women's issues. Women, and their support, is the key to any effective coalition and to the continued use of government to rip away what remains of our rights. Old sins can still kill freedom.

There are two separate points to be made here. First, the tactics of dividing us. Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, Wendy MacElroy, and legions of others have introduced red herring issues at times when it seemed that the possibility for unity existed and used a utility interpretation of law that allowed law to be used to transfer power and wealth. Utility theory, as opposed to the Austrian approach to rights allows minorities to be sacrificed in the interests of the collective. Hardly the tool appropriate to anyone alive to the issues of individual, natural rights.

Legislation has been used to chop up the right of women to control their own lives for over 200 years. Limitations and restrictions include their right to own property, work, inherit, have custody of their own children, contract, marry, and have now focused on chopping up their lives, turning control over to others through their children.

This should never have happened. The government should make no laws modifying the natural rights of anyone. That includes women.

The strategy of converting the rights of all through the precedent created centering on the rights of women continues to be used because it works. It works so well it has been applied nearly everywhere and between many other groups. “Why don't you guys fight?” works on all the playgrounds of life and politics is no different. While 'the guys' are fighting the pimple faced geek makes off with the marbles.

The introduction of specious arguments deepens divides, distracting us from effective opposition. It pays well, however, for the NeoCon Operative. Lucrative careers have been carved out for those willing to participate; the Rev. obviously wishes to join the ranks of Coulter, Reed, and their ilk. When the unethical see a means for getting what is not earned they all pile on.

Human nature has some nasty tendencies, as we all know. Those who are enjoying ill gotten gains rarely give up those benefits willingly. They will do anything to hold on to what they have come to view as their property.

How many societies of slave owners worked and moved for the emancipation of slaves in the antebellum South? I am tired of hearing about how, “slavery was about to prove economically inefficient,' and so would have ended. THAT is a utilitarian argument if I ever heard one. The American Mission Statement said nothing about your right to grab the life and property of another because you 'needed' it. If I need your car, just for the next year or so, is it alright for me to grab it providing I can get government to do the dirty work?

The only two wars ever fought on American soil or elsewhere that stood firmly on the foundation of our inherent, God given rights of self-ownership were the Revolution and Nat Turner's Revolt.

Rights are absolutes by any reading of natural rights theory.

Waller's line of reasoning is not premised in natural rights. Instead, he attempts a conversion to the divine right of kings with a spot of flag waving window dressing. Unused to thinking about the extrapolations, most men in the freedom movement buy in.

Geraldine Ferraro was nominated for the office of Vice President and her name was carried on the ballot in every state in 1984.

The Reverend Weller's assertion that a woman cannot be 'legally' elected to the office of president raises the question of how Ms. Ferraro managed that nomination. That is a question easily answered. The question was visited and dismissed in 1984. The qualifications for the offices of President and Vice-President are identical. These issues were called into question before Ferraro was qualified for the ballot. An issue paper dealing with her eligibility was written and made available by the Executive Office of the President affirming that women were eligible to hold either office and the point died a natural death never to be raised again until The Reverend Waller started campaigning for time on talk radio.

Again, why would he float such as issue today when our rights are under a focused attack from this administration? Motives matter and can explain a lot.

Let us move on to consider the authority of the Constitution.

Government has no rights; States have no rights. Only individuals have rights. Government is a tool we use to provide for services we can't get out of the Yellow Pages. That was the original idea anyway.

Government should never have been allowed to convert our inherent rights, as enunciated by Thomas Jefferson, into privileges controlled by the State. The Rev's 'reverence' for the Constitution is one in a long line of attempts to anoint that document, the Constitution, into the equivalent of the Ten Commandments. It was not. It is a tool written by men who were all too fallible. They no more intended it to be written on stone tablets than they intended the presidency, the CEO of one branch of government, to obtain the status of a monarch.

In this way the Rev spins the issues, enthroning by the premises thus deified the tyranny now oppressing us. This travesty should turn the stomach of any freedom oriented American.

These assertions contravene all of the founding premises on which natural rights theory stands.

The understanding of the nature of inherent rights and the capital invested in the enterprise for liberty preceded the Constitution. The war had been won, the the costs sunk, investments made when the switch was pulled.

By declaring revolution and stating its principles, inherent natural rights for all, the founders involved women and men in an enterprise that necessitated their acceptance of risk; a tiny percentage of the population comprised of men and women, actively participated. These individuals donated, struggled, provided the capital, and died. The benefits were enjoyed by many who never lifted a finger as well as by those who actually opposed the war.

The act of declaring the founding premises created a contract between those in positions of leadership and those investing in the enterprise. Women believed that after the Revolution their own rights would also be secured and ratified as inherent. Abigail Adams was typical of those women, who coming from a culture that had admitted the spiritual equality of women easily extended this into other arenas. They were defrauded.

By the same assertions of principle the founders enunciated adherence to a world view that asserted that the natural rights of each individual preceded all government, then and today.

They then proceeded to ignore that clear contract, beginning the conversion that confronts us today. They did so in large part because the Southern States threatened to withdraw. They should have let them and good riddance. Then those opposed to the continuation of slavery would have been better positioned to end that atrocity far earlier.

Americans as a whole did vote on the manipulative means used by Southern States to continue slavery, involving non-slave owners as their enforcement arm. In the immediate wake of the Revolution nearly a half million Southern Americans moved North or West, largely because they disagreed with the institution of slavery. At the same time over two hundred thousand northern slave-owners moved South to ensure they could keep their slaves. Feet can speak.

No State can grant rights, but it could mete out privileges. The exclusion of women and blacks in the enjoyment of their inherent rights laid the groundwork for the tyranny we face now. Government had no charter that allowed them to withhold the rights of women and blacks; therefore the actions of those who wrote the Constitution were fraudulent and should be revoked.

Government never possessed the mandate to limit rights to propertied white men. This was a taking of the most elemental kind.

That is the second point. The next point takes us back to the previously mentioned component of human nature. The desire to hold on to ill gotten gains. It is easy to control people when you deny them their rights.

If all humankind possess inherent rights and if the American Mission Statement was capitalized to secure those rights to all then you would think that those who emote endlessly about 'liberty' would have noticed after 230 years. Obviously, the greed factor is strong in the mouths and minds that emote for freedom as well as churning the impulses of the NeoCons.

Rights are not 'earned' they are inherent. Black slaves did not earn their rights; they were grudgingly granted to half of them as the partial fulfillment of the propaganda used to carry out the Civil War. That war was about Federalism, never about freedom or the rights of any man or woman.

A small minority of Americans understood that. Radical Abolitionists, opposed to slavery and active for suffrage, promoted secession from the Union. They were ignored but they were right.

Most Americans and most 'heroes of freedom' ignored the precedent they were setting both by their actions and by their lack of action.

If those who were enjoying the benefits of freedom had done the right thing at any point in the last 230 years then we would not today be faced with the nearly complete conversion of our form of government into a fascist dictatorship. Those who have enjoyed those rights have failed to recognize the founding principle that each of us has rights inborn. They emoted for freedom while through their inaction they delivered slavery in gradations to all of us. Their failure leaves them and those who followed them into positions of trust morally bankrupt.

If those who decline to act have clearly benefited by their neglect then they become parties to the fraud. Many women, such as Phyllis Schlafly, have also built careers on selling lies about the nature of rights.

There are a handful of men who did the right thing. A handful out of millions. Those who touted themselves as champions of liberty have a shameful record for supporting the women who worked by their sides on the issue of abolition and other issues of individual justice. The gender make up of movements that benefited all people were staffed mostly by women; they did not get credit but they made sure it happened. The movements focused on issues specific to women had minute numbers of men involved.

Freedom should be personal for each of us. The petty devices of the Rev., the far more egregious and successful conversions of such as Edward H. Crane, III through such organizations as Cato Institute have taken our own support and activism and used them for their own profit, furthering the conversion of rights. Crane and his cadre took the tools created by the freedom movement, each intended to return control and choice to individuals, and decoupled accountability from profit and resold them to government. By so doing they helped government deepen our servitude, limited choice, marginalized our rights, and strengthened the train of conversions that began when women and blacks were refused the acknowledgment of their own inherent rights based in a shared humanity.

All of those who cooperated are traitors to freedom.

Freedom is personal; the lack of its acknowledgment can destroy the soul. I have always been grateful that the men on the Pillsbury and Foster sides of my family were numbered among those who did the right thing. That is why I took the name.

The husbands of suffragists signed contracts affirming the wrongness of a state mandated contract; they turned their back consciously on the power that otherwise would have been given into their hands by government. They were honorable men. How many men of today's freedom movement would do the same?

After a struggle of over a century women finally obtained the right to vote. It was a right wrested from government, not given freely. The movement for civil disobedience had its beginning then from the strategic insights of Alice Paul. Alice Paul fought the successful battle for women's franchise, suffering imprisonment to accomplish that end. In his autobiography Mohandas K. Gandhi cited Paul as the source for his own work in non-violent protest. Alinsky and King learned from Gandhi. And yet no one in the freedom movement lists the heroes of women's suffrage and emancipation as heroes in the ongoing struggle for human rights. Instead they are denigrated and dismissed. But their fight was harder, longer and consumed all of their lives and the lives of their daughters and grand-daughters.

Ten generations have lived and died working and struggling.

Rights not acknowledged and secured to all become privileges controlled by government.

By ignoring the need to acknowledge the inherent rights of women men have put a noose over all of our heads participating in the conversion of American government into a fascist state. Those are the facts.

It is not yet too late to change course.

An effective coalition demands that women's standing as equal in law under the existing Constitution be ratified. If that had happened when it should the use of such legislation as Title Nine would never have been raised. All moral failures bring their consequences. Instead of dwelling on the past it is time to move forward to a real freedom.

The principle remains; the State may never modify the right of any individual to self determination; that is the truth we need to keep. There were men who understood the reality women faced and who worked for the emancipation of all. They are tragically few in number. Parker Pillsbury, a cousin who used to visit with my great-great-grandfather's family in New Hampshire, was one of these. They had a vision for the world and their lives that was never realized. They also failed, but not without trying. They never compromised.

Today the noose is tightening around each of our necks.

For most of the 30 years I have been active fighting for freedom I happily put aside my own interests to work on other issues. No more. No morally conscious person can do that. Now, the pragmatic need to build an effective coalition to oppose the NeoCons meets the need to finally do what should have been done 230 years ago. Confirm women in their inherent, God given rights. Ratify the ERA. By so doing action can speak the truth if those who emote the words of freedom truly believe in the principles.

What you do will matter. This is a war being fought out in the deepest places in our souls. What is more important to you? Affirming the mistakes of the past or rebooting so that all of us can enjoy the secured benefits of the inherent rights originally guaranteed?

It is for you to decide for yourself. For me I know. My ancestors served at Valley Forge, heard the Shot Heard Round the World and participated in every battle fought during the Revolution. They served on the Committees of Correspondence, signed the Declaration; many died. The women in my family provided the food, capital and labor that made that struggle possible.

The Revolution is not yet over. To be won it has to be all of us.

Ratify the ERA.