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“Toxic Anti-American Talk”: The GOP’ers Just Don’t Get What America Is About

In the fall of 1943, a remarkable football game was played on the Eastern Plains of Colorado, the open, desolate, sparsely-populated landscape that pulls up to the great Rocky Mountains like the ebb of an inland sea they once were.

Dotted with small towns and grain towers, among the other installations on Colorado’s Eastern Plains during World War II was the Granada Relocation Center for Japanese Americans, colloquially known as Amache after a Cheyenne Indian Chief’s daughter. Like the communities around it, Amache was too small to field a full 11-man football team so instead they played six-man, including against a squad from the nearby town of Holly, the Holly High School Wildcats. They were prisoners and designated not-Americans, yet played that most American of sports.

The Amache team won that six-man football game in 1943, 7-0. Among the players on the Holly team was a teenage farm boy named Roy Romer. “We felt strange,” he recalled. “Why were folks herded here?”

Romer would go on to become four-term governor of Colorado and chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He talked about growing up in the shadow of Amache as a lifelong influence on his support for civil rights and treating people equally. Romer was part of the Colorado contingent that marched on the last day from Selma to Montgomery with Dr. King, and he was one of the first national figures to support LGBT rights by opposing Colorado’s anti-gay Amendment 2.

Colorado’s Republican governor at the time, Ralph Carr, opposed Executive Order 9066, the internment of Japanese Americans and said of them, “the Japanese are protected by the same Constitution that protects us. An American citizen of Japanese descent has the same rights as any other citizen. … If you harm them, you must first harm me. I was brought up in small towns where I knew the shame and dishonor of race hatred. I grew to despise it.”

Considered a rising star in the national Republican Party, Carr’s pro-civil rights stand provoked a firestorm of ugly criticism and cost him the 1942 Colorado Senate race. Amache ended Ralph Carr’s career. It began Roy Romer’s.

So when I hear the ugly rhetoric around Muslims not being real Americans from Donald Trump and Ben Carson, and the pejorative “anchor babies” from Jeb Bush, I think, have we learned nothing from Amache? I witness the hateful, divisive venom from Trump and Carson and the “birthers” and I wonder, what makes your family any better or different? What entitles you to separate yourself from people named Khan and Rodriguez and Obama – and for that matter, Reince Priebus?

This is toxic and anti-American. Rep. Mike Honda and his family were interned at Amache. The late Sen. Dan Inouye lost an arm for this country serving in a Japanese-American combat unit. He was awarded the Medal of Honor along with 20 other Nisei solders who were members of the 442nd Infantry Regiment, many of whom had family members in internment camps. Sometimes the “hyphenated” citizens of this country give us better than the non-hyphenated ones deserve.

If there’s one thing that defines this country above all others, it is that we are made up of people who wanted to come here. E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one.

The people in Amache were Americans. So are 3 million Muslim Americans. So is Jorge Ramos. When it comes to our values, Trump, Carson and the racist birther idiots they feed in the hopes of becoming president, I’m not so sure.

 

By: Laura Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, September 23, 2015

September 24, 2015 Posted by | America, Ben Carson, Donald Trump | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Our Constitution Neither Knows Nor Tolerates Classes”: Ben Carson Thinks Islam Isn’t Consistent With The Constitution. He’s Dead Wrong

Dr. Ben Carson excels in addled interpretations of America’s founding principles. In May, the Republican presidential candidate claimed that the president has the power to ignore the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling. And last month, when asked by Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd whether the Bible has “authority” over the Constitution, said, “That is not a simple question.” He extended this streak of misinterpretation on Sunday when Todd asked him whether he thought “Islam is consistent with the Constitution.” Carson replied, “No, I don’t, I do not,” and then added, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

In fact, Islam is neither consistent nor inconsistent with the Constitution; Islam is irrelevant to any discussion of the Constitution or rules of our governance. The same is true of Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, and every Protestant sect—even atheism, as the document does not once mention God. There is no religious test, preference, predilection, or, for that matter, even mention of any particular religion in the document itself and, with the exception of one line in the first amendment, in which “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” no mention of religion is made at all.

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, other than an opening prayer, which was non-denominational, and one plea by Benjamin Franklin on June 28 to appoint a chaplain to help break what had descended into an acrimonious logjam—a proposal that was ignored—religion was the last thing the delegates were thinking about. The one instance in which religious preference did arise was after the Convention ended, and John Jay, who had not been present but who would later become the Supreme Court’s first chief justice, wanted to restrict participation in government by Catholics. Jay, descended from Huguenots who had been oppressed by the Catholic majority in France, was quickly persuaded to drop his objections.

The larger issue, however, is the tendency of many Americans these days, both in and out of politics but especially conservatives, to evoke the Constitution without having any idea what it says or does not say. Even worse, they use a document whose sole purpose was to guarantee freedoms to attempt to try to limit the freedoms of those with whom they disagree. The Constitution is imperfect, of course, and in practice has been used to validate some terrible injustices—slavery, the deportation of Japanese-Americans, or speech that some found politically offensive. But past sins in no way means that we should condescend to our worst instincts. The Constitution can also be a tool to create a society where any American can grow up to be president, even a former neurosurgeon who seems to have little respect for its spirit.

Which brings us to Carson’s second assertion on Sunday: that no follower of Islam should sit in the White House. The only possible justification he could have for such a sentiment is the belief that followers of Islam are inherently a security risk, because their first loyalty is to … what? The Islamic State, Saudi Arabia, some radical imam? Deportation of Japanese-Americans during World War II was undertaken for the same reason—that they would somehow be more loyal to the emperor than to the United States. It proved tragically and hideously inaccurate. No one fought with more valor than young Japanese-Americans in Italy whose families had been shunted off to concentration camps.

In the end, the argument is about whether the United States is everyone’s country or just certain people’s country. Dr. Carson once again raises the specter that, despite all evidence and jurisprudence to the contrary, America is a “Christian nation.” Those who take this stance seem to do so only on the basis that most, if not all, of the Founders were Christian, somewhat ironic because overwhelmingly they were, at best, lax in their beliefs. And it is no more accurate to say America is “Christian” because it happens to have a Christian majority than it is to say that America is “white” for the same reason.

“[I]n the view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens,” Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote in his stinging dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). “There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.” This is also true of religion, as everyone in America—and especially its political leaders—should understand by now. If candidates like Carson can’t be bothered to read and understand the 4,500 words that comprise our founding document, they should not be considered fit for the job that requires they defend it.

 

By: Lawrence Goldstone, Author of The Activist: John Marshall, Marbury v. Madison and the Myth of Judicial Review and Inherently Unequal; The New Republic, September 20, 2015

September 21, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Muslims, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Judging The Supreme Court”: A Disturbing Picture, The Court Is Guilty Of Failing To Adequately Enforce The Constitution

After 227 years of history, how should we judge the United States Supreme Court? All of my years of studying, teaching, and practicing Constitutional law have convinced me that the Supreme Court has rarely lived up to lofty expectations and far more often has upheld discrimination and even egregious violations of basic liberties.

My disappointment in the Court is historical and contemporary. Its preeminent task is to enforce the Constitution in the face of majorities that would violate it. The Court is thus especially important in protecting minorities and in safeguarding rights in times of crisis when passions cause society to lose sight of its long-term values.

For the first 78 years of American history until the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, the Court enforced the institution of slavery. For 58 years, from 1896 until 1954, the Court embraced the noxious doctrine of separate but equal and approved Jim Crow laws that segregated every aspect of Southern life. Nor are egregious mistakes by the Supreme Court on race a thing of the past. The Roberts Court has furthered racial inequality by striking down efforts of school boards to desegregate schools and by declaring unconstitutional crucial provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Court also has continually failed to stand up to majoritarian pressures in times of crisis. During World War I, individuals were imprisoned for speech that criticized the draft and the war without the slightest evidence that the expression had any adverse effect on military recruitment or the war effort. During World War II, 110,000 Japanese-Americans were uprooted from their lifelong homes and placed in what President Franklin Roosevelt referred to as “concentration camps.”

During the McCarthy era, people were imprisoned simply for teaching works by Marx and Engels, and Lenin. In all of these instances, the Court failed to enforce the Constitution. Most recently, the Roberts Court held that individuals could be criminally punished for advising foreign organizations, designated by the United States government as terrorist organizations, as to how to use the United Nations for peaceful resolution of their disputes or how to receive humanitarian assistance.

For almost 40 years, from the 1890s until 1937, the Court declared unconstitutional more than 200 federal, state, and local laws that were designed to protect workers and consumers. The Court even declared unconstitutional the first federal law designed to prevent child labor by prohibiting the shipment in interstate commerce of goods made by child labor. Minimum-wage and maximum-hour laws were frequently invalidated.

Even the areas of the Supreme Court’s triumphs, like Brown v. Board of Education and Gideon v. Wainwright, accomplished less than it might seem. American public schools remain racially separate and terribly unequal. Criminal defendants in so many parts of the country, including in death-penalty cases, have grossly inadequate lawyers.

The Court’s decisions from the last few years — preventing employment discrimination suits and class actions against large corporations, keeping those injured by misconduct of generic drug makers from having any recovery, denying remedies to those unjustly convicted and detained — illustrate what has historically been true: The Court is far more likely to rule in favor of corporations than workers or consumers; it is far more likely to uphold abuses of government power than to stop them.

What should we do about it?

Some scholars urge the abandonment of judicial review, but I reject that conclusion. The limits of the Constitution are meaningful only if there are courts to enforce them. For those I have represented over my career — prisoners, criminal defendants, homeless individuals, a Guantánamo detainee — it is the courts or nothing.

But I believe that there are many reforms that can make the Court better and, taken together, make it less likely that it will so badly fail in the future. I propose a host of changes, including instituting merit selection of court justices, creating a more meaningful confirmation process, establishing term limits for court justices, changing the Court’s communications (that is, televising its proceedings), and applying ethics rules to the court justices.

The Supreme Court’s decisions affect each of us, often in the most important and intimate aspects of our lives. I think that we need to focus on the Court’s long-term and historical performance. If we do, it is a disturbing picture and there is only one possible verdict: The Court is guilty of failing to adequately enforce the Constitution.

But it can and must get better in the years and decades ahead.

 

By: Ewin Chemerinsky; The National Memo, January 5, 2014; Originally Posted at The Washington Spectator

 

January 6, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Constitution, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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