Al Carroll's Journal
Name: Al Carroll
Gender: Do not display
Hometown: San Antonio
Home country: US
Current location: VA
Member since: Tue Apr 22, 2014, 10:33 PM
Number of posts: 113
Gender: Do not display
Hometown: San Antonio
Home country: US
Current location: VA
Member since: Tue Apr 22, 2014, 10:33 PM
Number of posts: 113
A Proposed New Constitution
America’s constitution is a sacred cow. Some cows should not be worshipped. For nothing should be so revered that one cannot question it, and blind worship is always to be avoided.
There is, among those on both the political left and right, what can only be called widespread constitution worship. Most on both sides hold up the constitution the way a vampire hunter in the movies holds up a cross to ward off vampires. Everyone from the most stoned pot smokers to gun toting militia groups calls on the constitution as support for causes, beliefs, and attitudes they hold dear.
This constitution worship is every bit as blindly enthusiastic as it is unknowing of the actual history of the constitution, and how and why it was adopted. For this, most people are blameless. People cannot be faulted for what they were not taught, or more often, falsely taught. I made the same argument in Presidents' Body Counts, and others, notably James Loewen in Lies My Teacher Told Me, argue likewise.
For the founders themselves did not think much of the constitution. Jefferson wanted a new constitution every twenty years. Other founders disagreed, largely because they were not sure the constitution would last twenty years. For the founders, it was a pragmatic even temporary measure, not holy or intended to be permanent. Constitution worship did not become a regular feature of American society until near the start of the twentieth century, in part as a way to assimilate immigrants.
I often tell my students that America is great not because of the constitution, but in spite of it, and especially in spite of the founders. The constitution itself is clearly at the root of many of our worst problems in American society today. If it were up to the American public, the following solutions would have become law many decades, even half a century or more, before today:
1. Abolishing the Electoral College.
2. Ending the buying of elections.
3. Limiting the time campaigning for office, as they do in Great Britain.
4. Ending wars quickly in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Each war continued over half a decade after the American public wanted to get out.
5. Reforming the office of vice president, widely regarded with contempt by most, and
producing candidates that even most voters of the same party as the presidential candidate did not want.
6. Ending corporate welfare and other wasteful spending.
7. Ending most foreign military aid, and support for tyrants and dictators around the world.
8. Limiting the power of the Supreme Court.
9. Ending the political monopoly of wealthy elites.
10. Guaranteeing privacy from government intrusion.
Each of these proposals have widespread bipartisan support and are hugely popular across the political spectrum by great majorities. But none of these proposals, not too surprisingly, have majority support among elected political elites, economic elites, or the leadership of either party.
The constitution itself is the biggest barrier to solving these problems. Not one of these problems have been, or ever could have been, quickly solved, precisely because the constitution makes it difficult. Most of these problems require a constitutional amendment, something made deliberately long and difficult by the founders. A few of these could be solved temporarily by ordinary laws, which could then be easily overturned next election.
So why not go to the root of these problems? Why not a new constitution?
Constitution worship is the reason. Most Americans have been so heavily propagandized to think of the US Constitution as undeniably great and downright sacred, something you just don’t question without being seen as un-American.
What is pretty comical is to see the most idealistic of leftists, who are deeply cynical of everything else that is elitist and coming from powerful and wealthy institutions, become like a fundamentalist when the constitution is brought up. What is equally comical is to see populist conservatives or libertarians become enamored of government power when it is enshrined in a document written by, after all, Deists and Enlightenment thinkers who did not trust organized religion or nobility. Both are smitten by constitution worship.
There are two obvious ways to deal with that. One is to challenge the holy stature of the constitution. Write the true history, which most historians and political scientists already know is not a noble one, but one of elitists hijacking a popular revolution.
The other solution is to keep what is best about the old constitution while adding to it. Propose a new constitution and a new constitutional convention, but make one of the first proposals to keep the best of the old document.
For the best of the constitution is not the original document at all. The best part is the amendments. The original document is not about rights and all about power, who has it and how they can wield it, and that it will always remain in the hands of elites. The amendments are what most rightly revere. Keep the amendments, and amend the original document of power to spread the power to the mass of people, and add more amendments to limit the power of elites, for good.
That is what this proposed constitution tries to do. It adds to the best of the document, keeping all the original constitutional amendments with Article 1. The rest of the articles serve the same purpose as amendments.
What of the first solution to ending constitution worship? Tell the true history of the constitution, uncensored, without the heavy doses of patriotic propaganda that leave out its elitist nature. That story has already been told many times in the fields of history, political science, etc. But to help the curious and open minded, and for the less patient, let me summarize the history of the adoption of the constitution. To do that, one has to go back to the American Revolution.
The American Revolution was not a real revolution at all. It was just an independence movement. In actual revolutions, elites are overturned, killed off, imprisoned, or forced to flee the country. America's elites, plantation owners like Washington and Jefferson, were actually strengthened. They no longer had to listen to British authorities. Many scholars, the best known being the eminent Charles Beard, argued the real motive for the founders' rebellion was economic. The British Empire was run by mercantilism, which required colonies to trade only with the mother country. The founders wanted primarily more profit from free trade, not political freedom.
But there were many in the middle and working classes who wanted a true class revolution. There had been class warfare in the earlier English Revolution, Roundheads who were middle class and anti nobility, and the Levelers, primitive versions of communists who wanted to level off the wealth anyone could have. In the American Revolution, there were anti elite groups like the Sons of Liberty, and populist rabble rousers like Samuel Adams, George Mason, and most of all Thomas Paine.
There was a populist wave of the American Revolution before it was hijacked by the largely elitist founders. The Massachusetts Revolution of 1774 happened a year before the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The public took control of Massachusetts courts, forcing judges and the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to resign. They overthrew every county government in Massachusetts. That is why the British were occupying Boston in the first place at the time of Lexington and Concord.
This was just the start of a populist revolution. There were over 90 Declarations of Independence before Jefferson's, from counties, cities, and states. Most were based on George Mason's in Virginia. Jefferson's was simply an elite attempt to seize control of a popular uprising. There were popular uprisings, attempted class revolutions within the elite-led revolution. There were mutinies within the US Army, in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Congress was forced to use a draft, bounties, even the promise of slaves to gain recruits.
After the war, there were early experiments in anarchism, socialism, and other revolutionary notions for that time. For a year, Pennsylvania tried shutting down the government entirely. Pennsylvania also tried outlawing the collection of debt, a form of wealth redistribution. Slavery ended in seven northern states. One out of eight slaves in the US were freed. New Jersey even gave women the right to vote. Though first done accidentally in 1776, it stayed on the books until 1807.
Aristocracy and feudalism were ended in the US. Noble titles, primogeniture, and entailment (the wealthy being able to seize public property) all ended. There was enormous confiscation and redistribution of wealth during and after the revolution. (Try telling that to a Tea Party member.) Most British loyalists and many aristocrats, whether they sided with the colonists or with Britain, lost their property. Established state churches in nine of the thirteen colonies were abolished. These were all fairly radical changes, and many Americans wanted to go even further.
American elites’ fear of class warfare created the US Constitution. The most pivotal event was Shay’s Rebellion. Farmers in western Massachusetts tried to stop foreclosures on their farms, so they shut down state courts. Jefferson called this, “liberty run mad.” Washington called it, “anarchy and confusion.” What horrified the founders was not the size of the rebellion. It was minor, with few deaths. The fact that it took so long to break the rebellion worried them. And at the same time, the French Revolution was going on. They feared this minor rebellion might grow into a similar class revolution. All the radical experiments in wealth redistribution added to that fear. The founders called the convention in direct response to Shay's Rebellion.
The constitutional delegates had a low opinion of the public. They believe people without wealth were just one hungry belly short of becoming a howling mob, that working class people were selfish, unreliable, and easily misled. They wanted the nation to be run by “men of quality,” the very wealthy, and argued the wealthy must be protected from the general public above all else. “Those who own the country ought to govern it,” as John Jay argued.
The Constitutional Convention was secretive. There were no notes taken, except Madison's, done at the end of the day in his room, against the wishes of the convention. The public was barred. So were the press. The delegates, just like Colonial Congresses before them, took oaths of secrecy to keep debates from the public. There was almost no debate on expanding the power of the government. The elite delegates already agreed in advance on most questions.
The US Constitution was and is deliberately anti democratic, designed to look like a democracy without actually being one. Great power was given to the president. The assumption was Washington would be the first, and the clumsy Electoral College put in. Electing a president was deliberately made cumbersome to stop anyone not as admired as Washington from being elected. The founders did not want competitive elections, but presidents chosen almost by acclamation.
Ratifying deliberately excluded opponents of the constitution. Special state conventions, not legislatures or the public, ratified the constitution. Even so, as word leaked out, the public turned against this document that most were not allowed to vote on. Elites at the special state conventions began to get nervous. Votes against the constitution were highest in Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. The Massachusetts convention only ratified after Governor John Hancock was promised (falsely) he would be the first president or vice president.
In Virginia, George Mason and Patrick Henry successfully pushed for the Bill of Rights as a condition for ratifying. The first presidential election was planned without New York, North Carolina, or Rhode Island. New York actually prepared to secede and become their own country. Federalists in New York City then threatened to secede from New York. The New York convention backed down and narrowly ratified.
North Carolina's convention defeated the constitution and held out a year before a new convention ratified. Rhode Island was the only state to hold a “popular” vote. (Not only minorities and women, except in New Jersey, were barred. There were property requirements to vote in every state.) The constitution was defeated in the state by a 10-1 margin, a good indication of what most of the public thought. Washington was actually elected without Rhode Island voting in the presidential election.
Ratification took three years of enormous elite effort *against* the general public. Ben Franklin owned most newspapers in the US. An economic boycott was used by wealthy elites to shut down many of the other papers opposing the constitution.
The original US Constitution, minus the amendments, has a deliberate *anti* democratic structure.
1. The Electoral College means there has never been a direct election of presidents. Originally it was intended to be a veto by elites vs the general public. If they elected the “wrong” person, the electors were there to overrule the public.
2. The US Senate is the most undemocratic part of the system. Wyoming has 75 times greater representation than California. Until the 20th Century, senators were chosen by state legislatures, not voters. (Some Tea Party leaders want to return to that.)
3. The Supreme Court almost always defends wealthy elites.
4. The winner take all/majority rule system is less democratic than parliament systems in most other nations. It leaves small groups unrepresented, cripples newer or smaller parties.
5. There is no mention of rights in in the original constitution whatsoever, except a stricter definition of treason.
And the US Constitution was illegally adopted. The Articles of Confederation's Article 13 states “…Articles of this Confederation…shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time be made in any of them; unless such alteration agreed to in Congress of the US & confirmed by legislatures of every State.” On both counts, the constitution is illegal. Neither Congress nor state legislatures ever confirmed it, only special state conventions.
Obviously I am not suggesting resistance to the current constitution, or ignoring it. That argument leads to chaos, and only militias and sovereign citizens on the fringe embrace that. There is a legal concept which says even if a law was adopted by faulty means, it remains the law if it has been in force for a good length of time. My point was simply, when one hears that this is a nation of laws, remember that the founders ignored the highest law in the land, the Articles of Confederation. Being elites, and very elitist, they just went ahead and did it.
Imagine a modern parallel to what the founders did. Imagine the wealthiest elites writing a document only they had any say in, and only allowing themselves to vote on it, and then declaring it the highest law in the land. That is what the founders did, and this is precisely why the original constitution deserves no reverence.
Instead, let us resolve to craft a new constitution that preserves the best of the old, the amendments, and adds to it with a far better system of government and drastic limits on elite power.
Unlike the original convention, any new constitution deserves, needs, and requires as much popular input as possible. While the proposals that follow were written by me, many of these proposals have been made in other forms before. Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, proposed some parts of several of these articles, as have others. It is depressing, and proof that reform is needed more than ever, that none of his proposals were adopted in spite of public support. The call for a new constitutional convention is ongoing.
These proposals, and any proposals, need to come from you, the general public. Send in your suggestions, criticisms, counter proposals, arguments and debates. Spread the word anywhere and everywhere you can. This cannot be done without you.
The only real arguments for continuing the current constitution are stability, and a view of the American system based more on romanticism than actual history.
These are the proposed new article titles. In the coming weeks, I will post one article a week in full, with explanations and arguments for them.
Article 1- Continuing and Expanding the Original Constitution and its Amendments
Article 2- Insuring Greater Democracy
Article 3-Guaranteeing the Right to Vote
Article 4-Ending the Buying of Elections
Article 5-Voting Guarantees Benefits
Article 6- Limiting Corporate Power
Article 7-Ending Colonialism
Article 8-Renouncing War
Article 9- Referendums and Recalls
Article 10- Nonprofits for the Public Interest
Article 11- Ending Institutional Support for Hatred and Discrimination
Article 12-Ending Class Bias in the Law
Article 13-Ending Special Treatment for Wealthy Elites
Article 14-Limiting Idle Wealth
Article 15- The Right to Privacy
Assistant Professor of History
Northern Virginia Community College
Posted by Al Carroll | Sat Aug 30, 2014, 12:15 PM (10 replies)
Book trailer for my book Presidents' Body Counts: The Twelve Worst and Four Best American Presidents Based on How Many Lived or Died Because of Their Actions.
On Youtube, Dailymotion, Vimeo, and Livewriters.
Posted by Al Carroll | Tue Jul 8, 2014, 10:40 PM (8 replies)
Article of mine that fits the purpose of this group. When you hear these arguments, here's evidence vs.
Adapted from an excerpt from Presidents' Body Counts at www.smashwords.com/books/view/419159
The latest domestic massacre in the news is no longer unusual. It is not even by itself, with several other mass shootings also happening recently. What is striking about these shootings is that they no longer bring much outrage, for gun control opponents have in place a series of myths filled with blindness and lack of understanding on the history of firearms in US history.
So hardened are these defenses that there often is no debate at all, and the notion of moderate voices on these issues seems unlikely. I write this article as a man who grew up hunting rabbits and deer in Texas, learning to shoot before I began middle school. I have a lifelong familiarity with guns as a hunter, an army veteran, and a historian who writes about veterans and issues of war, peace, and human rights, and a believer in subsistence hunting rights for Native peoples and the rural poor. Yet I am sure none of that will stop gun rights absolutists from dismissing out of hand the evidence I present.
These are the four most pervasive myths maintained about gun control by their opponents, designed to make debate or dissent on the issue impossible and unanswerable:
1. Gun control does not work.
2. It is barred by the Constitution.
3. It would lead to dictatorship, or firearms keep us free.
4. Guns prevent crime/make us feel safe.
To which I answer:
1. Gun control clearly can work. It worked in the Old West. It worked in Germany after World War I. It worked after Prohibition. It worked in Australia in halting gun massacres. It works in any number of nations with lower far lower death rates from both crime and suicide thanks to gun bans. To what extent a nation should have it is another issue.
There probably is no other era where ideas about it are shaped more by Hollywood than the Old West. The west was not nearly as violent as portrayed on film (except in violence done against Natives, where Hollywood has yet to depict such genocide accurately.) One of the reasons most of these small towns were not that violent was that gun control was common. Sheriffs often barred the carrying of guns. You had to turn yours in to the sheriff as you entered town, and you picked it up as you left.
In Weimar Germany, immediately following World War I, Communists and other leftists tried to overthrow the government. One way they were defeated was by the government banning and seizing guns. Keep in mind a democracy did this. German gun control stopped a Communist revolution. The Nazis, when they came to power, loosened gun control.
Because of Prohibition and the violent struggle for the bootleg trade, the US successfully barred sawed off shotguns, machine guns, and buying guns by mail. This is a success gun rights absolutists ignore. How often does one hear of a drug gang shootout with tommy guns, or a school shooting where the shooter bought the gun by mail?
Australia is just the latest example of a nation's gun control efficiency. Since passing in the 1990s, some murder or suicide rates have dropped by at least a third, by some estimates as high as three quarters. What is often missed by both sides of the debate is that gun suicides kill many more than violent crime. Cutting off access to guns to the mentally ill would be the biggest source of saving lives.
Why would suicides drop? Wouldn't people just kill themselves with something else? No, most suicides are cries for help. Once a suicide fails, or others intervene, many don't try suicide again. Many other ways of killing yourself, like sleeping pills, are not as effective as guns. People take too much and throw up, or are saved by getting their stomachs pumped. A bullet to the temple is far more final.
2. Gun control is not barred by the Constitution. The NRA, acting for the gun industry, has pushed a lot of false ideas with the intent of spreading paranoia and thus gun sales. There was little standing army in the US at the time of the Constitution. Thus the NRA sometimes claims a militia was meant to be “every adult male.” This is false. Militias meant “every adult white male.”
The purpose of a militia was not “to preserve freedom.” Just the opposite, militias were designed to preserve slavery and murder Indians or rebellious slaves. Militias were slave catching patrols. They also were vigilante groups designed to attack Indians. There was nothing noble about militias, and it is ludicrous and ignorant of basic history to paint them as such. With the end of slavery and war against Natives, their purpose is gone, long since dead.
In over 200 years, the courts only ruled on gun control twice. In US v Cruikshank in 1876, the Supreme Court ruled “the right to bears arms is not granted by the Constitution.” That is a direct quote from their decision. In US v Miller in 1939, the Supreme Court ruled the federal government can limit any weapons not related to a militia. If you are not part of the National Guard or reserves, the Constitution does not protect your gun ownership. The last decision by the court, the Heller case, was obviously influenced by decades of NRA rhetoric. The court ruled 5-4, along purely ideological lines.
It may surprise many readers, but the NRA did not get involved in gun control issues until the 1970s. It was mostly an apolitical gun safety organization, until Wayne LaPierre, conspiracy crackpot that he is, was elected president. The NRA actually favored some gun control as late as the 1980s, such as background checks. To keep gun sales up, LaPierre has become more deranged, peddling more extreme conspiracy theories over the years.
3. This is the easiest myth to dispose of. Guns do not keep a nation free. The voice of its people does. Guns do not guarantee freedom because governments can always get more powerful weapons than the public can. There are many democracies with gun control, some with greater freedom than the US. Every nation in Scandinavia, for example, has strict gun control but nothing like the Patriot Act.
Dictatorships do not fear gun ownership, but free voices. Typically their first acts are to shut down universities, newspapers, unions, and churches, not gun shops. Dictatorships even hand out guns. Latin American dictatorships created paramilitaries for their supporters.
4. Guns sometimes prevent crime, but not as much as banning them does. The study often quoted by the gun industry claims guns are used over 2 million times a year to stop crime. It has obvious exaggerations and even outright lies. Much of what many in the study claimed was stopping crime never happened, and in many cases the gun owner was committing a crime, assault or threats. No credible study has found over 100,000 uses of a gun for self defense a year. The Department of Justice only found about 83,000 cases of self defense for six years, or less than 16,000 a year. The number of deaths or injuries from guns is those same years was one and a half times as high.
There are still perfectly valid reasons for gun ownership, such as some forms of hunting. Even self-defense can be a valid argument, but not for blind unthinking gun worship. Guns rights defenders should not argue from ignorance of the cause they believe in, or from irrational conspiracy theories. No one, virtually no major organization or political leader seeks to ban all guns. Gun groups have put their cause in the bizarre situation of even defending wife beaters' alleged “right” to have a gun. Such an approach will backfire, leading to stricter regulation down the line since it becomes easy to paint all gun rights advocates as lunatics.
Al Carroll is Assistant Professor of History at Northern Virginia Community College and a former Fulbright Scholar. His other books are Medicine Bags and Dog Tags: American Indian Veteran Traditions from Colonial Times to the Second Iraq War and Survivors: Family Histories of Colonialism, Genocide, and War. He is a longtime activist and researcher for NewAgeFraud.org. More information on him can be found at http://alcarroll.com.
Posted by Al Carroll | Sat Jun 21, 2014, 11:02 PM (24 replies)
Been a member only a short time. I'm a historian and professor near DC. Teach US, American Indian, and Latin American history, so that's likely where you'll see me post the most often.
I've written two books. Both've gotten pretty good reviews.
Presidents' Body Counts: The Twelve Worst and Four Best American Presidents Based on How Many Lived or Died Because of Their Actions
Medicine Bags and Dog Tags: American Indian Veterans from Colonial Times to the Second Iraq War.
I'm also a longtime activist over at newagefraud.org, which protects Native traditions from frauds, exploiters, and commercialization. It also gets me quite a bit of hate mail, threats, and rumor mongering from those cult operators getting their profit margin threatened.
Good to be here.
Posted by Al Carroll | Mon Jun 16, 2014, 10:26 PM (5 replies)