Saturday, July 4, 2009

14 th Ammendment

The Fourteenth Amendment states that slaves have equal access to due process. This ammendment protects everyone from tyrannical government which would steal from the individual his liberty, life or property. There must be a hearing.

Slaves are equal under law. And now we have a president whose ancesters "could" have been slaves. Only in America.

We are so fortunate that we do not have to fear a seizure of our property (unless one is thinking of taxes!). We are a people that is protect through the rights and freedoms that this country provides. Thanks be to our Founders and their wisdom.


John said...


The Fourteenth Amendment says that all persons born or naturalized as citizen in the United States are entitled to due process and equal protection under the law. The Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery, thus determining that all human beings are now and for ever "persons" and never again mere property.

Our Founders, on the other hand, in their infinite wisdom, agreed that certain individuals and their children would be property and not persons, and thus subject to to the property rights of their masters and not to any protections of the law, nor to any of the privileges of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" which we Americans value so highly.

It was only because as a nation we possess the right to self-examination and self-correction and because because political power is broadly distributed, that the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were adopted. And it is these later adjustments to the law which resulted in the general availability of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

In reality, pure unadorned principles of selfishness might just as easily led our more recent political forebears to follow in the footsteps of the Founders and sustain the preservation of established property rights and the protection of those rights against "seizure."

In a world where wealth and might guide all decisionmaking, the determination of who shall possess the privileges of Liberty, both political and economic, is purely a matter of rational choice, and that choice will be made by those who have acquired the wealth and the wealth and might to enforce their decisions - and in all likelihood they will choose to protect and defend what they have rather than share it with the less well endowed.

It is fascinating that as a nation we elected against the rights of property and in favor of the rights of the human being. The question might be asked: what led to this startling decision against self-interest?

We indeed have much to be thankful for.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Thank you for clarifying and enlarging the discussion.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

John, in you second paragraph, you say that the Founders didn't view "certain individuals and their children" would be property and not persons. WAHT does THIS mena? Those that did not have citizenry???...and on what basis???

John said...


The Founders preserved the right to own slaves. They did this by determining that slaves were property and not persons, thus they could be owned and were not entitled to the rights of persons. These are the individuals and their children to whom I referred.

Many slaves were born in America and though this would have been enough to make a white person a citizen, it did nothing for the newborn black. The fact that his parents were slaves, and thus property and not persons meant that the would be a slave and not a person as well. All very reasonable. All very wrong.

Fortunately, our Constitution is subject to reevaluation. And so, as Americans returned again and again during its first hundred years to the founding claim that all persons are created equal, eventually we began to take the point seriously. We are indeed all God's children and all are equally entitled to the benefits of personhood, not as a matter of reason or conscience but as a matter of faith.

The problem with reason as a basis for morality is that it is most often used to preserve the existing power structure. Moreover, it is directed by two factors: the human desire to preserve and defend what we have, and the constraints which our conscience imposes on our actions.

You vest a great deal of confidence in conscience as the guiding light of our nation; I do not. The formation of conscience is wholly random, whatever environment we are born into will be the predominant factor in the formation of our conscience.

I am not willing to rely on such randomness.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Than you for responding. But, I do not believe that slavery teaches anyone anything, other than others can be cruel. That is not a way to "train" another acting unethically.

Conscience is yet to be understood fully I think, as neuroscience "investigates" this issue. In traditional understanding, conscience is what affirms the social "norm". Social norms are cultural forms of undestanding morality. Therefore, really there is no absolute form, but what is culturally "correct". There is an assessment about what makes for a more flourishing society. This is what sociology and anthropology can tell us.

Formulations of "right and wrong" are formed within social structures, but when social structures fail through their "fallenness" (if you will), then does that mean that there is no way of "reason" assessing what is to be of value? I think each person has reason to evaluate his life and come to conclusions about what is of ultimate value.

You speak of power structure protecting their own power, this is why the balance of power is the way our country understood good government. Is it right for there to be a re-distribution of wealth because some "faith" oriented person believes that that is the way it "should be" or some scientifically minded person believes this is the way to "form" the person into a "moral person"? Or some business oriented person can "make money" by purposing a "god" plan for the greater good?

When there are so many social issues why is poverty THE importatnt social issue that Must be addressed globally. Politics drives all of it and at a profit most of the time (look at the lack of investigation into ACORN). And who determines who has more than needed, and will all be equal, I think not. Look at Communist regimes. The "elite" take care of themselves while the peasant class lives off "potatoes". There is no perfect system, but which is the best and why and how...people will disagree.

No, I will react "selfishly" "On Principle" that no one has a moral right to take away (steal) someone else's life. No matter the "end"! Wouldn't that be ironic and the height of hypocisy for one to co-erce another into a predetermined standard of "moral behavior"?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Therefore, what I am arguing is that there is not "pure reason".

John said...


The history of slavery in the United States teaches what can happen when property becomes more important than people. It teaches how selfishness can go terribly wrong - even for people who accept the creative role of God. Ethics based on selfishness will inevitably lead to the use of power to define right and wrong, property and personhood, in ways that preserve existing privilege and prevent such privileges from wider distribution. Would I be right in assuming that you oppose any sort of amnesty for illegal aliens?

I personally don't wish to see any great re-distribution of wealth. I do not feel that I am all that politically driven these days in any particular direction. I know many people of strong faith who share you apparent sensibilities though, so I find it interesting that you took my foray into conscience to infer that I belong to a faith based political bloc calling for greater economic socialization. Most people I know who would insert their faith into their politics seem to be in your political camp - so faith should not be such a stumbling block for you.

What I was attempting to do was critique your veneration for property rights and counter your antipathy to a faith based system of liberal personal values (conservative personal values seeming to be acceptable to you).

Interestingly enough, the Founding Fathers likewise venerated private property but based their analysis on faith - inalienable rights granted by our Creator.

You on the other hand accept their conclusion about private property but reject their first principles. Instead you assert "reason" as your first principle. However, reason is nothing more than a system of logic, and it does not have, and it cannot discern ultimate first principles.

When you reject faith based first principles you share common ground with Marx (history as a force in and of itself, is moving inexorably toward the maximization of the quality of human life, so let's cooperate, if not co-opt that force altogether and speed it up) and/or Nietzsche (the good life is all about power and using power boldly and unashamedly to your perceived personal advantage).

A life of genuine faith is not about coerced morality, but about freely chosen morality.

Poverty is THE important issue because for people on one side or the other, such as yourself, it IS the important issue. I agree there is no perfect system, but every system, in order to succeed must find a way to provide security and basic economic services to the bulk of its citizenry and especially to the underclasses.

For me THE social issue is how do I lead my life, use my skillset, and teach my children, to reflect the gratitude I feel for the grace which I have experienced. Everything else is details.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

Very observant and a kind response. Thanks.

Conservative, or some of them in the faith camp, believe in a "cmmunistic type" of living, where there are no boundaries as property. They base their understanding, of course, on an ancient text and call it "living for Christ"...trusting him to provide. This is not sensable, or rational. It is tribalistic. That is a cultural value defined as the 'ideal". I dont' adhere to this type of thinking.

Most of those, myself included, used to think that academia was in opposition to faith. Thinking would inevitably lead to an undermining of faith, but I find that faith in reason does not have to be absolutized, but can be a rational defense of how one understands life in this world, People will differ as to how that will look and what "being in the world" should "be". This should be the political debate. And there should not be an appeal to an ancient text, but to reason.

I fear for the freedoms that we have presently in this country, and perhaps, others think the freedoms are just as well "outlawed", but I think this is very short-sighted, in light of radical Islam and the politcal scene world-wide.

I do no believe that peace for the whole world will happen, ever. And I don't pretend to believe that I know what the after-life holds. But, I must use my head as I live my life, as I have only used my heart in the past. That is idealism of youth. Adults grow up and know that life is not about the "ideal", but the "real" and the inevitable. That is what I am facing. And I want to continue to be realistic.

But, I do not think understanding "computor or biological systems" and using that to formulate "life" in this world is what I would imagine to allow the diversity and personablity in the world. It becomes a systme, a form, a type of living that is devoid of real life, which is about individual liberty and the individual's development.

Individuals cannot live and grow in a static scientific world. There must be a flexiblity in the system that I think our courts allow. When things become too systmeic and the balance of power has been dissolved then the courts resolve these types of power grabs and conflict.

John said...


Just a few thoughts.

"Communistic type" or irrational and "tribalistic".

First of all, most conservatives that I know personally are not in least communistic, and any hint of a "share the wealth" mentality is anathema to them. Tribalistic? OK. But I prefer the term family - even extended family. Irrational? OK. Without assaulting you too much with Scripture, there is a warning that faith in a crucified redeemer, and loving one's enemies, and assuming a servant approach to relationships will sound foolish to most "rational" people. I can't say that I am surprised.

"faith in reason" Faith in reason in fact is not faith at all? Faith is belief in things unseen. Reason is reliance in one's own powers of perception and deduction, and it is the polar opposite of faith. Science has no quibble with reason, nor does it have any quibble with faith, provided faith does not deny the truths of science. The two should be able to go hand in hand. When they don't one of them (or both) is out of kilter, typically pursuing a dogmatically driven agenda which has very little to do with truth and everything to do with power over potential believers.

"there should not be an appeal to ancient text" Now here you go off the reservation. What if the ancient text is Plato or Pythagorus? Or the Declaration of Independence or Bill of Rights?
But of course you were only precluding one ancient text which you have interpreted to be objectionable. I will bet you that interpreted on its own terms and without a dogmatic filter, you would find much to like in that ancient text and, even in those part that disturb you the most, you would find ideas too compelling to dismiss as mere superstition.

"Radical" anything is dangerous - because the fanatics leading such movements are prepared to sacrifice everything and everyone to their obsession. They see everything in black and white - in agreement or in opposition - and those in opposition are demonized, if not explicitly identified as being in league with Satan. But "liberty" would defend their right to speak their minds and pursue their political objectives. Scary thought?

I am quite certain that world peace will not come in our time, or perhaps ever. Humans are too fearful and too acquisitive for that to happen. Nor do I think we shall ever overcome poverty, on a national, let alone international scale.

Idealism is a good thing, it drives one to seek what reason teaches us is not possible or even plausible. Usually we don't succeed, but sometimes we do, and even when we don't we take heart in knowing that we cared enough about what we value to try hard enough to fail at it. Even as we fail we encourage others to try. It is part of the good life: not to live in fear of failure, even when failure is real. It leads us to trust, and to relax and to love, and to allow ourselves to be loved.

"Real life" is not so much about individual liberty as about how you exploit the liberty you have and so accomplish what you want to accomplish. "Liberty" is just a concept, which one can experience to a greater or lesser extent - but never perfectly, and it can never be completely removed from one's life. That "ancient text" teaches us that even when the all else is taken away, you retain the freedom to participate in your relationship with God. It also teaches that even when your liberty fails to secure for you any degree of pleasure, you are free to return to re-engage in your relationship with God, without giving up any liberty, and you can trust that God will not abandon you in those moments.

I would not trust courts to be any better at ferreting out truth than baseball umpires - they are human and they call them as they see them, and sometimes they get it right. The next pitch though, is a whole new ballgame, with whole new set of outcomes.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

You say we are to love our enemies, when even our "family" does not or cannot love us. It is stupid and co-dependent to keep believing and hoping and beating one's head against the wall.

People don't love when they have agendas, even when their agenda is your "maturity", as in "discipleship program"...(see, look at how successful and spiritual I am...). That is disgusting. I don't desire or want any of that. If my life crosse, connects, or influences someone else's then it will be because of what I am doing as I walk the road of life, and not because I have my focus on "who I am influencing". Let's just say that most of us dont' even know how to love our own families well (and I am speaking for myself). So, to talk of "loving enemies is ludicrous and hypocritical. I don't think that loving one's family for the "gospel" is particularly couregous, kind or sane. But, those who think this way about the 'costs" of discipleship have no qualms about their standards of judging.

Ancient texts are written within the context of human experience. None of them should be applied like scripture is applied by fundamentalists/evangelicals. To tell someone when he is in dire straits, or in the hands of "evil" that "it will work out all right because God is in control", is not only cruel but the height of presumption.

I have seen and experienced those who have no faith, and those who do, that demonstrate a high character. So character is irrelavant of belief. I admire agnostics, atheists, as well as believers. It just depends on how they treat others in their conversation and manner. And this does not mean that they cannot be direct, confrontational, or opinionated, but they do have an attitude of graciousness that is not seen in everyone.

As far as liberty goes, I agree that liberty should not be exploited, but if one values liberty then one will value and see the need for a free and open press. Without the press, those in power have no accountability, at times. Does that mean that the press should assault the person? No, but ideas are the "game" of politics. And I believe without understnding more about all of that and informing oneself, then the population will inevitably give up some of their freedom. We should take advantage of our freedoms and never take them for granted.

As far as living one's life, I believe that without reason, life is built on foolishness. Faith is not presumption and I find that many thing the farther they jump out into the dark, the more they "prove God". Many have landed on their heads, while some seem to fly in spite of their presumption. But, if all was known, there were probably many behind the scenes that were left "holding the bag" while the story told was "not the whole story". I have many friends that have suffered such.

I would much rather learn from psychology, sociology, history, politics,and philosophy. Without an understanding of how real life works and how people usually behave, then there is no real reality, only a hope in an ideal that is always just out of one's grasp. And those who set their hopes "out there" are usually sorely disappointed.

I have learned that realism, with a good dose of skepticism and a dash of cynicism is the best medicine for an over-idealized view of life. One must take responsibility for oneself and hold others accountable when they cross the lines that are appropriate. That is living a real life. An adult life.

John said...

It is a hard life you choose to lead. You are strong and very self-protective. I suspect you will do just fine, so I wish you well.