With the recent Supreme Court decision that declares the 1964 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, the question of fair treatment rises as a central concern of our polity. The appearances of normalcy – equal treatment – are illusions in our society. The concerted efforts by conservative groups in the last presidential election reveals that America is still highly divided, yet we all do not see our division easily.
What masks this division, which history shows us, is the nation’s growing materialism – if all citizens have full access to goods and services, their responsibility is to rise up and utilize those opportunities through self-motivating forces. Simple psychology reveals that defacto racism, sexism and classism are not easily distinguished by laws. So believing that numbers designate a defacto change in psycho-social behavior becomes too clearly a tool for monied conservatives to mask their gross intentions to prohibit the “opposition” protection from laws that could easily constrain equal access.
About 10 years ago a young woman of 24 told me that if women feel they are ill treated or are singled out through discriminatory practices they are deluded. In her zealous youth she failed to understand that efforts of women to equalize the playing field through pay check equality, sexual rights and job opportunities had still not been reached. In 2002, women still earned 25% less than men, and only 1% of the top decision making positions in business were occupied by women. Although women have made incredible gains, it has come through the sacrifice of women to lay themselves down on the gauntlet and fight for those rights. Women’s rights are not self evident in patriarchal minds. Minority rights are not self evident with defacto racism. Sexual rights are not self evident in homophobic maternalist thinking.
Throughout history, laws for broadening the rights of citizenship have only come from bloodshed in some form or other. The failed application of the 14th amendment by the United States government in every state of the union throughout the 19th century was only rectified by brave men and women who had the courage to stand up and put their lives on the line to challenge the wrong. Although they experienced many defeats, they kept going forward – they leaned forward – they passed their message from generation to generation. It is our current generation that seems to feel paralyzed from not only understanding the impacts of the conservative laws, but stymied by the increasing feeling that as long as one’s basic needs are met, all is well. All is not well, as our society moves back to Gilded Age economics, and its psycho-social underpinnings.
In America, money represents the key to freedom – the relationship is inherent in the constitution’s very way that it was constructed – a coup of the financial elites over the notion of populism. The elites never believed the people were educated enough to make civic decisions, so they constructed a system by which the majority of peoples in the republic could not vote to change or make the laws of the state. Those laws were changed only when the power elites needed those votes to maintain their hegemony. Throughout our democractic experiment, money always begot power. However, power corrupts, and the economic debacles of the last decade confirm it so.
The interpretation of the powerful court all too easily becomes the byway of partisan power, constructed through the financial power of a silent minority (the 1%), who’s position is threatened by democratic thinking – allowing populism to dictate any norms of the market. Conservatism is the minority, but they hold the majority of wealth and political power. Since we are a nation built on democratic capitalism, our first thought is that if I or the nation are financially sound, than the system is sound. With that thinking, the fight for equal rights, equal access of the financial and political disenfranchised, cannot come about until we see ourselves as disenfranchised.