Aug 31, 2010

Beck and King, pt.2: The Company you Keep

If you recall, we're taking a look at Glenn Beck's 'Restoring Honor' rally that was held on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech.  I'm sorting through things because I'm interested to find out just how unintentional the selection of the date really was.

Before we dive in to Beck himself, I thought that it was quite interesting to note that he chose Sarah Palin to be one of the speakers at the rally.  A bit of background, beginning with a bit of history:

The phrase "states' rights" is a dog-whistle for people who are upset that the Federal Government makes them live out the principles of human equality laid out in the Constitution.  It has been so at least as far back as Calhoun in the early nineteenth century: when he talked about "states' rights", he meant slavery*.  "States' rights" was also used as a sort of casus belli for the American Civil War, and a revisionist justification to evade the obvious truth: it was about slavery.  To those who believe this, we ask a simple question: if the war was about a state's right to self-determination regarding slavery, then why did the CSA constitution expressly forbid any state from banning it?

"States' rights" also has a proud history in the twentieth century, being used as a rallying cry for those opposing civil rights, and then again by Reagan near where civil rights workers had been murdered as a part of the GOP's "Southern Strategy."

The phrase has a two-century long history that is inextricably entwined with discrimination.  Now add the fact that her husband belonged to a secessionist** party.  Then consider her epic defense of Dr. Laura post a rant in which the latter said, "If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race,” after a caller had taken offense to her spouting "nigger nigger nigger."

So, that's Sarah Palin, and that's "states' rights."  Now, what are we to make of the fact that, a few months after the first black president took office, she signed a non-binding bill "claim[ing] sovereignty for the state [of Alaska] under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States" which also provided "Notice and Demand to the federal government to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers"?

Nothing good, and the inference becomes even more damning once we realize that Sarah Palin doesn't really believe in "states' rights" at all.  One of the rights that the tenth amendment implicitly reserved to the states is the right to set their own marriage laws, yet, Palin supports a federal constitutional ban on gay marriage which would effectively usurp that right from the states***.  I guess "states' rights" are all well and good when defending ... what, exactly?  But when it comes to constitutionally enshrining discrimination, then "states' rights" can suck it, just like they did in the CSA.

Understand, there may really be people who honestly believe in decentralization/federalism  But if you're going to throw around the notion of "states' rights" a few months into the presidency of the first black man elected to that office, you have first to do some work disinfecting said notion from its two hundred year history of racism--especially if your belief in actual "states' rights" is haphazard at best.  This work has strangely been left undone, which makes Sarah Palin a poor choice at best to speak at a rally on the site and anniversary of Dr. King's famous speech.

This entry is getting long, however, so we'll look at what she actually said in the next.

*He would occasionally complain about tariffs as well, but mostly because they undermined the economic system which slavery propped up.

**The Alaskan Independence Party "makes great effort to emphasize that its primary goal is merely a vote on secession".  Here's the thing: the question of secession has already been decided.  So they don't actually want to commit treason.  They just want to have a vote on whether or not treason should be committed.

***It's a fair question whether the opposite position--that of supporting a federal establishment of gay marriage--is also a usurpation of states' rights.  I hold the situation to be different, because the question of gay marriage as framed by its proponents is a question of equal protection under law, which the 14th amendment says applies to the states as well.  That position is self-consistent, but complaining about "states' rights" and then advocating a federal amendment abrogating them when they are exercised in a way you disapprove of is not.

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