In the news the past week – Republican Senate candidate for Kentucky (and teabagger) Rand Paul says he would not have supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Too much government intrusion on businesses. Iowa pastors threaten everyone running for state office with opposition if they don’t sign up to repeal Iowa’s marriage equality for gays and lesbians. Sarah-vita continues to drum up amass both personal wealth and pubic enthusiasm for her own dangerously ignorant agenda. (She can’t be said to actually have a philosophy.)
What links them all? The desire of the former majority in this country for a return of the specific rights and powers that had been reserved for them exclusively until the quite recently in historical terms. And the danger is that while quite probably no longer a numerical majority, the Old Guard is still powerful.
Calls to return to the principles of the country’s Founding Fathers? Leaving aside the factoid that the lodestone figure of the Tea Party today, Sarah-vita, can’t name any, the fact is that the white landed class that broke the colonies away from Britain were hardly our nation’s only founders. They were the original rebels, yes. But our founders included heroes such as Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, Harvey Milk, Harry Hay, Susan B. Anthony and Betty Friedan to name just a few. They are very much historical founders in addition to the Texas textbook-recognized figures like George Washington and (now apparently) Jesus of Nazareth.
Gays, African Americans, religious minorities and atheists don’t view the original Constitution as the Old Guard does – an infallible construct of equality and justice. What we see is a document that granted rights to a specific class of residents of the former Colonies. And it has taken a long time and to extend rights to women, to free slaves, to grant even the least legal protections to gays and lesbians (let alone actual equality).
The American Revolution was a point in time for our country – a starting point for a that has continuously evolved. Whatever meaning our “founding” has, it is only within a specific historical context. Those who now denigrate our Latter Day Founders have an agenda, a political and economic agenda. An agenda that let’s them forget historical events that are as much part of our country’s founding now as the original Revolution. We can’t let anyone get away with pretending otherwise.