Friday, July 30, 2010

The Party of the Insane; or, Beyond the Know-Nothings

I realized long ago that many Republicans would not be able to pass the tests given to students in Civics classes in the 1950s & 1960s, were such tests administered to people in the US today. (This first became obvious when the Republicans decided that adultery was an impeachable offense for the POTUS when the POTUS is a Democrat). Nevertheless, even I am gobsmacked by the latest piece of nonsense to come out of the Iowa Republican Party. (It's not just Civics exams that the Iowa Republicans would fail, but exams in Logic and History as well.) Desperate to find a way to take President Obama's citizenship away from him (the repeated lie that he was not born in the US not having accomplished all that its propagators have hoped for), some Republicans in Iowa have dug up an attempt to amend the US Constitution back in 1810 that failed because it could not achieve the votes needed for ratification. They are calling this "the original 13th amendment." You all know what the real 13th Amendment is, don't you? It's the amendment that bans slavery and involuntary servitude.

Yeah. Just so.

So what is this failed amendment they want to reintroduce and ratify?
If any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honour, or shall, without the consent of Congress accept and retain any present, pension, office or emolument of any kind whatever, from any emperor, king, prince or foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen of the United States and shall be incapable of holding any office of trust or profit under them, or either of them.
What, you might wonder, does this have to do with taking away Obama's citizenship? Apparently these bozos believe that merely accepting the Nobel Prize from a committee appointed by the Norwegian Parliament would then require him to be stripped of his citizenship. (I guess they don't know what the word "honour" meant back in 1810.) And I guess that would mean that everyone who ever accepted a Nobel Prize would also be stripped of their citizenship. (Jimmy Carter, Toni Morrison, Paul Krugman, Joseph Steiglitz, any number of scientists-- yeah, I can see why these whackos would like to rid our shores of all recipients of a Nobel.) But apparently Nobel Laureates are not the only ones these guys are targeting. Here's Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post:
In the world of the Thirteenthers, though, it's all a conspiracy, and the leading suspects are those shady characters who put "esquire" after their names. To quote the Web site Constitutional Concepts, "This Amendment was for the specific purpose of banning participation in government operations by attorneys and bankers who claimed the Title of Nobility of 'Esquire.' These people had joined the International Bar Association or the International Bankers Association and owed their allegiance to the King of England." In other words--well, we're not sure how to explain it any better, but Constitutional Concepts CEO Jim Barrus says in an e-mail that enforcement of the 13th Amendment would strike a blow against "the elected politicians who have grand plans of ruling every facet of America," and would essentially delegitimize virtually every act of the federal government since 1819. Who wouldn't want that?

Naturally, most lawyers see it differently. "The esquire thing is ridiculous," says R. B. Bernstein, a professor at New York Law School and author of Amending America. "'Esquire' is not a title of nobility. Back then, they were worried about people accepting literal titles of aristocracy that convey land or privileges, things you can leave to your kids." Lawyers obviously command certain privileges, but they are not inherited.
The "Thirteenthers" (as they call themselves), according to the Iowa Independent
argue that it was ratified and have a plethora of conspiracy theories to back up their assertion. These folks, known as “Thirteenthers,” believe that since the amendment would have banned lawyers and bankers from serving in government (since they joined the International Bar Association or the International Bankers Association, respectively), every act of the federal government since 1819 would be delegitimized.
In a way, this is even more grandiose in its disregard for truth than the Birthers' refusal to admit that Obama was born in the United States. But who knows, it sounds like the kind of re-writing that might make it into Texas's K-12 history texts.


Josh said...

Americans who have received honorary knighthoods from Queen Elizabeth include Papa Bush, Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Alan Greenspan, and Ronald Reagan. Americans in the Légion d'Honneur include Quincy Jones, Barbra Streisand, Liza Minelli, David Lynch, Jerry Lewis, Professor Bruce Jackson, and Ronald Reagan.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

Your title reminds me: Nell Irvin Painter's discussion of the Know Nothing Party in her superb book The History of White People brought to my mind disturbing parallels between it and the teabaggers of today.

And it's rather hilarious to think that some members of the party of the very privileged are opposed to noble titles.

Timmi Duchamp said...

I had those similarities in mind when I titled the post, Nancy. Considering the torque the Teabaggers have placed on public discourse, I probably should read Painter's book.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

Painter's book is brilliant. It provides a new perspective on history, particularly that of the US in the 19th Century. And it shows so very clearly that whiteness is a construct, and a mutable one to boot. These days white pretty much means anyone with European ancestry, but 150 years ago it really meant Anglo Saxon -- no Irish need apply (or any number of other people, but the anti-Irish sentiment was particularly vicious). And it is fascinating to read how abolitionists and other liberal thinkers believed in the idea of the superior white race.

BTW, she is now, in her 60s, working on an MFA in art on top of her career as an historian.

Impressive woman.

Josh said...

"As a nation, we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be take pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."--Lincoln