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Obama and inequality

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 02-19-2013 | in Government, Race, Democracy, Critical Thinking, Freedom,

President Barack Obama quoted principles of human equality and liberty rights from the Declaration of Independence as the theme for his second inaugural address. He asserted that fidelity to our founding principles is important if we are to meet future challenges to our way of life. However, I question his vision for the future that relies on appeals to the authority of custom and to uncertain liberty principles.

"Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

(President Obama inaugural speech 1/21/2013)

Obama's remarks wrongly suggest the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence and Constitution for the same purpose and that both expressed the same principles of human equality.

Writings during the 17th and 18th century affirmed ideas of human equality and personal liberty rights over principles of inherited privilege or servitude that were common during Europe's centuries of feudalism. The Continental Congress included those emerging principles in the 1776 Declaration of Independence as one justification for ending rule over
Americans by the British king. A year later, the same Continental Congress asserted different ideas of liberty in the Articles of Confederation that continued slavery. Ten years later, delegates from the States wrote in the preamble of the constitution:

"We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Nevertheless, this Constitution approved slavery and the slave trade in the American Republic. Therefore, the founders created the United States Republic on constitutional principles of inherited liberty and inherited servitude more like feudalism laws than like principles of human equality expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

Human equality is a self-evident condition in a society only if all people have liberty and human rights at birth. Otherwise, the people shift authority over human rights from them to government when they limit liberty to certain groups. The Declaration of Independence described government's role in a free society: "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." A society is not a free where the government has authority to grant or withhold liberty.

The ability to reason and to decide self-image, worldview, and survival are defining traits of humans. All reasoning takes place in the reasoning center of the individual based on his or her self-image, interests, knowledge, and worldview. Nobody has the ability to reason within another person's reasoning center, store of knowledge or worldview. Liberty is an expression of human equality, because equals lack authority to decide thought or action for one another. Therefore, all humans have self-directed reasoning ability at birth, and they are equal.

Where principles of human equality were self-evident and accepted in society, the people respected one another's human rights. In other societies, deviant personalities took advantage of confusion from ignorance and fear to set up a superior ruling status for them over other humans.

America's social policy and law made liberty a privilege of race. As a result, racial-group identity exerted undue influence on self-image of Americans. This corruption of self-image is common in American society where most people still commonly name race when describing themselves and strangers. However, they cannot reason from a vague racial-group image decided by others. Therefore, race-corrupted self-images reduce people's reasoning skills and ability for self-government.

Government also extended the Constitution's protection of human rights to corporations as artificial persons. This government action showed contempt for the principle of humans having unalienable life and liberty rights endowed by god or by nature. The Constitution approved in 1789 refused liberty to some humans based on skin color so wealthy families and corporations could profit by enslaving them. Then, in 1886, the Supreme Court approved corporations as artificial persons and advanced their economic interests and powers over all workers no matter their race label. This government policy against the people's human rights should have motivated Americans to examine the foundations of their culture for uncertain and contradictory moral principles and change them. It did not. Americans continued to support old ideas of human inequality.

A big threat to liberty is Americans' willingness to surrender self-image and personal autonomy for an uncertain group-image they believe will entitle them to economic advantages. Those expected advantages decided by others are fleeting for most and costly compared to freedom they surrender. Any social principle, custom, or law that destroys or weakens personal autonomy threatens liberty. All assumptions against human equality threaten liberty. Loyalty to any unexamined custom or authority threatens liberty. Americans will secure their liberty when they adopt true principles of human equality and end allegiance to founding principles of racism and inequality.

Chris Rock’s Independence Day remark offensive or critical thinking?

Written By Kenneth Brooks on 07-08-2012 | in Political, Government, Ethics, Race, Democracy, Critical Thinking,

"Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren't free but I'm sure they enjoyed fireworks." A San Francisco Examiner article reported this remark by comedian Chris Rock in a tweet about the Independence Day celebration and negative reaction to it. Most responses I read were negative with many of them calling the remark racist.

Chris Rock gained national acclaim for his humor as a former cast member of "Saturday Night Live" television comedy. Remarks about society that defy social expectations of conformity to set values have been a characteristic of his humor. Let us analyze the basis for the controversy to see if the facts justify the objections to his remarks.

The Independence Day celebration on July 4 honors the goals of the Declaration of Independence of self-determination for Americans. In addition, it honors historic figures like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Hancock that helped write and helped gain approval for the declaration. Nobody can dispute this assertion based on fact. We do not hear people associating leaders of this era like President Barrack Obama, or former presidents George W. Bush and William J Clinton with the celebration.

Chris Rock is correct only white-labeled Americans had reasons to celebrate when Congress approved the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776 and not black-labeled people still enslaved after its approval. The men that wrote and approved the Declaration of Independence mostly were enslavers of black-labeled people. Those enslavers did not intend to include the people they enslaved under the declaration's umbrella of freedom. Freedom day for black-labeled Americans was December 6, 1865 when the States approved and adopted the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Chris Rock only reported an obvious fact. His enslaved ancestors did not gain freedom or self-determination from the Declaration of Independence. They did not find its approval a joyful occasion. Therefore, people did not have a rational reason to resent Chris Rock's statement of fact or to characterize it racist.

Someone could rightly criticize Rock for generalizing happiness about Independence Day to all white-labeled people. He could have reflected about women's feelings on Independence Day. "Happy white males' Independence Day, the women weren't free to take part in government, but I'm sure the enjoyed the fireworks."

On the other hand, he could have reflected on the disenfranchised white-labeled males that did not own property. "Happy white male property owners' Independence Day, the white males without property weren't free to take part in government, but I'm sure they enjoyed the fireworks."

Critics' attacks on Chris Rock's Independence Day remarks are attacks on Higher Order Thinking skills that challenge their fixed beliefs and values. Perhaps they do not see the connection. In contrast, the Texas Republican Party saw the connection between Higher Order Thinking Skills as reasoning that challenges fixed beliefs and values. It included the following plank in the 2012 to 2014 platform.

"We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

The Texas Republican Party is correct the inclination and ability to examine or challenge fixed beliefs and values are fundamental traits of Higher Order Thinking. Fixed beliefs and fixed values limit Americans' ability to reason about their government. This is why many political leaders oppose their constituents learning critical thinking skills.

Rock's remark challenges the common belief the nation's founders intended to secure self-determination for all people in America by approving the Declaration of Independence. In addition, he challenged the fixed belief of the founders as models of virtue above criticism and its extension that material wealth and position of power indicate someone's high moral standards.


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