Wednesday, December 18, 2019

"Out Of Many, Still Many"

Sometimes an article I read in the paper carries my mind to something else.

I saw a story about the Supreme Court upholding a provision concerning abortion that the State of Kentucky had unilaterally instituted which had been appealed by its opponents to the Highest Court in the Land, where they lost.

What jumped out at me in that article was the word “Kentucky.” 

It reminded me of what is what, to me, is our national disgrace.

Okay, maybe not “disgrace” exactly, but a terrible mistake. 

If I wanted to mess up that previous sentence, I would have said “a terrible though understandable mistake.”  The impact is better without it, but to achieve it, historical accuracy had to temporarily take a back seat.

Though, in the front seat, it was still a mistake.

Here’s, according to “Earlo’s Unauthorized History of America”, is how it happened.


America’s going to war against England.  It was a huge mismatch.  Walmart against the 99 Cent Store.  America needed all the help it could get.

At that time, America, being a geographical designation rather than an actual country, the Revolutionary leaders had to go to the thirteen ununified colonies and say, “We need help.”

The colonies said okay. 

But first,

“We need to talk.”

The independent colonies, it turned out, had some prerequisite ground rules.   

Most specifically around protecting slavery.

Though they did not say it was about protecting slavery.  There was no “Slavery’s Great” faction, because, you know, it’s disgusting. 

The argument was framed in a loftier format.  There was no “Defense of slavery (P.U.).” 

There was, instead, a defense of “States’ Rights.”

Which protected slavery, but shut up.  It is not the same thing. 

“Yes, it is.” 

“No, it isn’t.”

Definitionally, “States’ Rights” allowed the soon-to-become individual states to do pretty much whatever they wanted, and no federal government could say no.

That, of course, included the delicately named “Peculiar Institution” of slavery.

“But not just slavery.  It’s about everything.”

“Including slavery.”

“Of course.”

The anti-slavery North vehemently objected.

“We do not want slavery in our country.”

“You mean the country we are establishing?”


“Fine.  Then we will not help you fight England.  And the ‘country we are establishing’ will be no country.”

You see how that works?  They had them over the proverbial barrel.

What were they going to do?

Cave, is what they were going to do.

To maximize their chances against England – which was a long shot either way although less so this way – they accepted the principle of “States’ Rights.”

Apparently, judged by the recent Supreme Court abortion case, allowing Kentucky to go its own way,

We are stuck with it forever.

It was at that point that I started to wonder.

As wondering is a harmless exercise – since I have no chance of changing anything, including your minds, and tell the truth, my mind is not settled on this either – let’s think about “States’ Rights.”

Maybe, e pluribus unum notwithstanding, we are, after all this time, still not a unified country. 

And perhaps that’s okay.

Just as in the beginning, there are today states whose citizens believe one thing and Americans from elsewhere who don’t.

Raising the question, why should outsider “Don’ts” have the right to impose their will on the citizens of one particular state?

Maybe it’s true that the individual states know more about the desires, wishes and beliefs of their constituents than the National Government and it is, therefore, for them to decide.

It’s their state.  They have “States’ Rights.”  Why shouldn’t they?

The thing is, over the centuries, each state’s population has greatly diversified.  Now there are ideological divisions within states, some believing one thing, others, totally another.

Allowing greater in-state heterogeneity, what are you gonna do?

Go with the majority imposing its will on the objecting minority?


Appeal the Supreme Court?

If they find no federal law broken, you’ll lose.  (Which – See:  Kentucky abortion case – they just did.)  (It didn’t hurt that the Supreme Court majority is publicly anti-abortion.)

It’s all kind of a mess.  To me, they should never have agreed to “States’ Rights.”

(SING-S0NGY WARNING) “We won’t help you fight England.”

That’s why we did it.

And we are still paying the price.

1 comment:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

On the other hand, a clear statement of what laws the EU could pass and rights reserved to member countries would have avoided a lot of mess over the last 2-3 decades, maybe even including Brexit.