Tuesday, November 30, 2010

States' Rights - 10th Amendment Conundrum In A Nut Shell

The "strophe, antistrophe and epode were a kind of stanza framed only for the music." - John Milton, "Samson Agonistes." The strophe was chanted by a Greek chorus as it moved from right to left across the skênê.

McAllen - Heavy fighting broke out last week – again, as a matter or routine – between rebel drug cartel gunmen trained by U.S. Special Forces, and the Mexican military.

They have been fighting now for the past 4 years over extremely lucrative smuggling routes for high-priced illegal drugs, illegal aliens and freshly laundered cash.

Since nothing happens in a vacuum, certainly local and state officials have taken notice.

It's kind of hard to ignore 12,000 pounds of marijuana seized at the Falfurrias Border Patrol checkpoint – part of a record seizure level for one week of more than 20 tons of the stuff, tens of thousands of deaths on the Mexican side of the border, the cold-blooded murder by drug cartel pirates of a man who was out riding around on Falcon Lake sight-seeing on jet skis with his wife, and the abandonment of the entire bullet-pocked Mexican town of Ciudad Mier in Tamaulipas, all of which has forced multiple shutdowns of two international bridges that lead from McAllen and Starr County to the Valley towns rich in agriculture and population.

In response to multiple threats that come from anonymous sources south of the border – people who say “Back off or you'll be sorry” – Zapata County Sheriff “Sigi” Gonzales says his department will continue to do their job - that is, protecting the citizens of Zapata County.

Whose job is that?

The Constitution of the United States declares it's one of the enumerated powers of the federal government, to defend the borders and repel invasions.

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15 declares and enumerates that “Congress shall have power...To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute The Laws Of The Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasion.”


By declaring war in cases where the U.S. has been attacked or invaded. If so, then merry hell ensues, as we all know. If not, then the attendant drama is something to behold.

Political scientists, social psychologists and other social scientists of all designations have described the well-known stages of a nation girding itself for war, chief among them the “war dance.”

In preparations for the Civil War, or The War Of Northern Aggression, as described by adherents to the Confederate cause, the conflict shaped up over states' rights as described in the 10th Amendment:

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The question was simple enough. Would southern states be allowed to continue to count slaves as non-voting members of the population – chattel property with no civil or human rights whatsover - for purposes of Congressional and legislative apportionment and redistricting? At the same time, would the establishment continue to tolerate a system of tobacco, rice, and cotton plantations staffed by completely unenfranchised persons, people subject to property laws pertaining to their owners' inventory of chattel, yet who were counted as citizens, constituents who were to be represented in Congress?

It cost the lives of an estimated 650 to 700,000 men to settle that question, about 200,000 of whom were killed outright in battle, and another 400,000 who died from complications of disease.

There are no figures available for how many wandered the streets and roads of America like stray dogs until they finally couldn't stand it any more and died from what was then called “nostalgia,” later called shell shock, combat psychosis, and is now referred to euphemistically as “post traumatic stress disorder.”

When the shakeout came, it was only on the terms dictated by a business power elite centered in northern industrial urban areas. More than an additional 100 years were required to effect the full emancipation of black slaves and a bestowal of a full array of civil rights upon their heirs, something which the new Republican Party's Presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, avoided like a plague that would surely cost him his life, which it did.

Mr. Lincoln was the last soldier to die because of a battle wound in that tremendous conflict. He was shot in the back of the head by a man who shouted “Sic semper tyrannis!” or, “Thus always to tyrants,” the state motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia, as he leaped to the stage of Ford's Theater and made his escape after fracturing a bone in his leg.

In that hassle, states' rights figured in this way.

Seven states found they could not tolerate the election of President Lincoln and seceded immediately. The President was on record as a strict constructionist of the 10th Amendment. He had long held that, while he argued with the moral rationale and peculiarly twisted mental adjustments necessary to justify it, “the institution of slavery is founded on injustice and bad policy, but...the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends to increase rather than abate its evils.”

His opinion was that because of the 10th Amendment, there was no constitutional way to declare slavery illegal in the states.

When it came to the abolition of slavery in the 10-mile square “seat of government,” the District of Columbia at Washington, he held that though such a measure would be constitutional, it should not be done without the consent of the people who lived there. In that instance, his take on the anti-slavery litmus test closely resembled the holdings of the courts on the abolition of firearm ownership in the District, recently overturned in the Heller decision. Ordinary citizens do have the right to keep and bear arms, regardless of city or state proscriptions of that right, the Court has held in subsequent decisions, but city and state authorities have the right to make rules regarding their ownership, storage, transportation, registration and licensure for concealed carry.

He furthermore refused to denounce the Fugitive Slave Law in public or to cease making equivocal statements about racial equality during his Senatorial campaign against Stephen Douglas, where he flip flopped between the two opposing views in appearances in Chicago, where he advocated abolition, and in Charleston, the “Little Egypt” town in southern Illinois, where he maintained that “there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

Seeking to preserve the border security at Charleston, South Carolina, Mr. Lincoln had federal troops and Navy ships attempt to take over and resupply Ft. Sumter, which is situated on an island in the middle of the bay, commanding the entrance to the harbor.

Confederate forces seized upon the issue as a casus belli and declared war upon the United States for its invasion of the Confederate States of America.

At this point, an additional 4 states seceded and joined the Confederacy. President Lincoln had federal troops cross the Potomac into northern Virginia, and the war was on.

Seceding from the United States of America is not a casual idea, one to be tossed around idly, in jest, or in anything other than utmost sincerity.

It's the real deal, as Mr. Dan Rather of Wharton, Texas, by way of The Heights of Houston's First Ward, would say.

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