In fact, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention were afraid that the revolutionary ideology of freedom and equality had unwisely and unintentionally unleashed a social revolution. Southern planters envisioned the end of slavery on which their wealth was based. Northern capitalists were opposed to the liberal and democratic land laws which the people were demanding. The economic leaders in both sections of the country believed that there was a need to protect property rights against these new revolutionary human rights. While the Northern states strove to stabilize society in order to build a flourishing commerce, the Southern states tightened their control over their slaves fearing that insurrections from South America or ideas about freedom and equality from the American Revolution itself might inspire a serious slave rebellion.
Slavery is such a big issue in American history that it difficult to dismiss it as just an unpleasant remnat of ages past as so many citizens would like to do. Regardless of the rationale of those at the first continental congress they were wrong on many levels and were gravely mistaken for not heeding the wisdom of Abigail Adams and John Jay among others. Most likely the Civil War could have been avoided and all the acrimony that followed for years. One can easily imagine a better nation evolving more quickly if all the resources that went into the civil war had gone into education, trade, and other national endeavors with more virtue.
But we are still very far from such recognition for the present war on terror. President Bush and others persist in depicting this new form of state vs. nonstate warfare in traditional terms, as with the president’s declaration of June 2, 2004, that “like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless surprise attack on the United States.” He went on: “We will not forget that treachery and we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy.” What constitutes ultimate victory against an enemy that lacks territorial boundaries and governmental structures, in a war without fields of battle or codes of conduct? We can’t capture the enemy’s capital and hoist our flag in triumph. The possibility of perpetual embattlement looms before us.
If the war on terror becomes akin to war against the pirates, however, the situation would change. First, the crime of terrorism would be defined and proscribed internationally, and terrorists would be properly understood as enemies of all states. This legal status carries significant advantages, chief among them the possibility of universal jurisdiction. Terrorists, as hostis humani generis, could be captured wherever they were found, by anyone who found them. Pirates are currently the only form of criminals subject to this special jurisdiction.
Second, this definition would deter states from harboring terrorists on the grounds that they are “freedom fighters” by providing an objective distinction in law between legitimate insurgency and outright terrorism. This same objective definition could, conversely, also deter states from cracking down on political dissidents as “terrorists,” as both Russia and China have done against their dissidents.
Bush and his rabid supporters would loose terrorism as a ax to grind for reasons of partisan politics. If the terrorists suddenly become defined not as someone who had links to this or that nation state or had coffee with so-and-so in 1996 or some twenty year old mustard canisters, then we’re closer to defining our national goals. We’re all closer to defining what the enemy is and what has to be done; that in itself would be a terrible embarrassment to the neocons. Then while the process may be slow we’d be on our way to eradicating Islamic terrorism. That is not something that is really appealing to modern conservatives as they seem to delight in having a boogieman under the bed and keeping everyone afraid out of proportion to the threat.
I remember seeing some tape of William Shockley on the old Phil Donahue Show and he acted as though he had just discovered what an asshat was, he then thought to be an asshat was the best thing that anyone could be and had thus dedicated his life to being one, Broken Genius: the rise and fall of William Shockley, creator of the electronic age
Throughout his life, his nemesis was other people. In his latter years, his relations with them were epitomised by his use of a machine that not only recorded phone calls but destabilised the conversations by emitting a beep every ten seconds. In his wartime suicide note, filed away after he survived a round of Russian roulette, he had referred to his feeling that “people were not a very admirable form of life”. He relied on his brilliance to convince himself of his superiority, and was upset by anything he perceived as a threat to his position.
I can understand looking at the mass of humanity as a frustrating paradox, but Shockley’s contempt reached the level of frothing disdain and his contempt for non-whites even worse.
WE are children of the sun,
Weaving Southern destiny,
Waiting for the mighty hour
When our Shiloh shall appear
With the flaming sword of right,
With the steel of brotherhood,
And emboss in crimson die
We are the star-dust folk,
Sorrow songs have lulled to rest;
Seething passions wrought through wrongs,
Led us where the moon rays dip
In the night of dull despair,
Showed us where the star gleams shine,
And the mystic symbols glow—
from Children of the Sun by Fenton Johnson