With love and hope for what Martin Luther King, Jr. called the beloved community—and with trust in the grace any effort to help realize that community requires—we will reimagine and radically revise our relations to the land and to each other including to all of the peoples on whose land we abide. “We have no right over the Indians, whether within or without the real or pretended limits of any Colony,” the Pennsylvania jurist James Wilson told the Continental Congress in July 1776: “Grants made three thousand miles to the eastward, have no validity with the Indians.” We must return U.S. law to such a stance if the nonviolent social democratic transformation this country needs is to have any chance of succeeding.
Almost every progressive movement in American history has started with a premise that is problematic: the claim that the best of the ideals that informed the American Revolution—often in direct conflict with the practices of the signers of the Declaration of Independence themselves—are an adequate foundation on which to build.
As I see matters, one must first mentally grasp and extract—by its taproot—the pernicious weed in thinking whereby land thefts, genocides, and slavery entered this land and helped establish a form of economic domination that has since been refined and become ubiquitous globally under such misleading names as “capitalism” or “the free market system” and which now almost completely obscures our knowledge of who we truly are and how we are connected.
That weed’s taproot is the idea that it is possible to “discover” a country already inhabited by human beings. The very concept implies a hierarchy whereby some people are better than others—capable of “discovery”—and together with that concept came a doctrine whereby the supposedly superior ones are entitled to rule over and even enslave those who are not. That is the taproot—the belief that some people are better than others and that “we” are somehow meant to be a part of, or even simply the heirs and successors of, those people’s worldview—that is the taproot in America’s inherited thoughts about the supposed legitimacy of “our” dominion over this land that must be uprooted for any progressive movement to have a serious chance of defeating the economic domination with which we have to struggle as social democrats.
The “capitalist” form of economic domination, like the “communist” form of economic domination, is part of a larger structure of oppression. That structure is built—in both cases—on the subordination of the natural world to human rule and the exploitation of the life, liquids, and minerals of the Earth as “resources” from which “value” can be extracted in pursuit of “development.”
This larger system of domination exists at the instigation of all of our egos—especially egos run amok in their fear, greed, and lust for power—in order to serve selfishness in general and the perceived economic interests of a handful of billionaires in particular—while presenting itself as necessary to the common good and as somehow supportive of democratic self-government. In fact, it is a source of the corruption and corrosion of anything remotely resembling democratic self-government and a source of callous indifference toward all of creation even, and indeed especially, for those with lots of money who seek to claim a right to exercise “authority” over us and who—in their pursuit of “efficiency”—treat workers with much the same lack of respect that they show the Earth.
It must be remembered, moreover, that even within a context in which the political rights and civil liberties of all citizens were genuinely respected—a context that would be a great improvement on our present circumstances—American democracy would still remain a form of government that depends on a culture and politics of domination. The ideals and abstractions that generally sustain aspirations for American progress are far from the kind of embodied and genuinely liberatory culture that the peoples of the eastern woodlands once knew so deeply in their socio-political practices.
Writing of the Huron in 1648, for example, one French missionary noted that “They are free people, each of whom considers himself of as much consequence as the others; and they submit to their chiefs only in so far as it pleases them.” Another missionary noted of the Montagnais-Naskapi that “All the authority of their chief is in his tongue’s end; for he is powerful so far as he is eloquent.”
According to still another missionary, in a work that became a bestseller in Europe cited by both Locke and Voltaire, “They [the Huron] reciprocate hospitality and give such assistance to one another that the necessities of all are provided for without there being any indigent beggar in their towns and villages; and they considered it a very bad thing when they heard it said that there were in France a great many of these needy beggars, and thought this was for lack of charity in us, and blamed us for it severely.” Among the peoples of the Native Nations, according to Benjamin Franklin, “To interrupt another, even in common Conversation, is reckoned highly indecent.”
The radical reforms that the United States would have to undergo in order to really respect the national rights of the Native peoples are formidable. Every aspect of American life from property law to criminal justice to healthcare, and from economic organization to education to the ways the very meaning of the common good on this continent are conceived, would have to change. Above all, to make successful the adoption of such reforms, the American people would have to put seemingly intangible principles such as honesty and spiritual responsibility and the value of trustworthy, reciprocal, and consensual conduct above convenience, expediency, and the “comfort” of being dominated by allegedly democratic, or at least allegedly economically “efficient,” authorities and institutions.
This would require the American people to get in touch with their own spiritual lateral lines so that such grandmother/grandfather teachings as those of the Anishinaabeg—the teachings surrounding love, truth, bravery, humility, wisdom, honesty, and respect—become deeply felt and the resonances of their reality can be sensed in the body politic and not merely be imagined intellectually.
We are obliged, if we truly want to be law-abiding, to respect the principles and sources of conduct underlying the international laws and usages that prevailed among the Native Nations of Turtle Island before the eurochristian invaders arrived. Indeed, we are obliged to obey these Native laws and usages. We are obliged to care for the land as our grandmother Earth and to respect the unity and equality of all living beings in a beloved community for whom the “all” of which the founders of the United States spoke has been transformed into the “all” in the “all our relations” of whom many people among the Native Nations speak. That would be closer to the true constitutional legal order of this land of which the American Constitution is an inadequately-rooted expression that has so far failed to guarantee equal belonging to all.
James Wilson was one of the most progressive of the founders of the United States and perhaps the single most important architect of the American Constitution. He spoke with hope of the prospects for political and moral improvement in the society as a whole—the prospects for a more harmonious unity; “a more perfect Union.” Our traditional strategies for realizing the beloved community, as I noted at the outset, almost all involve grafting our hopes for progress onto the hope that Wilson expressed for an American society in which: “All will receive from each, and each will receive from all, mutual support and assistance: mutually supported and assisted, all may be carried to a degree of perfection hitherto unknown; perhaps, hitherto not believed.”
From the perspective of those on the shore when the invaders from Europe arrived, we may all hope to find our way back to the degree of perfection—the balance—that was present before that arrival. Our future as the beloved community involves a restoration of that balance between our ancestors and our descendants, between ourselves and all our relations: a balance that the eurochristian peoples have yet to know or at least have yet to realize that they have access to within themselves. That is at the heart of what progress and restoration must mean: that deep harmony and the maintenance of balance are realized together for all living beings. That is the foundation on which we should seek to build. We are each unique expressions of everything else in the universe, intimately entangled and connected, and, in a profound way, equal. Until we see ourselves as such, and see all of us as in this together, our progressive movements will inevitably fall short of our aspirations.
Most of America’s current problems are rooted in what might be called bad karma—in the consequences of our failures to treat others as we would wish to be treated and of our doing to others what we would not want done to ourselves. We must begin to undo this as best we can by recognizing the national rights of the original peoples of Turtle Island—the original peoples of this continent—including their right to their original free and independent existence and, as a first step in that direction, their right to be free of any claim of “plenary power” over them on the part of the United States or any individual states and their right to be free of the Supreme Court’s bad faith interpretive stance toward treaties. According to this bad faith interpretive stance treaties and the law of nations (including even the prohibition on genocide) are deemed binding on “the sovereign”—the United States—only to the extent that the government deigns to so consider them. There is either recognition of the “we” that embraces all of our relations, and that inculcates respect for all of the many independent and interdependent nations of Turtle Island and our equal rights as nations, or there is a continuation of a failed past and its degenerative trajectory.
Joe Biden, with his historic appointment of Deb Haaland as Secretary of the Interior, represents an improvement on Donald Trump—but that is a very low bar. An understanding of “federal Indian law”—a law that is not made by the Native Nations but rather one imposed on them—is hard to reach and most Americans do not realize the depth of its immorality, and, indeed, its vicious and systematic evil, under Democratic and Republican administrations alike. There is a widespread sense of revulsion at the memory of the Trail of Tears but little recognition that the arguments of the advocates of that genocide and their appeasers have continued to determine the law, policy, and conduct of the United States toward the Native Nations to this day while the arguments of the opposition to that genocide have largely been forgotten.
The hardback edition of my book on this subject—Arguments over Genocide: The War of Words in the Congress and the Supreme Court over Cherokee Removal—is scheduled to be published in April 2023. If you click on this link (https://ethicspress.com/products/arguments-over-genocide/), it will take you to the publisher’s webpage where you can read some reviews of my book and, if you choose to purchase the book, enter the code INTEGRITY33 to receive a third off the cost at checkout. Those for whom that price is still too steep, can read some more of what I have to say on the subject for free here (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/354060889) and here (https://www.chilit.org/docs.ashx?id=1115652)
The rest of this page are leftovers from my 2018 campaign for Congress that will certainly be updated if I choose to run again at some point.
✔ Respect for Tribal Sovereignty
Please download the joint statement issued
with Jeff Ballinger, Congressional candidate
in the Massachusetts 3rd District … Joint Statement on Tribal Sovereignty (5748 downloads)
✔ A Freedom Budget for the 21st Century
But there are many reasons to vote for social democratic leadership for the Illinois 5th District:
✔ Montessori-style Pre-K for All
✔ Invest in Kids’ First Five Years
✔ Invest in Public K-12 Education
✔ Free Public College
✔ Decarbonize Our Energy System
✔ Overturn Citizens United
✔ Guarantee Family/Medical Leave
✔ Raise The Minimum Wage to $15
✔ Support Union Organizing
✔ End the War on Drugs
✔ Abolish Monetary Bond
✔ Restore Eisenhower Era Tax Rates
✔ Stop Endless Military Spending
✔ Support Civil Rights
✔ End Anti-LGBT Discrimination
✔ Expand Social Security
✔ Train the Police in De-escalation
✔ Demilitarize the Police
✔ Give the Police More Time to Sleep
✔ Bust up the “Too Big to Fail”
✔ Abolish I.C.E.
✔ Welcome Refugees and Immigrants
✔ Support Planned Parenthood
✔ Follow Australia’s Example on Guns
The artwork above, “The Valley,” is a painting by Nick Fisher. It presents a hopeful view of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and ecologically-sound community.