TorteDeForm

Kia Franklin

Thoughts on Patriotism

Being in New York City on the Fourth, instead of Seattle, was strange for me, as my family always has a big get together. I did not see any fireworks. Instead, a few friends and I went to go see Michael Moore’s new film Sicko. I will write more on the film itself very soon, but right now I want to write about why I appreciated seeing the film on this particular day, Independence Day.

I’m not big into fireworks, but as a kid, I used to love going with my uncles to the reservation and purchasing fry bread and speaking to the old women who looked so much like my grandmother, and smiling at the older boys who were brown like me but different. I used to love looking at the beautiful jewelry and crafts while my uncles and cousins went straight to the huge packs of fireworks, which were probably illegal in Seattle proper. In the car ride back to Seattle, as everyone else chattered about the fireworks show we would have over barbequed salmon and watermelon and fruit punch, I would sit and think.

I can’t say now that it all fit together so coherently in my 12-year-old mind, but I remember wondering about this celebration of our “Independence,” and wondering how the old women who looked so much like my grandmother felt about it and the role this day had in advancing their livelihood. They depended on the big profits they made during this season, but were these profits a form of mockery? It always was strange to me that a black family in a city named after a Native American was celebrating the “independence” that we ourselves would not have enjoyed on this day’s first anniversary, the independence that the people from whom we bought our celebratory fireworks still in many senses did not enjoy.

Much later, in college, I would read Frederick Douglass’ speech given on the fifth of July, and it would take me back to memories of these trips. He said:

...Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask… [w]hat have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

…I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn…

The film Sicko had a similar effect on me that I imagine Frederick Douglass’ speech may have had on audience members of his time. It compelled me to stop and think about what we are celebrating, who I mean when I say “we,” and what it means to be patriotic. Does patriotism mean an uncritical deference to all things apple pie, red, white, and blue? Does it mean accepting half-truths for the sake of loyalty? Or does it mean loving human beings, wanting your country to have a place in the betterment of humankind, and continuing to question and challenge governmental authority when it acts in ways that contradict our well-being?

Watching the film, which highlighted topics covered on TortDeform before (like patient dumping, 9/11 rescue workers, and corporate purchasing of the law) but with a distinctly human and personal perspective, recalled Douglass’ words and made me think about the state of our legal system. Douglass was asking what Independence Day meant to the American slave—today we could ask what it means to the average American who encounters so many daily frustrations with our government and with its apparent lack of regard for the well-being of its people.

In law school I read so many court opinions with which I disagreed, some of which entirely pissed me off because they made it clear that some people could get around the rules , could shape the rules to their benefit, while others were not even given a chance to state their case. But I also read so many decisions that reminded me that there are people, many people, who believe that the rightful function of the law is to protect people—from undue harm, from exploitation, from the violation of their rights.

So why believe in the efficacy of the law in protecting us? Why believe in civil justice? I think there’s a difference between believing that our court system is the cure-all, is flawless, and knowing that the law has a tangible effect on our daily lives, wanting to ensure that that effect is a positive and a fair one. Our legal system has been a vehicle for both oppression and for the recognition of basic rights and entitlements, but if people are shut out of the process, the system becomes entirely useless. Civil rights struggles continue to teach us that with its frustrations the law also produces victories for those persistent people who remind society what the law is supposed to do—not preserve privilege, but advance justice.

I suppose that is what “civil justice” is about—it’s about allowing people who have been wronged the opportunity to have their day in court, and not telling them that the system is shut off to them simply because their pocketbooks aren't thick enough to purchase it.

Now that Independence Day is over, we should ask ourselves what we can do together so that Douglass’ question, whether “the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, [are] extended to us,” can be answered in the affirmative. We should celebrate the possibility that his answer—“the blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common”—will one day be only historically relevant.

To me, patriotism in the form of critical optimism is the purest, most productive, and most respectable form there can be.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 8:22 AM, Jul 05, 2007 in Civil Justice | Civil Rights | Corporate Abuse
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Comments

Kia: Great left wing points. Your resume rebuts every single one.

Here is a true story from high school history.

Jefferson served as ambassador to France for five years. Upon stepping foot in France, Sally Hemmings, her children, her brother, numerous other slaves became free by law. One of them attended cooking school and became a wine expert.

At the end of the assignment, every slave chose to return home, including the kids who spoke French.

They endorsed the idea that American slavery was better than French freedom by their voluntary return home. Bashing America disrespects their sincere love of our country.

Only lawyer rent entitled spoiled Americans speak as you do. I have never heard any truly black immigrant speak this way. Not only that, but true African Americans are doing better than whites by their striving and not whining for unearned rent seeking taught to them by the experts, the lawyers.

All adverse racial disparities further lawyer rent.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | July 5, 2007 10:30 AM

When we are all dead what country's citizenship did it matter that we belonged to ? According to the movie 'SICKO" that would be any country that takes good medical care of its living citizens, but that would not be here in the USA. It could be any socialized medical country like: The Vatican, China, Palestine, Germany, Israel, Ireland, England, Cuba, Russia, Canada, Mexico, France, etc. etc.. The biggest point of Michael Moore's movie is that if you socialize only one thing around the world and here in the USA, just one thing, it should be the public health system. The only thing different I would have changed in the Sicko movie was the ending where instead of Michael Moore taking his laundry up the Capitol steps to see if our government will start paying government employees to do his laundry like they do in France, well, maybe that was a pretty good ending. But another good ending may have been seeing Americans give back the USA to the Indians because our health care system leaves most Americans as bad off as the day the pilgrims first arrived and then show Americans returning back to their respectful socialized medical countries where they'll get top notch medical treatment instead of the 1600s type still going on today.

Then if you want a real surprise watching Sicko notice Michael Moore donates $12,000.00 dollars to this guy who has the largest Anti-Michael Moore website against Moore movies going on because this same guy's wife has now taken ill and cannot afford to be a giant Michael Moore hater anymore and pay for his wife's new medical bills; so Moore donates anonymously the money to keep going his biggest critic on the web...class act right? That's the way you do it.

How about the Bureaucrat Doctor that works for Corporate cronies who is confronted at congressional hearings because he is the top Doctor rubber stamping denials on your and my health care treatment forms without even personally reviewing them. This country is totally out of health care control and Moore's movie focuses on great true storis like it from beginning to present. It's too late for me with my diabetes and complications and my ballooning co-payments, but there still may be time left for you to change a broken health care system before you need it and find that it isn't there. Good Luck to you with that one.

Posted by: Gone Fishing | July 5, 2007 3:15 PM

"They endorsed the idea that American slavery was better than French freedom by their voluntary return home. Bashing America disrespects their sincere love of our country."

False supposition. Hemming and her brood's decision to return home was not an endorsement or a rejection of “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité,” which any one knowledgeable of French history and culture knows continues to be a sham when it comes to the vast majority of people of color, former French colonial subjects in particular. Returning home was just returning home. Emphasis on home!

Furthermore, before you make any more readings of enslaved Africans and their bonded descendants' behavior, I'd suggest doing some reading on the psychological impact of anti-Black racism and American slavery on enslaved Africans and their unfree and free descendants. There are a number of slave narratives available and God knows how many thorough histories. You will find that the relationship between slave owner and enslaved African was complicated. Although governed by violence and white-supremacy, it was sometimes characterized by deep affection (Stockholm Syndrome anyone) on both sides. The hardest to learn is indeed the least complicated.

Also, could you please specify how the above musing bashes America?

Posted by: Jalylah | July 5, 2007 3:16 PM

In reference to SC's comment, it is disheartening to still encounter such warped conceptions of race, history, and patriotism in 2007. Using the complexities of the Jefferson/Hemmings relationship as a generalization of the African-American experience during slavery is intellectually sloppy, and even inferring that African-Americans had some degree of "choice" in their status as slaves is simply being in historical denial.

Furthermore, what better what to commemorate a national holiday and be a true American than to reflect on our nation's history and its racial and social legacy, take pain in its failures, joy in its successes, and issue a challenge for all Americans to truly strive for justice for all?

God bless America, our freedom to engage in these debates, and all Americans who love that freedom enough to think critically.

Posted by: Young, Gifted and Black | July 5, 2007 3:16 PM

Supremacy Claus--

I always enjoy your posts. It's really refreshing to read things that respond to a post and yet talk about things are completely unrelated, while framing it as a discredit to the author.

I especially enjoy it when these facts you present are not, in fact, true. At the time of Sally Hemmings' trip to Paris, she had no children--her eldest wasn't born until 6 years after she returned to America. And to say that she returned because she loved America more than freedom overlooks the fact that she was, at the time, Jefferson's mistress. A more accurate assessment may be to say that she loved Jefferson more than freedom.

Assuming your other "facts" are true (which I don't, but don't have the desire to fact-check you), you overlook that it would be extremely difficult for a slave to stay in Paris, regardless of his legal standing as a free man, due to his complete lack of financial independence, absence of a social network, and overall alienation from the French culture.

And, by the way, who was talking about African immigrants? It's true, you probably wouldn't hear one of today's African immigrants be jaded about this country, because they were either a) wealthy enough to move here, and thus enjoying a relatively privileged lifestyle, b) a refuge, and thus enjoying a lifestyle where they are not facing certain death, or c) someone who came here seeking the American dream. This is a distinct difference from African slaves, who had no choice in coming to America. But either way, who are you to determine who is and who is not a true African-American? Last time I checked, most of them are not doing better than whites.

Being willing to criticize your country does not mean that you do not love it. Our history is full of prominent Americans who challenged the status quo, and now are iconic. I guess you would know that, though, as you are such an expert in history.

I don't know if you'll call this lawyer rent (whatever that is), but I'm not a lawyer, I'm a teacher. I say the pledge of allegiance every day, and mean every word. That doesn't mean I don't question our government policies and strive to make a difference. I don't think that Jefferson had in mind blindly following whoever is in power when he wrote the Declaration of Independence--otherwise, we'd still be an English colony.

Posted by: Holly Golightly | July 5, 2007 3:31 PM

I've enjoyed reading these comments. It's the fear of being called an "America basher" that prevents many of us from questioning and challenging the status quo, but history's great Americans were characterized by not giving in to the fear of being mis-identified as unpatriotic. I think it's an important excercise to willingly and openly do from time to time, especially on the 4th when we're told to take a whole day off to celebrate the greatness of our country.
Also,

another blogger alerted me to This editorial from Dallas News that wraps up the importance of critical patriotism really well.

Posted by: Kia Franklin | July 5, 2007 4:18 PM

Holly: As a teacher, you make me nervous. All corrections accepted with respect. Please, don't make me sit on the Thinking Chair. By the way, what was my grade on the brief, fourth grade essay, "Independence Day, What It Means to Me"? It has to be an A-, or higher, or I'll never get into med school.

Sally had a couple of free person babies in France. Presumably, they were Jeffersons. They died in infancy, under French health care, and the toxic, snobby, pestilential environment of Paris. Her babies born upon return to the good old USA survived well and prevailed. French freedom and health conditions are death to free babies.

There are no native black people in the US. There are no real African-Americans, unless they recently arrived from Africa, or from the Carribean. The latter love America. What are there instead? There are ingrate, half white, Southern trash poseurs, knuckleheads, milking the system under the direction of rent seeking land pirates. All adverse racial disparities have a lawyer making money.

Before whites get smug. The lawyer destroyed the black family in the 1960's, as slavery, war, lynchings, systematic anti-black middle class pogroms, immunized under the total protection of judges, as de jure discrimination had failed to do. Now the lawyer is coming after the white middle class family. Give it 30 years, all racial disparities will be gone. Whites will suffer the same fate at the hands of the land pirates.

Go beyond that misrepresentation, and pretext for under-achievement, for lawyer protected and enabled cutting up in the permanent Roman Orgy lifestyle. It is settled, race is a superstition, not biologically validated. A Harvard prof, with the gall to teach Black studies, found no African DNA in his genome. He found a bunch of Irish-Scottish trash DNA. He recorded the testing on a PBS show. I cringed on his behalf.

I love Kia. I almost cried, she is so persuasive and moving.

Who said anything about criticism being unpatriotic? We said your unbalanced, unrelenting left wing propaganda is unpatriotic. Saying the government, i.e. 99% lawyer run pork operation, does nothing well. That is patriotic. Saying the hierarchy of the criminal cult enterprise, making 99% of policy, causing all goals of all law subjects to be in utter failure, and the hierarchy should be arrested by Federal marshals, hanged behind the court, after brief trials, with the sole evidence being excerpts from their appellate decisions, in total, out-of-control insurrection against the Constitution, that is criticism and patriotic.

I don't want to pick on you, Kia. I think you're great.

Can you persuade the punk ass, jive turkey, land pirates that fund this site to have the courage to come on? They are not too good for ordinary people. What they do for a living is an outrage.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | July 5, 2007 10:05 PM

Holly: Good question about what the rent is.

The opposite of rent seeking is profit seeking. Two parties exchange money for services or products. Due to specialization, both come out way ahead, both making a profit. Taxes are profit seeking. You pay a tax, you get a road, protection from Al Qaeda, something of value. Try doing that without paying a specialist in government. Rent to a landlord means something else. A rent payment on a lease of property is profit seeking.

This is rent. Lobbyists persuade Congress to transfer money at the point of a gun from the taxpayer to an oil company, in a subsidy. The oil company has made its profit by making small donations to a few key legislators. They no longer need to take risks nor to work hard to find oil. They got their profit by passing a law. They decrease their oil production. The tax payer gets nothing in return. The oil company got rent. In rent, the payer gets nothing.

Good start here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rent-seeking

Lawyer rent seeking predicts and explains most legal doctrines and policies. Rent seeking trumps all ideology. Scalia produced more lawyer jobs than Warren, by his Apprendi/Blakely/Booker/Cunningham series of decisions, setting loose 100's of 1000's of vicious predators. The drop in crime and it threat to lawyer employment has been remedied, by a conservative, Scalia.

Lawyers are an anchor, dragging our nation down, stimying its underlying, far faster, inherent growth potential. Minorities pay the heaviest price by their higher crime victimization rate. The Scalia Bounce in crime started already, with up-ticks in the murder of people of color of the past two years. Just the beginning for crime victims.

Patriots identify and oppose rent seeking.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | July 5, 2007 10:22 PM

Holly: Here is the worst part of rent seeking. The other oil companies see the rent paid to the one company. They feel stupid taking risks, spending their own money to seek oil. They say, let's do the same, go in the rent exploration business, far easier, cleaner, more certain than oil exploration.

Rent seeking is contagious. This great economic theory also explains the lawyer caused deterioration of ghettos. The hard working sap sees people on the dole enjoying their orgies and getting high every day. You have to feel stupid to go to work in the face of such lawyer enabled rent. Try to even criticize such misconduct as a teacher, you will lose your job, because the lawyers intimidated your administration by ruinous litigation.

I asked a teacher at dinner, do ever think about getting sued? Just about every minute.

The teacher is among the most lawyer regulated and intimidated professionals.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | July 5, 2007 10:30 PM

Supremacy Claus--

Sorry about missing the infant children that died to Sally Hemmings when she was 17, they didn't appear in the Wikipedia article. Regardless, the fact of stepping on French soil did not entitle freedom--obtaining freedom actually involved a legal process where you had to petition the government.

I'm not saying that our legal system has a good record--it doesn't. I think that for years the system was set up to protect those in power, and perpetuate those power, though I do think your view of lawyers of creating the demise of the black family (in the 1960s, at that) is short-sighted. Damage had been done to black culture long before 1960, and all of society was responsible. When blacks were not allowed into the same hospitals, schools, restaurants, train cars, etc., all the problems of black society could be overlooked and dismissed. Here's a fun research assignment for you--look up infant mortality rates for blacks at the turn of the last century, and see how they've changed. To attribute all of the problems of black society to 1960s while overlooking the role that society played in the situation is overreaching, to say the least.

Remember segregation? How about white flight? White society embraced the decisions of the courts, and left when they were ordered to play nice. The "rent-seekers" in the case of white flight, of course, would be real estate agents, who are still doing their part in harming society by tracking black families into certain neighborhoods, block flipping, offering them poor loan choices, etc. And I would venture to say that bigger "rent-seekers" than those are the investment bankers, hedge fund guys, etc., who make millions simply by manipulating the market (in accordance with our friend Wikipedia's definition of a rent-seeker).

I'm interested in hearing your (constructive) criticism as to how the system should be fixed. Should we have no courts? No governments? Let people fend for themselves? That doesn't seem to be going so well in Somalia--in the absence of governmental power, someone always steps in. The courts are the only forum we have in which regular citizens can have any semblance protection from laws that mistreat them--what's your alternative?

Additionally, while you're pointing out that there are no native black people in the Americas, you should also point out that there are no native white people in the Americas. Our social creation of race, even if not biologically validated, certainly plays a strong role in our society, does it not? I'm reading a (mediocre) book right now, Blink, that discussed an experiment in which conservatively dressed whites and blacks went into car dealerships with the exact same personal profile (education level, jobs, credit scores, etc) asking to buy the same car. White men were quoted prices at $725 above invoice. Black men were quoted prices $1,687 above invoice, and after 45 minutes of bargaining ended up with prices almost $800 above what the white men were offered initially. Racial disparities are not a lawyer creation.

Disparities between blacks and whites did not arise in the 1960s, and it's very interesting that you think they did. Sorry for returning to this point, but it boggles the mind how you can dismiss hundreds of years of history and chalk it up to a particular group of people.

And, by the way, you have an interesting way of showing your love for Kia...

Posted by: Holly Golightly | July 6, 2007 12:59 PM

I feel the love :)

Posted by: Kia | July 6, 2007 6:11 PM

Kia is a lawyer. She fully understands what I am doing is the sincerest expression of love. She can also take care of herself well in the traverse upon traverse. It's lawyer insider stuff you are better off not worrying about. It is shady.

Holly, I have no argument with you, your being a teacher. Here is another story from high school AP Am History.

Blacks did well during the Reconstruction, with no affirmative action. All rapid black achievement were fully earned. U.S. Grant hanged 100's of KKK'ers, in accordance with the law. Once blacks had a modicum of ordinary legal protection, they thrived by their own efforts.

A lawyer deal took place. The Dems would stop disputing the 1876 election of what's his Republican face (far more disputed than the election of 2000), and the new President would end the occupation. Once troops left, night riders came around to the homes of black business owners, professionals, and all other black achievers. They hanged them extra-judicially, and took their properties, by the 1000's. Now, that is impossible to do a lot unless the sheriff, the local prosecutor, and the judge know about it, and allow it. The lawyers gave absolute legal immunity to these genocidal maniacs, and profited handsomely by their bribes. These mass crimes were endorsed at the highest level of the lawyer hierarchy, the Supreme Court. We can discuss the specific cases enabling this slaughter and thievery.

The law is in failure for other reasons than rent seeking. Even in failure, if it were enforced evenly, blacks could do better.

Would there be white flight from an African diplomat neighborhood, with their really dark skin? No. There would be flight from the neighborhood of Southern trash, acting up, half white, American South-Americans. Its not skin color that drives people off. Color correlates with nothing. That scientific point is settled in 100's of large, valid studies. It is the Southern Trash culture, from that Southern white trash DNA they carry, that correlates with racial disparities. This cultural pathology generates tons of lawyer jobs.

Try criticizing it in a class. See if you can keep your job, due to the intimidation of your principal by meritless, anti-teacher litigation. The biased lawyer on the bench wants to see the lawyer plunder education, and generate massive social pathology to increase lawyer employment. You are being played.

Kia's employers, on the other hand, are a real trip. I want them to come to this site, to stop hiding, like cowards. Let's discuss their past cases.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | July 6, 2007 6:24 PM

Your ideal patriotism - "...loving human beings, wanting your country to have a place in the betterment of humankind, and continuing to question and challenge governmental authority when it acts in ways that contradict our well-being" - is right on the mark and is clearly the foundation of your column.

You articulate a vision of patriotism that resembles a parent's love for his/her child, or a teacher's love for his/her students. Parents and teachers want their kids to be the best people they can become. That does not come by an overabundance of praise, which leads to arrogance and a skewed moral compass for the child. But if the child's upbringing is balanced with encouragement and moral guidance, the child should have a strong foundation to grow from. Even if the child's 30 years-old. Even if the child's 60 years-old. Human beings are growing until the day we die. And so will our nation.

We are parents of our nation because we nurture its image, its ideals, its standards, its justice. Like any loving parent, if our nation is behaving badly, patriotism would call us to set it back on the right path.

Posted by: Mr. S | July 10, 2007 2:08 PM