All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. – United States Constitution, Amendment XIV, Section 1
In the past I’ve written on natural community, and contrasted real community versus political community as reflective of the tensions between cosmopolitanism and statism. However, while I recognize the very different natures of political (Platonic) and communal (experienced) identities, the Supreme Court decision in June on gay marriage made me think of the intellectual and political evolution that led to equal marriage, and how citizenship and the constitutional guarantees that come with it can easily be taken for granted. The ideas enshrined in our Constitution and in our laws may be of a different nature from the organic communal spirits that we are immersed in daily, but nonetheless they do matter, they do have real and tangible relevance to our everyday lives, to our stability, and to our happiness.
The 14th amendment was something I was only vaguely familiar with. It guarantees individual freedoms and rights, and limits the power of government in order to protect citizens against the possibility of tyranny. I did not think my life would be affected by it as it was on the day of that fateful decision, which for most of my life I did not think I’d ever live long enough to see.
Suddenly at that moment, the deeply help beliefs and ideas of long-dead people like Thomas Jefferson and John Locke impacted my ability to be happy and my sense of dignity in a manner so intimate, that it’s difficult to argue against the value and importance of living in a Republic that secures the rule of law … particularly when life is so precarious, dangerous, and full of misery for gay people in so many other parts of the world.
But the honeymoon after the gay marriage decision is over, and with the start of the presidential campaign we are now being constantly reminded of the decay in America’s philosophical and intellectual life. It seemed unthinkable, but with Donald Trump’s ludicrous and clownish run for the presidency, American anti-intellectualism and idiocy keeps reaching new lows. If Trump ever becomes President, the first thing that will be required of him will be an oath, precisely, to defend the Constitution of the United States.
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:—”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” – United States Constitution, Article II, Section 1
Article V of the Constitution allows for Amendments to it and explains the process by which these Amendments are adopted, saying that they “shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution”. Therefore, the 14th Amendment is non-different from the rest of the Constitution which, as a President, he would have to take an oath to defend.
But oath-taking, decency, being a man of his word, and honor are not meaningful concepts to Donald Trump, who has openly declared war on the 14 Amendment of the Constitution, saying that he wishes to abolish it in order to avoid illegal aliens coming to the US and having what he calls “anchor babies”. A natural-born bully, Trump seems to have decided that vulnerable, illegal Spanish-speaking immigrants must be the new target of abuse by Republicans now that gays have gained equal legal standing and it’s no longer as popular or politically useful to bully sexual minorities.
The 14th Amendment of the Constitution says that every human being born on US soil is automatically an American citizen. This is perfectly understandable, as we are a nation of immigrants and the only people for whom America is truly an ancestral land make up merely a tiny fraction of the population of the United States.
Few things are more dangerous than an ignorant electorate willing to vote into power evil leaders, who then gain the ability to destroy the entirety of the civilizational achievements of a society. When in recent decades, fascist presidential candidate Le Pen began to gain traction in the French Republic, hedonist philosopher Michel Onfray founded the Université Populaire de Caen in order to help heal the severe decay in the intellectual life of the people. He considered the rise of Le Pen as a symptom of a new dysfunction which was prevalent in French society as a result of the Platonized manner in which philosophy was taught in academia, and how citizens weren’t being taught critical thinking skills. It’s difficult to argue against the fact that we in the US are suffering from an intellectual deficit far more dangerous and embarrassing than anything that has even been seen in the French Republic.
But where is our intellectual class to save us from being Trumped? Where are the celebrity philosophers ready to found new and free popular educational institutions that might actually make America great again? A country 4.5 times the size of France should have at least four times as many of these intellectuals. If these intellectuals rise to the occasion with Trump and create popular intellectual movements to revitalize what remains of America’s philosophical life, then maybe something good can come out of Trumpism. I have to confess I’m extremely pessimistic about this prospect.