The concept of equality for all transcends, or should transcend, any political ideology not founded in fascism, but it has been a hard tenet to impress on all Americans over the nation’s history. Perhaps it is human nature, or a sense of superiority, but throughout American history a disturbingly large segment of the population fought against equality and supported inequality despite their claim of allegiance to the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. Scholars and academics from around the globe have cited Thomas Jefferson’s self-evident truths that all human beings deserve unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as one of the most profound humanistic statements of all time that both political parties claim to embrace. However, Republicans continue providing evidence that they reject the concept that every American deserves those unalienable rights, and are diligently working toward restricting them from an ever-increasing segment of the population.
Republicans’ conception of unalienable rights is a far cry from an environment where every American enjoys “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum explained the GOP’s penchant for eliminating equal rights. He said, “the idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire,” and apparently it includes when there is no harm to anyone. Santorum was expressing his abhorrence of an individual’s right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness in the privacy of their bedroom, but Republicans are attempting to deny a growing number of Americans their unalienable rights in Congress, state legislatures, and where those fail they appeal to the conservative Supreme Court.
The idea of all Americans having the same equal rights under the Constitution is obviously out of the realm of possibility for Republicans who are fighting to undo hard-fought victories of past generations to give every American the same opportunities of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Two of the cases the Supreme Court is deciding, marriage equality and voting rights are the result of Republican efforts to deny a large segment of the population their equal right to vote, or to marry the person they chose as a life partner. Yesterday the High Court refused to rule on whether all Americans deserve the right to equal educational opportunities that necessitated affirmative action laws preventing discrimination based on race. Just the idea that America needed a law to give all Americans equal rights to an education reveals that equality in America was sorely lacking.
The Republicans oppose equal voting rights for all Americans, and failing to achieve their discrimination based on race, they appealed to the conservative High Court to restrict minorities from exercising their equal right to vote. Conversely, Republicans demand equal rights for corporations and wealthy individuals to spend unlimited amounts to elect candidates and lobby legislators while restricting the liberty of people by making voter access more difficult if not impossible. The idea of using the Supreme Court to restrict equal rights is a tactic that exceeds restricting the right to vote or marry the person one loves, and conservatives have been quite open as to their intentions to deny more Americans their equal rights and liberty on a variety of issues by appealing to conservatives on the High Court.
It is no secret the pro-life crowd in states are helping Republicans pass abortion bans for the sole purpose of taking a court case all the way to the Supreme Court to strike down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The rush of personhood laws, forced medical procedures, closing abortion clinics, and attempts to ban contraception all restrict women’s equal right to choose, and anti-choice groups clamor for a High Court appeal to finish off their forty year assault on women’s reproductive rights. Every year evangelical preachers openly defy the IRS mandate that tax-exempt churches refrain from campaigning from the pulpit, and their stated purpose is taking the IRS to court if they enforce the law to strike down the separation of church and state in the first amendment. After the Affordable Care Act became law, states sued in federal courts and appealed to the High Court because the idea of all Americans having equal access to health care is unfathomable to Republicans.
In the U.S. Congress and Republican-controlled states there is an ongoing effort to restrict Americans’ right to a fair wage and equal pay for equal work because they claim corporations and big business’s right to unrestricted profits supersede the labor force. In Virginia, the attorney general is appealing a decision that prevents the state from restricting Virginians from their pursuit of happiness and right to privacy because it offends his personal religious beliefs. In several Republican states the right of students to have a religion-free education is being restricted by including religious-based teaching in science, as well as imposing prayer during school-sponsored sporting events. It is curious that Republicans are adamant that religious liberty of their supporters is never challenged, and yet they have no problem abusing the right to freedom from religion.
The list of Republican assaults on equal rights is unending, and it is not solely about enriching the wealthy or pandering to religion, but like everything Republicans represent, it is about taking everything the American people have; including their equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What Americans are witnessing in Republican policies are extreme right-wing, authoritarian, and intolerant practices that are the hallmarks of fascism that depends on inequality, loss of freedom, and suppression of the opposition by restricting voting rights, personal privacy rights, and economic rights. Republicans lack the power to enforce their fascist policies through military might, but they are using the next best thing in the conservative Supreme Court to quash resistance to their stringent socioeconomic controls and centralized authority under cover of religion and no demographic is immune to their intents.
The Founders were aware that given the opportunity, a dictatorial power structure could, and would, gain control of the nation, and the people, so they included protections in the Constitution that have been amended time and again to assuage the next attempt to subvert equality and Americans’ unalienable rights, and Republicans have turned to the High Court to eliminate those rights they failed to achieve in state legislatures. It is sad indeed that after 237 years and several amendments to ensure all Americans have equal rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, an extreme rightwing group of authoritarian conservatives are openly attempting to dismantle and eliminate what the Founding Fathers and generations of equal rights activists have fought to achieve. Throughout this nation’s history, there have been different groups who were restricted from enjoying their unalienable rights guaranteed in the Constitution, but never before has the majority of the population faced an all-out attack on their equal rights that Republicans make no attempt to conceal. Tragically, with funding from a few wealthy fascists, moral support of religious fascists, and a conservative Supreme Court backing their bloodless coup d’état’ it is only a matter of time before the concept of equality will be something millions of immigrants once thought of America.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.