The older I get, the less I understand. I’ve learned that emotion trumps facts and figures when it comes to human behavior, but I don’t understand the “why” behind much of that behavior. I don’t understand downright meanness.
When it comes to politics, I don’t understand why the public is so fearful and easily manipulated. Every election is the same. It starts out high-minded and rational but invariably degenerates into fear mongering and mudslinging. No one likes it, but we fall for it every time.
Above all, I don’t understand why the Supreme Court, the highest and supposedly the most rational body in the land, ruled that corporations are people. Corporations are made up of people, yes but they lack the essential characteristic of all but the simplest of life forms: mortality. Not only are they immortal, they are immoral. They lack a key human faculty: a human conscience.
Why did the Supreme Court vote in favor of Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, the ruling that says corporations can spend all the money they want on election campaigns? If anything ever opened a can of worms, that did. In effect, the Supreme Court put a dollar sign on American Democracy.
The idea that a corporation, a group of self-serving individuals, has the same legal rights as a living breathing American citizen is not new. It goes back to the late 1800s and a fight between the railroads and Santa Clara County, Calif. The case went to the Supreme Count, and lawyers for the railroad invoked the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
This is too convoluted, too bizarre, to explain here. The Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution to grant rights to ex-slaves during Reconstruction. How it was twisted to support the railroads can be found in Chapter 6 of Thom Hartmann’s “Unequal Protection.” Hartmann says, in essence, the whole thing was a mistake, an accident because a clerk mistook a comment in the written material for a statement of law.
Mistake or not, it became law through precedent, a legal maneuver that says once a ruling is accepted in a court of law, it becomes law in similar future situations. A good analogy can be found in biological evolution when a mutation becomes encoded in the DNA. Once established, it is replicated in each succeeding generation.
There you have it. Corporations are people, and the Constitution says they can say (in this case spend their money) anything they want because money is actually a form of speech. You see what I mean about not understanding things these days?
Here’s something else I don’t understand. Jurors have just decided that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is guilty on all counts in the Boston Marathon bombing. The man already admitted he did the deed, but that didn’t prevent the state from spending a small fortune on the trial. Now the state will spend more time and money for the privilege of killing him.
The death penalty is human emotion run amok and serves no purpose. It doesn’t reduce crime. It is expensive and time-consuming, and it makes a mockery of the Christian faith.
On the other hand, if I decide I don’t want to live any longer, the state will do all in its power to stop me from killing myself. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I’m a responsible, educated, and I hope, caring adult, but I don’t have the right to end my own life should I find it unbearable. Why?
I don’t blame corporations for trying to buy elections. They’re rational entities run by rich individuals concerned with their own welfare. I blame the public for being so easily manipulated.
People know campaign rhetoric is self-serving garbage, but they fall for it every time. Look at the figures. The candidate who spends the most wins over 90 percent of the time.
Joan King is a resident of Sautee. Her column appears biweekly.