“An Evening In A Democracy”

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Last night we attended a lecture at the Connecticut Historical Society with Eric Foner, Professor Emeritus at Columbia University and expert on Reconstruction after the American Civil War. After listening to inane ideas from the so-called leader of my nation, and after being bombarded with equally poorly thought through ideas of his critics, it was restorative to listen to Foner.

He spoke for what he called a therapist’s and professor’s hour, namely 50 minutes. I could have easily listened to him for another two hours, so engaging and enlightening was his presentation. His newest book, which we purchased ahead of its next week’s release, focuses on the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution. Trump recently questioned the rights of anyone born here being granted citizenship and suggested he would change this provision. He apparently remains ignorant of the constitutional guarantee in the 14th Amendment providing birthright citizenship to anyone born here, regardless of the status of the parents. The facts reassured me that it would take much more than bluster to deny a baby citizenship.

Foner also discussed the widely held inaccurate view, first promulgated in the early 20th century and continued until the civil rights movement here in the 1960’s that Reconstruction had been a failure because black politicians were incapable of governing. The racist view also said the all northern efforts in the south were opportunistic. I had been taught such history in the early 1960’s. Only my recent reading has shown me that Reconstruction failed because of a massive backlash, backed by extensive violence and Jim Crow laws, that prevented black citizens from gaining the rights guaranteed them in the 14th Amendment.

As the same old backlash rears its ugly head here again with the idea that rights for one take rights away from another, it was heartening to remember the ideal of my nation. 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. Any person!

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