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It's our country, and it's their country. It's my country and it's your country. It's a Christian country and a Jewish country and a Muslim country and a Hindu country and a Buddhist country and an atheist country. It's a country where Africans, Asians, Europeans, Latin Americans, Arabs and Persians are as American as the baby born in Cleveland. If the White House is anybody's house, it's everybody's house, white being the unbroken, unrefracted presence of all colors of visible light.

We may not all share the same tenement, the same block, the same neighborhood, or even the same city. But whether we came here from somewhere else or we had relatives on the Mayflower, we are a people who believe that this land was made for all of us.

"This land is your land. This land is my land," sang Woody Guthrie, in what was once held as a universal truth. "This land was made for you and me."

Not anymore.

These days, there are many who hear that song as, "This land was made for me and people like me, and we want it back!" It is in that barren, rocky and unforgiving context that all the sad, forced battles over immigration, religion, and sexual rights take place.

Wouldn't it be great if, instead of passing laws like Arizona's recently quashed SB1070, making immigrants outlaws and turning law enforcement into thugs defending cultural xenophobia, we felt compelled to pass laws which insure everyone, EVERYONE, gets a piece of our country's "pursuit of happiness" idiom? That would be the greatest show of American unity! But that appears to be too threatening a principle for those who prefer you were more like them before they accept you.

For people like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, it seems states' rights are necessary to protect those who prefer their own cultural isolation, and who cleave to their right to impose it on their neighbors. Want your country back, whatever that means? Get behind Scalia.

In his dissenting opinion, Monday, to the Court's decision on the Arizona immigration law, Scalia talked about state sovereignty, and  wrote "Arizona has the inherent power to exclude persons from its territory," and "the States have the right to protect their borders against foreign nationals." So, one might infer that had he been a Supreme in the 1950s, Scalia would have dissented in Brown v. Board of Education, since public schools are often properties of the state, and if the state wanted to exclude Negros, it had the power to do that.

It also seems that he would have no problem, hypothetically,  against a state kicking out a minority that went against the principles of the state government, like if Oklahoma decided to expel their Muslim communities because their presence threatened the integrity of the anti-Sharia law amendment that Sooner voters passed two years ago (which has been struck down by at least two courts as violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution). The state, he would argue, is exercising its sovereign authority to "exclude persons from its territory" and "protect its borders."

Indeed, Scalia seems to lament the nineteenth century laws and decisions, when  "primary responsibility for immigration policy... shifted from the States to the Federal Government," and he appears to base his opinion on a pioneer ideal of states being able to operate more independently in protecting their territory, like they were still guarding a frontier. They fought to get 'em. They fight to keep 'em.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
In a bizarre, glass mostly full kind of reaction, Jan Brewer, Arizona's finger-wagging, tongue-twisted Republican governor, embraced Monday's split SCOTUS decision as "a victory for the 10th Amendment and all Americans who believe in the inherent right and responsibility of states to defend their citizens." In ignoring the actual result of what the Court's majority rejected, Brewer must have concluded that as long as Scalia got their argument, they had won. "We must use this new tool wisely," she said, as if she were a ruler rallying her troops, "and fight for our safety with the honor Arizona deserves."

(One wonders, what is it about governors who see themselves as rulers of their own little country? No wonder so many feel they could be president. When they are president, though, they are just as nonplussed about state assertions of power as the current administration.)

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
With Scalia overtly signalling from the bench that he, for one, would entertain a case brought against President Obama for his recent executive order stopping deportations of immigrants brought here illegally as minors, on top of his pushing for the additional arguments that led to the death of campaign finance reform in the decision known as Citizens United v. F.E.C., there is little room for doubt that the justice is aggressively pursuing an agenda that plays into the hands of his monied friends on the right.

When we celebrate the Fourth of July, next week, let's remember that along with celebrating our independence from Britain, we are acknowledging our interdependence on each other. E pluribus unum -  out of many, one: one nation, with liberty and justice for all.

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.
- "This Land is Your Land," lyrics & music by Woody Guthrie

-PBG

Originally posted to ProseAndThorn on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 06:13 PM PDT.

Also republished by Discussing The Law: TalkLeft's View On Law and Politics.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm not sure it's ever been a (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ProseAndThorn, BlackSheep1

    universal truth, certainly not in Woody's day, or Pete Seegar's, but maybe by the time it because a song that school children sung in PTA pageants, it seemed as if it was a universal truth.

    Still, there have always been those with interests opposed to that truth, fighting to make sure it never actually becomes reality.  

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 06:30:59 PM PDT

    •  Well, yes, that crossed my mind as well... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1, a gilas girl, Bisbonian

      I believed it was true when I sang it as a child.

      It is aspirational, but I fear not universally so.

      I guess we gotta keep at it...


      I kinda screwed up with a careless uprate so (for now?) I'm a "No Rate" pariah. So when I give a comment "+110% n/t", please consider that a recommend. (That's my workaround fix to participating in this community!)

      by The Angry Architect on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 08:04:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We're not a democratic society. We don't believe (0+ / 0-)

    the whole "one equal vote for each" principle. And many prefer this abberation. That's what the whole Federalism battle is about.

    And then left/liberals/progressives claim that they simply cannot support many of the results that flow from surrendering to the whole "States Rights" line of bullshit. But if you want a true reality check, just write a thing, anything, on this site mentioning that established repugnant constitutional principles can ONLY be changed by changing The Constituion and you will immrdiately be attacked, and possibly beaten into submission, by supporters of the status quo.  Schizophrenic supporters by my calculation, but still.

    THE SECOND AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION!!!

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 06:42:59 PM PDT

  •  Yeah, foreign nationals are a big problem... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ProseAndThorn
    "Arizona has the inherent power to exclude persons from its territory," and "the States have the right to protect their borders against foreign nationals."
    Oh yeah, they are a big problem when they are poor, brown individuals. Not when they are wealthy white individuals or multi-national corporations buying our elections.

    Bull $hit!!!

    (See Bob Sloan's latest Diary describing foreign memberships of ALEC here.)


    I kinda screwed up with a careless uprate so (for now?) I'm a "No Rate" pariah. So when I give a comment "+110% n/t", please consider that a recommend. (That's my workaround fix to participating in this community!)

    by The Angry Architect on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 08:01:17 PM PDT

  •  Um, good sentiment and I love Woody, too, but (3+ / 0-)

    you seem to have overlooked the native Americans.  I actually expected a diary about the ongoing land disputes and treaty violations, etc.

    Anyway, it was theirs first. And they were, for the most part, animist.

    •  That was on my mind the entire time (0+ / 0-)

      I was writing this. I was thinking of it in terms of the land and who it was made for, and who was the most generous in giving land, and blood, to new immigrants. Of course, that is the Native American. So if that's what you were thinking, it was definitely part of the inspiration, and the context, if not actually in text. Thanks for getting me to add it here.

  •  I'm ready to give large chunks of our country back (0+ / 0-)

    to Mexico, for one, and to the Native Americans for another.

    •  Yeah, living in So. California, it always... (0+ / 0-)

      bugs the crap out of me to hear someone say, "The Mexicans are taking over our state!"

      Ummm, reclaiming it perhaps? Not many Chumash left around here that I can see, but they should probably get first dibs...


      I kinda screwed up with a careless uprate so (for now?) I'm a "No Rate" pariah. So when I give a comment "+110% n/t", please consider that a recommend. (That's my workaround fix to participating in this community!)

      by The Angry Architect on Tue Jun 26, 2012 at 09:39:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What bugs me is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ProseAndThorn

    the English only thing.  As a Californian, I can tell you that without Spanish speakers the annexation thing could never have happened.  Nevermind justice, where is the gratitude?

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