Why is this Supreme Court decision about the Citizens United VS. Federal Election Commission case bothering me so much?
My brother, who has gone back to school to be a lawyer, once told me that one of his professors described the Supreme Court as “America’s council of wise men”. It really wasn’t a court in the normal sense at all, he said, because it was not bound by precedent or law.
Which is one of the reasons why we struggle so mightily with Supreme Court confirmations these days if we feel that a nominee is overly biased in one direction or another.
Because the reality is, there are times when the Supreme Court, as wise as its members may be, renders legal opinions that are flat out wrong. As august as this body is, it is still prone, even now, to have the occasional lapse in judgment, to take the proverbial wrong turn. Its not like the Supreme Court hasn't done it before.
I didn't even have to hit my trusty internet search engine to know that the Dred Scott case would be at the top of the list of Supreme Court decisions that ignored the reality of the facts before them. And I'd like to say I was just lucky when I guessed that it had to be Plessy V. Ferguson that was one of the other cases on this infamous list of Supreme Court screw-ups.
But it was really that key concept of denying black people full citizenship rights, the one that America's "council of wise men" were so fond of for a hundred years AFTER the Emancipation Proclamation, that immediately came to mind.
If it were merely as simple as the idea that the corporation has now become so ubiquitous, so entrenched in our society that the natural next step would be to legally recognize certain of its human-like characteristics, I might only be merely incensed at the idea.
But if we step back for a moment, and take a look at the reality of modern corporate governance, which has divorced itself, both literally and figuratively, for all practical purposes and most legally binding ones, from having any semblance of responsibility towards its shareholders, then we can fully understand why this horror the Supreme Court has concocted makes Mary Shelley’s story about the creation of a living, breathing Frankenstein sound like a bedtime story for a 5 year old.
Protecting the "free speech" of a corporate entity is a complete misuse of the phrase, a semantic sleight of hand that totally ignores the fact that a corporation has superhuman attributes that already compensate for the idea that its “speech” can be limited.
A corporation cannot bleed.
A corporation cannot breed – in the sexual sense of the word.
A corporation does not die of old age.
What’s next, after free speech?
Should a corporation have the right to vote?
Should a corporation have the right to bear arms?
Will we start putting corporations in jail when they break the law?
Will we sentence the ones who kill people to the electric chair?
The bottom line in my mind?
If it has no DNA, then it shouldn’t have any say.
The irony of this whole thing, at least to me, is the way the Supreme Court's two other most horrific wrongs denied basic human rights to the very people whose uncompensated toil improved the stream revenues for many of our early corporations, the very people whose bodies, within the nonsensical logic of American slavery, often served as collateral for corporate loans.
To grant these inalienable rights of citizenship African Americans have fought for ever since this country was formed so casually to these agglomerations of bylaws and other people’s money that have been sprinkled with legal pixie dust is beyond abominable. It is beyond unconscionable.
I’ve complained enough for today. And although many keen legal minds are hard at work, even as I write this, there is no sure remedy yet at hand to neutralize the new found power of these Frankenstein-like creations that seek to rule flesh and blood humans.
But what I do know is this – the seminal moment in American history that repudiated the Dred Scott decision was Sherman’s march to the sea. The seminal moment in American history that rejected the legal confines of Plessy V. Ferguson for good was the March on Washington.
Whether or not a new march will be in order remains to be seen.