(Supreme Judicial Dissent)”A slave has no inherent right to dignity…” …Oh All Wise Justice ,Is there an inherent right for one man to own another?

Putting aside what this utterance may say about the issue of personal identity discontinuity, it raises the more fundamental issue of ultimate referential authority.Strict constructionism identifies the constitution as that authority.Strict religiosity identifies the bible(which one?) as that authority.The English don’t kid themselves about the Magna Carta they willingly admit that it has been altered many times and used differently to justify the aims and actions of a ruling class.We on the other hand, revere the document(which one?)and use it as the process precursor of our constitution.

The founding fathers then would have had to be able to forsee all of the complexities of our diverse and complex(technologically as well as socially) world.Inherent rights according to this view of the constitution does not necessarily contain a  palpable moral  imperative.Thus like the principles of Greco-Roman democracy it applies only to citizens.(excluding women and non citizens) It thus allowed for the institution of slavery as an extension of economic practice but not as an inherent right.Constitutional amendments are required to add to or subtract from the definitions of the 18th century. Such amendments have been enacted reference women and race.Now science has demonstrated that these(maleness too) are not iron bound categories.What to do? We’ll have to slow the world down to the pace of the 18th century to  get the multitudinous changes functionally needed even considered.

There is also the issue of a nation vs the concept of an amalgamation of sovereign states.The idea of an amalgamation of sovereign states with their implied autonomy takes us back to the days of the magna carta(all of them)and to two wars of independence nearly lost because of the concept.Get with the program justices of dissent! We’re in the twenty first century putting our ideas and resources up against and in cooperation with a fast moving world ! Survival of homo sapiens is at risk. Can we or can’t we use the U.S.A. as a logical model for the world?Ultimately world government has to evolve.50 sovereign states can’t hack it Clarence, nor can Monroe’s view of the world !

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10 Comments

  1. On the issue of “dignity”:
    Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, caused the internment and harsh treatment of Japanese-American citizens (there should be no hyphenated Americans … but that’s another discussion). The government meant to strip them of their dignity and humanity.
    The guiding spirit of those hyphenated Americans was called “gaman” – to endure with fortitude, head held high. To say that the government does not bestow or grant dignity does not mean it cannot succeed in stripping it away through the imposition of unequal laws and deprivation of due process. At the very least, the government must treat all its subjects with equal human dignity.
    To deny a group the rights and privileges of others, based solely on an immutable characteristic such as race – or as in Obergefell, sexual orientation – is to strip them of human dignity and of the liberty to live as others live.

    It seems odd that Justice Thomas, as an African American, would be an opponent of marriage equality. His own current marriage, if he had sought to have it some fifty years ago, would have been illegal under then-existing anti-miscegenation laws. I cannot help but wonder if Justice Thomas would have felt any loss of dignity had the clerk’s office doors been shut in his face, simply because he was of a different race than his fiancée.

    It is a sad irony that he now enjoys the dignity of his marriage, equal in the eyes of the law to any others, while in the same breath proclaiming that the denial of marriage to LGBTs works no indignity.

    1. Gregory writes the following:
      “Dignity doesn’t have a locus. It’s a concept that is assigned meaning based on a state or quality of perceived worthiness, which is decided by a majority.”
      The American Heritage Dictionary defines “dignity” as: “1. The condition of being worthy or honorable. 2. A high office or rank. 3. Nobility of character or language.”
      There is nothing in the dictionary definition about dignity having to be “decided by a majority”. In fact, that was my main point. I was trying to clarify the fact that for many, their concept of personal worthiness does not involve what others think or do. This particular attitude about “dignity” can bias behavior in many positive ways – ways that are good for them and also for society (and some negative ways depending on context). They believe that worthiness (often believed to be God-given – but not necessarily) resides within every individual. “Locus” is defined by my dictionary as: “1. Place.” – In this case, dignity resides within every individual.
      In order to have dignity, as Gregory and many others choose to define it, we must be part of an accepting majority. It then follows logically that we are subject (dependent, subordinate) to the values of the majority. To achieve dignity in this sense would require that we must either shape ourselves to fit the majority view – or alter (educate, battle) the majority such that we would be accepted. In this case the source of dignity (the majority) is placed outside the individual. It is true that collective “dignity” is one of the great sources of meaning, (from your religion to your football team) but it has its dangers too.
      Note that I am describing choices. What others think is important for many reasons, but NOT NECESSARILY for the sentiment we call dignity. But note too that which choice we make will have different consequences as to how we feel about our lives, right and wrong, fair or unjust, and even impact on relative degrees of societal success. Consider too that our political parties tend to gravitate differently as regards the locus of “dignity”.
      Related is the marriage concept. Even without religion, purely from a secular viewpoint, stability in “family” relationships can be seen as a desirable condition. The conception and the raising of healthy children, wise in the ways of humanity and the sexes, are also very important for our collective future. It is not unreasonable to understand that among a range of excellent relationships some are of a greater societal importance than others. Among the many functions of “marriage” the children factor traditionally held the priority. Throughout history this function of marriage was encouraged by giving those capable of the children function a special status equivalent to the “gold medal”. “Love” unions without or less conducive of the children factor could be considered silver medal contenders. Each is very good. But each is not of equal importance as regards the best future for society. Because I do not possess the physical ability to participate in some high status sport activities I cannot HONESTLY accuse those who do of denying me my “dignity”. Perhaps the children factor is less important today than at any time in the past. That is where a respectable argument could be addressed. If these observations are true, general condemnation of those who favor retaining the incentivizing power of the gold medal is not rational – it is likely something else. We are deluged with clues – Thank you Gregory for serving up clues. These are clues that the detective in our souls can savor.

      1. I understand your reasoning, Don, but neither of us is entirely correct beyond any reasonable doubt. If you place the locus for dignity within each individual and thus make the determination of their dignity to be theirs alone, what happens if perchance the rest of society sees their qualities (actions and behaviors) to be undignified? Or could it be that the larger group or society as a whole are the undignified parties? Does that change the locus if either is considered undignified? Who is the determiner?

        In your definition of dignity, (condition 1) who decides what is worthy and honorable? Some may see a soldier who dies for his country to be worthy and honorable. Others see that same soldier as engaging in an unjust cause and as killing for their country … so it’s a matter of perspective in that case. In (condition 2) rank and high office, again, I’m sure Obama considers himself to be dignified, yet many Republicans view his actions and behaviors as worthy of treason or impeachment. He holds the highest office and the highest military rank in our country. Does religion determine dignity? Most say that religion can’t determine morality, much less dignity. So again, it’s a matter of perspective. For (condition 3) nobility of character or language, again, that’s a matter of perspective. Many noble kings and knights did very ignoble things, yet were thought to be of the highest character. Were the Crusades dignified? How about the religious Inquisitions? The kings, knights, Popes and bishops all were considered the best educated and refined of language and character, yet their deeds were often undignified in the commoners eyes. And what of the peasants; the lowest of order, least educated and poorly spoken … weren’t many of them dignified?

        In my reply to daedal2207 on the issue of “dignity”, I point out that the government may not have bestowed or granted the Japanese-Americans their dignity, yet that does not mean it cannot succeed in stripping it away through the imposition of unequal laws and deprivation of due process during their internment. And I pointed out the irony of Justice Thomas opposing marriage equality. His own current marriage, if he had sought to have it some fifty years ago, would have been illegal under then-existing anti-miscegenation laws. I cannot help but wonder if Justice Thomas would have felt any loss of dignity had the clerk’s office doors been shut in his face, simply because he was of a different race than his fiancée. He now enjoys the dignity of his marriage, equal in the eyes of the law to any others, while in the same breath proclaiming that the denial of marriage to LGBTs works no indignity.

        So, can you understand why I have a hard time determining a just locus for dignity, as well as who should be the determiner of dignity in others? Do we each determine our own dignity or does society determine what is dignified? Does conscience enter the equation?

        “Conscience is, in most men, an anticipation of the opinion of others.” ~ Sir Henry Taylor

        If our own conscience, according to Sir Henry Taylor, is an anticipation of the opinion of others, who and what determines dignity? Do we have a national conscience? Whose opinion is the nation anticipating, especially since so many in our country consider us exceptional?

        I believe that’s why my initial response to daedal2207 was that all assignments to groups, whether majority or minority, are counterproductive and that we should all be considered as one. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if that were the case.

        So, for yet another day, I’d like to move mountains, but will have to be satiated with moving just clouds.

        1. .Gregory, you ask the right questions. Now let’s deal with answers. I place measurable consequences ahead of moral or emotionally sacred proclamations. The reason for this has to do with the ADDICTIVE power of the emotions. People quickly learn to love their feelings – so much so that they too often NEED to obscure objective evidence that would threaten the basis for those feelings. Emotions are not bad, everyone has them. Our challenge is to cultivate those emotions that enhance rather than hinder objectivity. In a mechanistic universe we can surmise that for every goal we might imagine there will be an objectively “best” answer. (To the degree that reality may not be cause and effect, by definition we could not plan to cause an effect. Why waste our time with the impossible?) Our human problem is that we lack complete knowledge; therefore we have no option other than to make our best guesses. We can maximize the probability that our guesses are most accurate by the application of quality logic utilizing premises that are most probably true. We enhance the probability of premises being true by applying the tools of science – tested, comparative and measurable.
          Too often those who wish to protect a cherished, emotional point of view will point to the uncertain character of our best answers rather than address the most important issues of measurement and accuracy of premise – and accurate application of logic utilizing those premises. We can test one another’s methods and in some instances understand that the unknowns allow for honest disagreement. This is the respectable way to acknowledge a difference of conclusion about any number of issues. We are adventuring together in an effort to accurately chart the objective realities thereby making everyone’s navigation process more safe and rewarding.
          We should not want emotions and favored sentiments to interfere with this MEASURABLY noble process. Note that I have linked “noble” to measurable. It is not linked to “dignity” which for many of the reasons you and I have already presented exists with a myriad of subjective variables. You must be aware also of the fact that much of our political conflict is conducted in terms of one side believing themselves to be “good” and the other is “bad” or evil, or racist, or homophobic, or sexist, and on and on. What this tells us is that those using emotional forms of criteria are more interested in enhancing/protecting their good feelings than in discovering the objectively best answers. It is interesting yet sad to observe that these emotional tactics work when employed as a method to manipulate large numbers of voters to support dubious agendas. Until a sufficient number of citizens are educated to understand the techniques and the value of rational thought, Machiavellian will remain a force worthy of concern. I am worried that the average mind is not going to engage in the reflection needed to understand these things; therefore greater is the responsibility of those who are able to guide society most wisely – guiding the ship of humanity to navigate REALITY as best it can be understood – with minimal conflict, inspired in the process.

  2. And what is the source? Where is the locus of “dignity”? Where SHOULD we CHOOSE to place the locus of “dignity”?
    Clarence Thomas, when he introduced the slave example is explaining a point of view that isolates the “feeling” we call dignity from how others treat others. It is apparently possible for some to view personhood as having intrinsic value – dignity. If our sense of “dignity” is achieved only by how others view and/or treat us, our self-image then becomes dependent on the vicissitudes, fashions of passions, governments and laws cultivated by those around us. We then see the self primarily as an effect (a victim) shaped well or poorly by others rather than as a person dignified with the power to be his own (master) cause for the better. Thomas’s view is not an outrageous way to conceive the meaning of dignity. If widespread, it may even inspire the kind of human ingenuity that causes the world to become a better place – a place in which a greater number can find places of healthy meaning.
    It was with that view, “We hold these truths to be self-evident … all men are … endowed … with certain unalienable rights” that our founders structured the constitution. It is possible that because of this widespread-at-the-time attitude, more than any other single reason, our country flourished – becoming less imperfect than all the others. Jefferson (and Madison) recognized something important for then, today and the future, given that the value of this insight is apparently rooted in the timeless essence of an unchanging human nature.
    Daedal2207 rightly addresses our technological advances as having an impact on the Bill of Rights, state rights vs central government, and on how we might best distribute the government’s checks and balances. But it is a peripheral, not a fundamental impact. From the beginning of time the challenges of social change and international threats call for varying degrees of “look before you leap” and “he who hesitates is lost”. As originally structured by our founders, competitive debate among the states, the congress, and the judiciary help us “look”, and a President as “Commander in Chief” (and other powers) provides a means whereby hesitation can be minimized. Desiring best judgment as to when we should stop “looking” and start “leaping” we must be wary of those who are inclined to arrogantly proclaim for their cause more certitude than the all evidence would justify. (For instance, is there an inclination to ignore the advice provided by most of the best experts?)

    1. Dignity doesn’t have a locus. It’s a concept that is assigned meaning based on a state or quality of perceived worthiness, which is decided by a majority. The majority of citizens were of the belief that the confederate jack was a symbol of their heritage and should be flown as a symbol of southern dignity.

      It is now often used as a symbol of white supremacy, as was the case with Dylann Storm Roof. It is even used as a substitute symbol by Neo-Nazi groups, including groups in Europe who took much flak for flying the swastika. The confederate flag only started being flown at the state capital in Charleston in the 1960s, a hundred years after the confederacy lost their war against the United States. It was flown because the blacks were protesting for their voting rights. The worst part about the discussions concerning removing the confederate jack is that it has become the focus point rather than a tangent issue to racism and white supremacy.

      The confederate jack is slowly being relegated to little more than a symbol of white supremacy being displayed by those claiming patriotism.

      They can’t let themselves become so blinded by “false patriotism”, that they can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it. There is no dignity in flying the confederate flag; the majority got it wrong. To quote Mahatma Gandhi: “An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.”

    2. I also disagree with Clarence Thomas and the other “Federalist” judges who have been assigning personhood to corporations. Are they thereby assigning corporations an intrinsic value of “dignity”? They have also, through court decisions, diminished the rights afforded actual individuals under the protections of our constitution. Are our citizens thus less “dignified”? As Thomas Jefferson said: “The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.” James Madison issued a similar warning against those diminishing our individual rights, freedoms, and protections: “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
      We often worry about terrorist attacks from those outside our country, while our rights and freedoms are being diminished from within.

  3. All of the assignments to groups, whether majority or minority, are counterproductive. We should all be considered and dealt with as one. Majority opinion doesn’t make it right any more than religion inherently grants morality. All actions and decisions should follow the Golden Rule. Wherein the problem lies is getting all to follow it. It’s that simple … and that complex; perhaps it’s neither, or both. I just recently learned how bats can hang upside down and defecate without soiling themselves … so maybe there’s hope. I’d like to move mountains, but for today, I’m just moving clouds.

    1. Well said!It would be great if this could be accomplished simply(e.g. through education).the problem is that there was probably an advantage to these memberships going back to small band preponderance pre-history.
      This outmoded advantage is evolutionarily cemented and can’t be simply repudiated even though now pretty clearly dysfuncional.Maybe you can find a cloud that we can share!

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