By Contributor on August 11, 2010

By David A. Love

The call by some conservative lawmakers to repeal the 14th Amendment represents the worst of America.

At a time of economic hardship when we should be uniting people and making them whole, such an idea will only serve to sow the seeds of hate and division.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., — who does not think that the children of undocumented immigrants should automatically become citizens — has proposed a piece of legislation to begin repealing the amendment. And Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., has called for hearings into the matter.

Adopted on July 9, 1868, and championed by the so-called “Radical Republicans” in Congress, the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants citizenship as a birthright. The citizenship clause states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. 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.”

This clause was important because it thwarted attempts by Southern states to deny citizenships to former slaves.

But little of these details on the history or the importance of the 14th Amendment mean much to those who would repeal it. Rather, they only seem to care about scoring political points.

And while they could develop positive solutions in the area of immigration reform, they choose to divide people along lines of color, race, ethnicity, class, language and national origin.

In the current economic recession, people are in despair and are looking for scapegoats. People blame immigrants — particularly Latinos and undocumented workers — for losing their jobs and livelihoods. Patriot and militia groups patrol the border and harass and threaten Latinos. And while hate groups and the tea party movement exploit these insecurities, some unscrupulous lawmakers are trying to codify this hatred.

This is such a bad idea that even Lou Dobbs disagrees with it.

“I part ways with the senators on that because I believe the 14th Amendment, particularly in its due process and equal protection clauses, is so important,” Dobbs said. “It lays the foundation for the entire Bill of Rights being applied to the states.”

Giving away the 14th Amendment is giving up on America. Citizenship should remain a birthright in this nation of immigrants. But that right was a secured only by fighting a bloody Civil War and overcoming a brutal legacy of slavery.

Sadly, some people want us to turn the clock back to the antebellum days.

David A. Love is a writer based in Philadelphia, and the executive editor of BlackCommentator.com. His blog is davidalove.com. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

You can read more pieces by David A. Love by clicking here.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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