The martyrs are scarred and wounded by society's transgressions but we are healed by their stripes. What makes America great is the right to protest and when we see evidence of our labors in the exercise of that right, how sweet it is. We cannot afford to be complacent because we still have a long way to go to make the playing field even for all Americans. .... Rev. Jesse Jackson
On July 4 our Nation pauses to celebrate, "INDEPENDENCE DAY," the holiday set aside to memorialize the signing of the official document declaring freedom from the tyranny of King George III of England. As we do, citizens must ask themselves whether events occurring the past couple of years have redefined the original meaning of our declaration and has human individualism been lost forever?
Oppression breeds discontent and in 1776 citizens living within the thirteen original colonies felt they were being unfairly taxed for the benefit of the ruling Aristocracy of England. Troops were sent to suppress the proliferation of anger by the Colonists resulting in the assembly of a Continental Congress whose representatives produced the, "DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE." It essentially renounced allegiance to the British Crown in the name of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and asserted freedom and independence for its residents. With this pronouncement, a birth of a nation came about and its stated principles have become a cherished model for subjucated people in the 230 years since.
The statement most often cited in this explicit expression of precepts is, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created Equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."
The significance of those words have become the subject of much debate and interpretation. The noted American Philosophy Educator, Michael Berliner writing in the online journal, "CAPITALISM MAGIZINE," reasons the essence of the Founding Fathers intent was to protect the potential ability of the Individual Mind to deduce sensibly.
"That is the meaning of Independence," he wrote. "Trust in your own judgement, in reason; do not sacrifice your mind to the state, the church, the race, the nation or your neighbors."
Berliner defines unalienable Rights as follows:
RIGHT TO LIFE: "Means that every individual has a right to his own independent life, that one's life belongs to oneself, not to others to use as they see fit."
RIGHT TO LIBERTY: "Means the right to freedom of action, to act on one's own judgement, the right not to have a gun pointed at one's head and be forced to do what someone else commands."
RIGHT TO PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS: "Means an individual may properly pursue his own happiness, friends, hobbies, etc and not exist as a mere tool to serve the goals of others."
Members of the Second Continental Congress placed an overwhelming emphasis on institutions being subordinate to the rights of individuals. After declaring itself a Nation, a Constitution was authored, including a Bill Of Rights which specifically detailed the laws of the land. However, it failed to adequately address one important question which has been both a divisive and monumental influence in shaping the legal legacy of the United States to present. Can corporations be considered persons, entitled to the same Rights guaranteed to individuals under the Constitution or should they be defined as artificial entities without these privileges?
Thom Hartmann, a lecturer and author with expertise on the subject, asserts imposing rules on corporations was deliberately omitted in anticipation that left unchecked, the young nation would grow and prosper. Instead, States would regulate industry and insure they didn't acquire monopolistic control.
"States made it illegal for corporations to lie about their products, and required that their books and processes always be open to government regulators," Hartmann wrote. "States and the federal government claimed the right to inspect companies and investigate them when they caused pollution, harmed workers or created hazards for communities. More importantly, States prohibited corporations from either participating or influencing the political process."
Eventually, the Industrial Barons of the 1800's considered the restraints too restrictive and petitoned to have the same Constitutional rights enjoyed by individuals as a means of gaining broader control of the economic marketplace.
Not until 1886, when a clerical error was inserted into a U.S. Supreme Court decision claiming corporations were persons, did their legal status change. The mistake was cited as judicial precedent in future challenges. An explicit accounting of how corporations obtained personhood can be found in Hartmann's book, "UNEQUAL PROTECTION: THE RISE OF CORPORATE DOMINANCE AND THE THEFT OF HUMAN RIGHTS."
The recognition of corporations as individuals has led to a gradual reversal of the original intent of the Constitution designed to protect human rights so they might remain free of subversive institutions. Rather than providing parity, the balance has shifted to protecting the interests of corporations above all else, affirming the convictions of Thomas Jefferson and others of his Era concerning the adverse consequences of unfettered business organizations.