The faculty of language, the preferred human medium for the expression of thought, is the essential quality of our humanity.
While other creatures on the planet display some rudiments of linguistic endeavor that warn about current dangers, the human potential for communication about events past, present and future has provided us with our dominion over the planet. Our ability to record our thoughts and speech and relay learning to our progeny is one of the glories of our species.
This week we observed our national holiday, the anniversary of one of our most cherished documents: The Declaration of Independence. A radical document of dissent for its time, it was penned well before the protections established, years later, in the Bill of Rights. The freedom to utter thoughts, even unpopular thoughts, remains a bastion of modern America. One citizen should not possess more right to self-expression than another in a society that maintains that all are created equal.
In the marketplace of ideas, dissenting opinions are every bit as valuable as mainstream beliefs. The right to dissent is an essential part of this American fabric; when the Supreme Court is deeply divided on an issue the dissent of the minority is included in the record of the case. Today’s dissenting opinion might become tomorrow’s reversal.
Witnessing the political events of the last year, from the constant bashing of the free press by the new president, to the substitution of crass discourse for reasoned speech, it is clear that the oligarchic interests of this nation have held sway for too long. The power that the wealthy are exerting in the public debate is the outcome of one court case – Citizens United v. FEC – that ruled money to be speech.
Money does not represent human thought; it enables the exercise of power. Money is a medium of exchange, more effective than simple bartering, that permits the transfer of property from one person to another. Evidence abounds that reveals the transfer of excessive wealth to the wealthy for the last several decades.
Specious legal reasoning aside, money is not speech; it is property. Speech, and the thought it represents, is abstract and intangible. Money is the bullhorn that permits an ideologue to drown out reasoned discourse. Allowing the immensely wealthy unlimited access to political processes diminishes our freedoms since power inevitably corrupts those who exercise it.
The struggle for the soul of this republic is upon us, and those who would be more equal than their neighbors are wielding the power of untold riches beyond the dreams of avarice. It is time to remember the sage counsel of Lucy Parsons, “never be deceived the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth.”