Modern American Political Deliberations

A)Discuss the philosophical underpinnings of the US civil Rights Movement as articulated in Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Modern American political deliberations have been greatly influenced by the ethical point of reference of the binding agreement. This thought was actually articulated or expressed by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. throughout the Civil Rights Movement (1954 – 1968). In The Letter from the Birmingham Jail, he dared the existing American law and justice practices. In the beginning of his letter King wrote, “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here” and also, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. It is not that King was concerned about the black people alone. By using the word “injustice”, he was referring to the unfortunate demonstrations being held in Birmingham and also to the discriminate approach of the “white power structure” towards the “Negro community”. According to King, “Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” Advocating his stand on the peaceful demonstrations, King reminds the “Clergymen”, to whom he addressed the letter, about so many promises that were broken by the government and the merchants. So they had no option left other than “nonviolent pressure” because “freedom is never voluntary given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed”.

King is perturbed by the dual policy being practiced. In his words, “I have heard ministers say: ‘Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.’ And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.” His argument was that on one side the ministers were not ready to touch such social issues which were against the gospel and contradictory to this, the churches were practicing an altogether new religion. Was that not against the gospel? King was arrested on charges of “parading without a permit”. In this context, he wrote, “Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application.” What he meant was that an ordinance meant to restrict parades without a permit would become “unjust” if it was used in a discriminate manner to segregate the blacks “and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest”. Further, he opined that the Negros should be allowed to protest in a non-violent way because if they were stopped in doing so, they would stoop to the violent methods and that would not be good for anyone. Protests were bound to happen because “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro”. King defended the Civil Rights for the Negros on moral grounds. He wrote, “Segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.” The morality ends when only some are refused “the honest administration of the government and the impartial administration of justice.”

King, in his letter, also referred to the police atrocities on the Negroes within the jail. The policemen treated the Negroes inhumanly, kicking the males and pushing the females. King cited two instances when they were denied food just because they wanted to sing their grace together. In reference to the so called discipline being exercised by the police outside the jail, King wrote, “But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.” King wanted to clear the misunderstanding about the police being humble. According to him they did that just to preserve their evil intentions of segregation.

All these discriminations and double standards forced King to favor the US Civil Rights movement. If it is deemed that all human beings are equal, then they should be given equal rights in all spheres of life.

B)The Bill of Rights

In order to understand the philosophical and political theories of the Enlightenment behind the Amendments, we have to understand the meaning behind each and every word or phrase.

Amendment I

The Establishment Clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. This clause is about the relation between the government and the religion. It basically separates the religion from politics. Religion is a link between human beings and God. So politics should not interfere.

The Free Exercise Clause: “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. This clause allows the people of America to follow any religion of their choice. At the same time their religious beliefs should not be precarious to the wider aspects of communal significance.

The Freedom of speech Clause: “or abridging the freedom of speech”. Each and every native of America has the right to express his/her views in public. The right to information is also a part of this clause.

The Freedom of Press Clause: “or of the press”. The media also has the right to express the public opinion.

The Freedom of Assembly Clause: “or the right of the people peaceably to assemble”. After the American Revolution, this clause was written in order to put a stop to the government’s control over social gatherings.

The Right to Petition Clause: “and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. This clause was included in order to calm down disgruntled people so that they didn’t resort to violent protests. Because if there is a platform where one can put forward his/her grievances, no one would want to stoop to violence.

Amendment X

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

This amendment was a result of the US Civil Rights movement, in order to restrict the Southern states where there was a lot of discrimination against the Negroes. This clause means that the powers which the Constitution has not granted to the Federal Government are empowered to the respective States, and the powers that the Constitution of these States has not granted to the States, remain with the people of that State. The States can formulate their own laws in certain cases. An example is the police department. Even though the police department is empowered to safeguard the citizens’ properties and rights, the citizens still have the power to safeguard their properties and rights themselves.

C)Both Freud and Camus are concerned with our greatest problem: being human. Explain.

Sigmund Freud and Albert Camus both have been great litterateurs of their times. According to Freud, the basic human behavior is sex-driven. Max Malikow (2010) also wrote in his book Being Human: Philosophical Reflections on Psychological Issues, “Similarly, when Freud was asked what he thought a normal, happy person would be able to do, he responded, work and love”. (Malikow, xiv). As a human being grows up, he is controlled by his parents, who rear him the way they want. As per human tendency, a girl child starts competing with her mother and the boy child with his father, because they both want more favor and affection; a girl from her father and a boy from his mother. After a certain age, social barriers start troubling him/her. Each and every human being has certain divergence with the social structure. One might not have any problem in coping with society but at some stage in life, he/she will surely feel guilty about something. The three fractions of mind namely id, ego and superego are continuously after each other. This develops a sort of inconsistency in the mind. It’s the ego that maintains a balance in one’s mind. Camus was petrified by the fact that in spite of human beings crying out to heaven on questions of coherence, the answer they got was obstinate quietness. The basic existence of human beings was in question. This theory was called “Existentialism”. Human beings are made of matter and have specific genetic behaviors that they inherit from their ancestors. They have to follow those behaviors, whether they like or not. According to Thomas Flynn (2009), “Existentialism claims that we are in the world by a relationship of being in which, paradoxically, the subject is our body, our world, and our situation, by a sort of exchange.” (Flynn 73). Human beings can do nothing about life and death. They are helpless. 

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