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International Ignore the Constitution Day #220

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 17 years ago, in 2007, on the World Wide Web.

Today is the 220th annual International Ignore the Constitution Day!

In the United States, the federal government’s arbitrary laws supposedly mandate that over the course of this day, schools put on Spontaneous Demonstrations celebrating the founding of the federal government. (I suppose this is after the schools begin their day by ritualistically forcing students to swear allegiance to the federal government.) When Turkmenbashi did this sort of thing, it was called megalomania; when federal government of the United States does it, it is called civics education.

In this secessionist republic of one, we mark the day as a special reminder that the United States Constitution, in its origins, was an act of naked usurpation and an objective force for evil, imposed upon a great mass of people who never agreed to it (nor were even asked), and effecting genocide and the protection of chattel slavery at the point of federal bayonets. Today it is treated as the Enabling Act of a monster State, and as such is the begetter of war, the builder of prisons, the armament of professional thugs, the authorization of Presidential and Congressional power over the lives of innocent people, and all of it over people who have never given any meaningful consent to the arbitrary rule of Washington, D.C. Domineering presidents, legislators, and judges use the powers delegated explicitly or implicitly as an excuse to dominate, to ruin and to kill; cowardly or opportunistic presidents, legislators, and judges use the supposed separation of powers as an excuse to stand by and do nothing while the predators in other branches of government keep on dominating and ruining and killing. The Constitution is interpreted by the highest legal authorities designated by that very document as licensing imperial war, Star Chamber courts, domestic and foreign surveillance, the racist War on Drugs, ruinous taxation, corporate welfare, government cartelization and regimentation of every key industry, in direct proportion to its importance; and if the Constitution does not in fact state that these things are allowed, it has done nothing to prevent them. Some people who ought to know better pretend that a document such as this one deserves respect, or even that it should be taken as a source of our [marching orders][] in matters of life and death, substituting a genuflection to that damned rag in place of a moral defense of freedom and peace. Ignoring the Constitution is routinely used as a grave insult in political discourse — whether applied to the president, the legislature, or the courts — supposedly synonymous with arbitrary tyranny. As if slavishly complying with the dictates of a 220 year old edict, arbitrarily issued without the consent of more than a handful of scheming conspirators, and now laying its dead hands upon us without the consent of anyone at all, were any less tyrannical!

Today is a day to mark that nonsense for what it is. Tyranny is tyranny whether or not it is written into a document, whether that document is called Constitution or any other name. And justice is justice, whatever any document may say; it can stand on its own in arguments, and needs no authorization from any human-crafted covenant or edict, which can neither make nor unmake even one of the rights or even one of the obligations that inhere in justice towards free and equal people, prior to any agreement or act of will. Of course, when government officials ignore the Constitution, they almost always do so in order to usurp arbitrary power and inflict the worst sorts of injustices on innocent people who never did anything to deserve it. But when government officials obey the Constitution, they still almost always do so in order to usurp arbitrary power and inflict the worst sorts of injustices on innocent people who never did anything to deserve it. That is what government officials do, and it’s what government officials did at the time they made up the Constitution, too; and the evils of it have exactly nothing to do with whether or not those usurpations and injustices have been formally enacted according to the procedures set forth in the arbitrary United States Constitution. William Lloyd Garrison knew how to educate the people and celebrate the glorious achievements of that document:

The [4th of July 1851] rally began with a prayer and a hymn. Then Garrison launched into one of the most controversial performances of his career. To-day, we are called to celebrate the seventy-eighth anniversary of American Independence. In what spirit? he asked, with what purpose? to what end? The Declaration of Independence had declared that all men are created equal … It is not a declaration of equality of property, bodily strength or beauty, intellectually or moral development, industrial or inventive powers, but equality of RIGHTS–not of one race, but of all races.

Massachussets Historical Society, July 2005

We have proved recreant to our own faith, false to our own standard, treacherous to the trust committed to our hands; so that, instead of helping to extend the blessings of freedom, we have mightily served the cause of tyranny throughout the world. Garrison then spoke about the prospects for the success of the revolutionary spirit within the nation, prospects he regarded as dismal because of the insatiable greed, boundless rapacity, and profligate disregard of justice prevalent at the time. He concluded his speech by asserting, Such is our condition, such are our prospects, as a people, on the 4th of July, 1854! Setting aside his manuscript, he told the assembly that he should now proceed to perform an action which would be the testimony of his own soul to all present, of the estimation in which he held the pro-slavery laws and deeds of the nation

— from Thoreau: Lecture 43, 4 July, 1854

Producing a copy of the Fugitive Slave Law, he set fire to it, and it burst to ashes. Using an old and well-known phrase, he said, And let all the people say, Amen; and a unanimous cheer and shout of Amen burst from the vast audience. In like manner, Mr. Garrison burned the decision of Edward G. Loring in the case of Anthony Burns, and the late charge of Judge Benjamin R. Curtis to the United States Grand Jury in reference to the treasonable assault upon the Court House for the rescue of the fugitive–the multitude ratifying the fiery immolation with shouts of applause. Then holding up the U.S. Constitution, he branded it as the source and parent of all the other atrocities,–“a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell,”–and consumed it to ashes on the spot, exclaiming, So perish all compromises with tyranny! And let all the people say, Amen! A tremendous shout of Amen! went up to heaven in ratification of the deed, mingled with a few hisses and wrathful exclamations from some who were evidently in a rowdyish state of mind, but who were at once cowed by the popular feeling.

–from The Liberator, 7 July 1854 (boldface added)

As I said last year:

I think that legalism is an insidious error that liberals and libertarians alike are all too prone to fall into. In fact the rule of law is something to be hoped for only insofar as the laws are just: rigorously enforcing a wicked law–even if that law is duly published and generally formulated–is just relentlessness, not virtue. And in our bloodstained age it is as obvious as anything that many laws are very far from being just. But one way of trying to accomodate this point, while entirely missing it, is to throw your weight behind some Super-Duper Law that is supposed to condemn the little-bitty laws that you consider unjustifiable. Besides taking the focus away from creative extremism and direct action, and leaving power in the hands of government-appointed conspiracies of old white dudes in black robes, this strategy also amounts to little more than a stinking red herring. It diverts the inquiry from the obvious injustices of a State that systematically robs, swindles, extorts, censors, proscribes, beats, cuffs, jails, exiles, murders, bombs, burns, starves countless innocent people in the name of its compelling State interests, and puts the focus the powers that are or are not delegated to the government by another damn written law. As if the contents of that law had any more right to preempt considerations of justice than the subordinate laws supposedly enacted under its authority. Those who have spent their days trying to find a lost Constitution under the sofa cushions are engaged in a massive, sophisticated, intricately argued irrelevancy. I’d compare it to debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, but that would be grossly unfair–to Scholastic metaphysicians.

— GT 2006-09-17: International Ignore the Constitution Day festivities

And as I said in my first annual Ignore the Constitution oration:

You, too, can celebrate Ignore the Constitution Day! Today, completely ignore all claims to authority granted in the Constitution. Live your life as if the Constitution had no more claim on you than the decrees of Emperor Norton. Enjoy your rights under natural law; you have them whether or not the Constitution says one mumbling word for them. While you’re at it, treat the Constitution as completely irrelevant in political arguments too; instead of complaining that unbridled war powers for the President are unconstitutional, for example, complain that they are evil; instead of reciting that damn Davy Crocket bed-time story again and complaining that government-controlled disaster relief is unconstitutional, complain that government-controlled disaster relief is foolish and deadly. (If the Constitution clearly authorized unilateral war powers for the President, or abusive and incompetant government-controlled disaster relief, would that make it okay?) And, hell, while you’re at it, quit complaining that forced Constitution Day celebrations may be unconstitutional; complain instead that they force children to participate in cultish praise for the written record of a naked usurpation.

Just go ahead. Ignore the Constitution for a day. See what happens. Who’s it gonna hurt? And if your political reasoning becomes sharper, your discourse no longer bogs down in a bunch of pseudo-legal mummeries, and you have a pleasant day without having to ask anybody’s permission for it, then I suggest you continue the celebration, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.

— GT 2005-09-17: International Ignore the Constitution Day

Celebrations elsewhere:

Further reading:

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