A Fatal Defect in the Political Anatomy of the US

Parvez Mahmood suspects that the legacy of slavery and brutal marginalization could end up being the downfall of a superpower

A Fatal Defect in the Political Anatomy of the US
The US has lived a lie for over two hundred and fifty years. Now it is unraveling.

US democracy is reverentially known as Jeffersonian Democracy. The hallowed Declaration of Independence, ratified by the US Congress on the 4th of July 1776, was principally authored by Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd  President of the US. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” he declared on behalf of the formerly British colonies; words that warm the heart of millions in the Western world. But they shield an underlying ugly fact; that the author of these deified words was a slave owner.

It was not only Jefferson, fully twelve of the first eighteen US presidents owned slaves, including the first, George Washington, who led the rebel army against the British Empire, and the 18th, Ulysses Grant, who led the Unionist army against the secessionist states. Their words and deeds appear hollow in view of their conduct in their private life. The democracy they championed was flawed at inception.

For 242 years, from the landing of the first cargo of slaves at Jamestown, Virginia in August 1619 to the start of the Civil War in April 1861, the people of the US indulged in the crime of trading millions of African slaves and tormenting them with untold misery and tyranny. For this lie of her founding fathers, US paid with the blood of nearly three quarters of a million white citizens during the convulsion of the four year long Civil War.  However, they once again failed to create racial equality in the country, opting instead for cosmetic changes only.

While the Emancipation Proclamation of 1864 eliminated slavery legally, the national mentality of white supremacy was too entrenched to melt away on a presidential order. Slavery continued in other forms. Whatever little gains were made on this issue were reversed during the administration of President Woodrow Wilson, a much acclaimed wartime president from 1913 to 1921. However, he and his political confidantes were firm believers that coloured people were not equal to the whites. He reintroduced segregation in government offices. It would take another 65 years before the widespread Civil Rights Movement forced segregation but, even then, not in a comprehensive manner.

While some progress was made in racial equality after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the idea that “All men are created equal” remained far from being “self-evident”. Black people didn’t have equal educational, social and economic opportunities.

Many thought, including this author, that with the election of Barrack Obama as President – by every standard, not a mean social and political achievement, and a tribute to his white supporters – that the US had finally overcome racial divisions. However, the police brutality, even during his eight-year rule, showed that there still remained many hurdles to overcome. The white racial backlash against Obama’s election appeared immediately in the shape of election of the apathetic and openly racial Donald Trump. That provided an impetus to continuation of inhuman treatment of the Black and Latino population that has led to the current civil unrest in the US.
All bad genes carry the code for their ultimate demise and the US political and social system is not exempt from this biological rule

This brief summary of 400 years of black slavery and marginalization is a proof that the US declaration of equality and democracy was conceived as a self-deception. The very genetic makeup of US is, therefore, defective. In more than one sense, slavery has never been eradicated because it resides in the social fabric of US. All bad genes carry the code for their ultimate demise and the US political and social system is not exempt from this biological rule. Had there been any redeeming or healing features, the period of 244 years since the Declaration of Independence, 157 years since the end of the Civil War and 56 years since the Civil Rights Act would have provided some solace for race relations. Sadly, that has not happened. The US is, therefore destined for a long, painful and tragic downfall due to its faulty genetic design.

This author has often written critical of the way Islamic laws have been adopted and implemented in Muslim majority countries and of the disregard shown to the rights of women and minorities. Yet the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) consistently preached and practiced equality. One is struck by the simple and unambiguous nature of the Last Sermon. A part of the sermon reads as

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a White has no superiority over a Black nor does a Black have any superiority over a White except by piety and good action.”

At another occasion he said of slaves,

“Feed them from what you eat and clothe them from what you wear.”

These words are very clear, without any conditions, qualifications, provisos or ifs and buts. This is the greatest charter of equality there can be. The Prophet (PBUH) followed it up with his personal example. He adopted a freedman as his son, another was appointed for announcing the call for prayers in his mosque and yet another was appointed as the commander of an army that included leading companions as ordinary soldiers. Children born of a slave girl were given equal rights as of those born of wedded wives. Above all, if a slave accepted Islam, he or she was automatically manumitted. The result of these teachings was that there have been ruling slave dynasties in India and Egypt. Slaves brought to eastern coast of India rose to become generals, ministers and prime ministers. There were some Indian states where the ruling dynasty was of slave origin. Unfortunately, the Western world has no parallel to this.

Thomas Jefferson kept a slave girl as his mistress and fathered six children with her. The girl was a step sibling of his wife but born of a slave girl. He freely presented the siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces of his mistress to his lawful children. His children born of the slave girl ended up as slaves. Had he been a Muslim, all his children from both the women would have been equally entitled to inheritance of his large property and his slave girl would have enjoyed a respected social status as the mother of his children. Western social customs did not allow that because they did not believe in equality. With the statues of Jefferson being pulled down from several locations in the past few days, US democracy has come full circle with a need to redefine and practice equality in its true context.

The US Founding Fathers played deception on themselves and their posterity. Now, as the saying goes, the chickens have come home to roost.

Parvez Mahmood retired as a Group Captain from the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and is now a software engineer. He lives in Islamabad and writes on social and historical issues. He can be reached at: parvezmahmood53@gmail.com