Same old “Lost Cause” Myth: We should stop pretending that the “Big Lie” is something new in America
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – Preamble to the United States Constitution
I keep hearing the phrase “the Big Lie” over and over. People are clamoring about the lie that Donald Trump had the election stolen from him. They call this the “Big Lie.” It’s just another of the never-ending lies that Americans have been telling and believing for centuries.
We intentionally teach our children lies in school to protect the Big Lie about the founding of the country. America’s lies are coming home to roost. The original Big Lie, was that the nation was founded on the ideals of freedom, justice and liberty. That was never really true.
Let us examine the preamble. It says the Constitution was drafted to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Two common ways we think of liberty are as freedom from arbitrary or despotic governments, and freedom from captivity, or confinement.
According to the first decennial census in 1790, 657,538 Black people were enslaved. Ten years later that number had risen to 857,055. Two years after the transatlantic slave trade to the US was abolished, the 1810 census counted 1,163,854 enslaved Africans.
Did the condition of this over one million human beings represent liberty? Did the Founding Fathers mean to count those Black people as part of the citizenry of United States to be protected by the Constitution? Were they to be included in “the people” spoken so eloquently about in the preamble to the constitution?
How could they have been? When the Declaration of Independence declared “all men are created equal” were these Black people to be included. Frederick Douglass gave a speech in 1852 where he questioned this assertion that Black people were to have been included in the celebration of Independence Day.
“… Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary … Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? … I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn … Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?”
In 1857 the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court asked the same question. Were Blacks included in the words of the founders? In the infamous Dred Scott case, Chief Justice Taney wrote these words in reference to the Blacks in the country in 1776 and 1787:
“The question before us is, whether the class of persons described in the plea in abatement compose a portion of this people, and are constituent members of this sovereignty? We think they are not, and that they are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States. On the contrary, they were at that time considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them … In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show, that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument … They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever a profit could be made by it. This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race.”
Do these words reflect “the Blessings of Liberty?” Was it not perfectly clear when by 1860 the number of enslaved Blacks had grown to 3,953,652 that liberty did not apply to them? Why then has America pretended that it was founded on principles that certainly did not apply to those free or enslaved Blacks? Has it been out of ignorance of the fact that slavery existed that Americans believe this untruth? That can’t possibly be the case. It was quite simply a Big Lie. America’s original “Big Lie.”
America has continued to tell lies everyday since its inception. Americans have continued to pretend that they were being told the truth. People who knew better, Blacks, and Native Americans in particular, spoke about these lies. They called America to be honest and make those words mean something to them as well as Whites.
Douglass went on to say, “You are all on fire at the mention of liberty for France or for Ireland; but are as cold as an iceberg at the thought of liberty for the enslaved of America … You profess to believe ‘that, of one blood, God made all nations of men to dwell on the face of all the earth,’ and hath commanded all men, everywhere to love one another; yet you notoriously hate, (and glory in your hatred), all men whose skins are not colored like your own.”
The lies were exposed to those who showed up that day expecting to hear Douglass espouse a love and admiration for the celebration of America’s Independence Day. To his credit, he would not do so. He called Americans liars that day. He said “The existence of slavery in this country brands your republicanism as a sham, your humanity as a base pretense, and your Christianity as a lie.”
So when I hear people discussing the “Big Lie” I think how ignorant or hypocritical people can be. That lie told time and time again by Trump and his acolytes is not bigger than many other lies in America.
We all saw a group of men and women attack the US Capitol. They were not there as tourists. They brought weapons into the halls of Congress with bad intentions because their president goaded them on. Donald Trump told them the election was stolen, knowing full well that it was a lie. It was just another in a long string of lies he told. It was just another lie in a long sting of lies that Americans have told. It was nothing out of the ordinary. It was not extraordinary. It was just another lie.
This democracy has never truly been a democracy. The founders ensured that when they exempted all but landowning White men from having the right to vote under state laws. Eventually they extended the franchise to non-landowning White men. No one else was included for decades.
Black people were still well aware of that Big Lie nearly two centuries later. Dr. King spoke about this lie during the Civil Rights Movement. The lie about democracy and voting rights was his theme.
“But even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And so our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Lies are as American as apple pie. We talk about and argue with each other over what truths we will teach children in our schools. The reality is that America has lied for so long that Americans can’t come to a consensus on what the truth is. One person’s truth is another person’s lie.
The lies have blinded Americans from seeing the reality of the nation they live in. It should not come as a surprise that many have told a lie for over a year about what happened on January 6, 2021. It should not be surprising that millions believe the election was stolen when absolutely no proof is available to prove it as factual. They don’t care for facts. They don’t accept facts. Rationale Americans sit idly by as millions of tax dollars are still being wasted looking for fraud from that election.
People in this country will continue to believe in lies just like their ancestors before them did. It does not matter what the lies are about. Some people will always be wedded to believing lies. Lies provide comfort and allow the majority to hide from the reality of how horrible this country has treated people of color. When they say there are “alternative facts,” they are simply providing evidence that lies are more important than truths.
“Either America will destroy ignorance or ignorance will destroy America.” – W.E.B. DuBois