Are There Shared Principles in the US?

Tiny - Posted on 15 July 2014

Jose Villareal/ Pelican Bay SHU Correspondent for PNN

July 15, 2014

The shared principles of a Nation would be what drives the people forward (ideally, all of the people) to strive for collective objectives. Countries usually have shared principles which may not be shared by everyone, but the majority of the population usually share these beliefs, at least in theory.

The US has “shared principles” on paper, but I disagree that these are the true feelings of the majority of people inside the US borders. In theory, the political principles within the US system are Liberty, Property, and Equality. These “paper principles” are touted in the corporate media, in the schools and at the kitchen tables of many to the point where many actually believe these principles to be true. A closer look at these terms will show they are nonexistent to many, so let’s look closer…


The word “liberty” has become one of them words that are drilled into our minds since elementary school. The idea of the US promoting liberty is repeated ad nauseum, but is there really liberty in US borders? And if so, for whom? First, in order to really determine if liberty exists, we need to take a historical review of the situation rather than looking at things now or whether we have a job, a house, or a bank account, etc. Let us look at the history of the US: if we do so HISTORICALLY, it’s an oxymoron to colonize a people and give them liberty at the same time, as people claim is possible with First Nations people. It’s either one or the other, and I doubt the First Nations people would call having their land stolen, “liberty.” Likewise genocide, they would probably argue it is also devoid of liberty.

The slave trade would also be seen as negating liberty to many, and rightly so: Buying and selling humans is more like a crime against humanity than liberty. It is the opposite of liberty.

For Chicano people, the fact that our ancestral homeland was taken in the US War on Mexico of 1848 and our subsequent colonization was also completely divorced of liberty. After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the US omitted portions of the treaty which guaranteed protections under the US law for Chican@s. Land grants going back to the Spanish colonization were not acknowledged and Chicano people saw no liberty in the lynchings or Greaser Laws that gave a green like to Amerikans to “cleanse” their communities of Chican@s.

By examining the roots of the US, I think we easily see that liberty was not experienced by many in its founding. Now as the question was posed in the beginning: Liberty for whom? If we are talking about the colonizers and their descendents, I would say yes they experience liberty and have done so for hundreds of years at the expense of Chicanos, First Nations and Black folks.


As I described above, when it comes to property Chican@s have been displaced since 1848. The essence of property is land. First Nation land has been occupied since the first settler stepped foot on these shores. African slaves WERE property. So historically, property has been most enjoyed by Euro-Americans at the expense of the oppressed colonized people.


Where to start. Well, for Chican@s historically at the time of our colonization (1848), we were not included in the idea of Equality. This was reflected in our land being stolen, in the lynchings, rapes and debt peonage we suffered post-1848. The same for Black folks and perhaps even worse for the First Nations.

What has changed?

Some today, whether Chicano or any other oppressed people, have been bought off in ways that erase not only our history from their minds, but current day oppression. They are bought off with high paying jobs, positions within the empire, or access to more of the exploited resources taken from other parts of the world. But are these US principles experienced by people like Chicanos? One way to test this is to, among other things, look to the courts to see how these principles are applied in the material world. Look to the prisons as well.

When we see states across the US passing fascist laws like Arizona’s SB 1070, where Brown people are potential criminals for their appearance, i.e. brown skin, those principles are thrown out the window. When the state, i.e. the police, can shoot and kill Brown youth, i.e. Andy Lopez of Santa Rosa, and it’s treated like a fender bender…. or take Oscar Grant, about whose case Obama instructed to “respect the verdict” when the police were found not guilty… All these episodes are a pattern of principles that are really playing out in the US.

First Nations people, like those on Pine Ridge reservation, don’t even have running water, and this is the 21st Century in the US. With all of this inequality, some in the cozy confines of their leafy suburbs probably believe that these principles of Liberty, Property, and Equality exist. They may exist for them but for many they are as elusive as the Chupacabra.

I believe that these values are important for understanding Amerika because how can you transform any phenomenon without first understanding it? In order to find out where the heavy lifting is needed in any political system, including Amerika, we must understand its strengths and weaknesses, its theory and its practice, so that we fully understand it psychologically.

Ultimately ANY principles that derive from oppression can never be fruitful to all people.


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