Elie Mystal is a professional hater. He hates the United States of America. He hates white people. He hates conservatives. He hates Republicans. Most of all, he hates the Constitution of our U.S. republic. He thinks it is trash. Allow me to let the man speak for himself as he writes in the first lines of the introduction to his book Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to The Constitution:
Our Constitution is not good. It is a document designed to create a society of enduring white male dominancy, hastily edited in the margins to allow for what basic political rights white men could be convinced to share.
As a leftist he blasts liberals:
…[You] rarely see liberals make the point that the Constitution is actually trash. Conservatives are out here acting like the Constitution was etched by divine flame upon stone tablets, when in reality it was scrawled out over a sweaty summer by people making deals with actual monsters who were trying to protect their rights to rape the humans they held in bondage. Why would I give a fuck about the original public meaning of the words written by those men?
Redeeming our failed Constitution from its bigoted and sexist sins does not require new amendments. It does not require a few new ornaments upon its crooked boughs. It requires the emerging majority in this country to reject the conservative interpretation of what the Constitution says and adopt a morally defensible view of what our country means. I’m here to tell you that the Constitution is trash. Conservatives are the ones who say it always has to be.
For most of the book it is not at all clear whether Mystal’s quarrel is with the contemporary society and its white inhabitants whom he despises, or with the Constitution which he refers to a few times as a “violent piece of shit.”
Regarding the police, he writes that “even the way we apply the legal concept of self-defense in this country is inextricably linked with white violence done unto Black people.” And: “I don’t hold a personal enmity towards the police, any more than I’d hold a personal grudge against a pack of dogs sent to recapture me after I escaped from bondage. My issue is with their owner. My issue is with white people who refuse to keep their goddamn cops on a leash. There are no good cops or bad cops. There are just shitty white people.”
He distorts the statistics and general nature of what he terms police brutality towards black people to such a hyperbolic degree, that, as an antidote, it is far easier for me to refer readers to David Horowitz’s judiciously researched book, I Can’t Breathe: How a Racial Hoax is Killing America. In a series of non-sequiturs, Mystal somehow links police brutality with gun rights, advocates for which he refers to pejoratively as “ammosexuals.” So, what does Mystal think of gun rights? “Gun rights are not about self-defense. They literally never have been. Gun rights are about menacing, intimidating, and killing racial minorities, if necessary.”
Mystal is more than a curmudgeon. He is spitefully dismissive of the moral progress that is the history of our Constitution. The Sixth Amendment which guarantees “the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,” he summarily dismisses as well.
But for Black people this is also trash. He writes:
For Black people, the Sixth Amendment is a cruel joke. The point of a trial by jury, if there is one, is to be judged by a community of your peers. But Black people are and have always been brought upon charges by a white prosecutor, in front of a white judge, to have their guilt or innocence judged by an all-white or predominantly white jury. That’s not “impartial” justice; it’s white justice imposed on Black bodies by a system that treats white people and their experiences as the default.
He means that in 2022, blacks are subjected to the same racial prejudices and injustices as they were in Mississippi, circa 1950. Nothing has changed, he is arguing. Our society is still governed by white supremacists and a prevailing white supremacist ethos, and whites today are congenitally incapable of objectively determining the guilt or innocence of blacks.
Mystal is not only racist; he is deeply misanthropic. Ironically, in spite of himself, the best part of the book is the chapter discussing Loving v. Virginia which saw the Supreme Court unanimously overturn and make illegal anti-miscegenation laws in America. It proved that more Americans were becoming increasingly tolerant of interracial marriages, and that the arc of justice as reflected in the judiciary branch of our government was favoring the rights of blacks —a right in this case to marry whomever they chose without reprisals from the state.
At times, Mystal seems to realize that his temerity to damn the Constitution, and to fill his book with a barrage of expletives directed at the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and our “wretched country,” all depends on the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.
In his conceptual confusion where he links the bankruptcy of American society created, I think in his view, by white people, to the Constitution and Supreme Court justices whom he describes as white supremacists in robes, Mystal conjures solutions. He writes:
Absent throwing out the Constitution and starting over with a document written by an inclusive body that represents the interests of people of color and women this time (which I’d be in favor of but doubt will happen absent some kind of disaster-movie apocalypse where the sea rises but only bad faith white people get wet) it feels to me like some institution is necessary to counteract the white power of the so-called “democratically” elected branches of government.
I allowed the words of this man to speak for themselves for much of the review, thereby permitting the reader to appraise the lunacy of much of what constitutes Mystal’s legal philosophy. There is no need, fortunately, to engage in a defense of our Constitution in the pages of this magazine.
There is, however, a form of resistance that needs to be adopted despite the intellectual buffoonery on display in this simplistic book. It describes with almost calendrical exactitude the attitude, ethos and intentions of today’s young, legal postmodern and Critical Race Theory advocates sitting in our law schools.
As an academic philosopher in the university, I have spoken personally with some of these students across many campuses as I travel across the country to deliver talks on sundry topics on American culture. If they have not heard of Mystal, then many of them, not yet out of their twenties, echo his sentiments. They dislike America. And they regard the Constitution as trash. The least radical among them believe it needs to be “updated” by people they claim are still disenfranchised: blacks, women, LGBTQ persons, Native Americans, and Muslims. They have said that they want a multicultural and multi-racial Constitution, one compatible with various religious traditions. This is a phalanx of individuals who think Islamic sharia law ought to function concurrently with American jurisprudential law and who do not care to consider the dastardly consequences of having parallel legal systems in our republic.
The more radical among the Constitutional revolutionaries have said the idea of a Constitution is dated because the nature of a dynamic and evolving society requires a system of governance that allows for new, multiple paradigms which produce narratives that resist interpretation, meaning, purpose, labels and codification; narratives that are made up and scripted in the immediacy of the moment without any guiding precedents. To accomplish this, they say—history, as a discipline, must be abolished.
It is not clear if Mystal is a part of the fountainhead of such systems of thought, or just a measly symptom of an emergent society, many of whose members’ sole motive is destruction. These individuals are not anarchists — who, God bless the best among them, are often naïve idealists who believe our better angels will emerge without the intrusiveness of government. No, these revolutionaries are systemic nihilists. They are destroyers of values because they find values —the moral principles that regulate human conduct and guide human living — inimical to the goals of a civilized society. If civilization is left in their hands, we will be ensconced in a state of amoral ferality.
They are vertical barbarians. In the spirit of the Spanish philosopher Joseʹ Ortega Y Gasset, barbarism is the absence of norms and of any possible appeal based on them. With their screams and howls accompanying their demands, with unbridled feelings superseding reason and logic as means of adjudicating truth claims because reason and logic have been outlawed, these anti-Constitutional barbarians leave no courts of appeal when the tyranny of their demands have been unleashed. They will have been unleashed on a society sentimentalized into thinking that any tampering with our Constitution in the name of some form of higher social justice other than that which is already implicit in our Constitution constitutes a social and moral good.
This will not be an apocalyptic revolution where a handful of radicals in power declare the Constitution irrelevant. The revolution has already started. It gains momentum by disrespecting the unifying document around which our legal, social and political lives are organized; around which social cohesion and civic trust are slowly built. It reaches a crescendo when, Elie Mystal, a privileged Harvard law school graduate who was made by America, has the audacity to capitalize on that disrespect for a document and to call it trash. So, what is it that we logically do with trash? We dispose of it, we burn it, we throw it away.
This is not a covert revolution. It is being fought openly and without defiance because most people either don’t care, or they regard the performance as innocent intellectual burlesque. They are mistaken. It is time to take the real trash that is Mystal’s diatribe and his adherents’ incantations, rhetoric, platitudes and cliches, and light them up, and then scorch the prating nihilists into oblivion. Reason and logic are lost on these moral and cultural relativists.
Sometimes you simply must fight fire with fire.
Jason D. Hill is professor of philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago specializing in ethics, social and political philosophy, American foreign policy, and moral psychology. He is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center. Dr. Hill is the author of five books, including “What Do White Americans Owe Black People: Racial Justice in the Age of Post-Oppression.” Follow him on Twitter @JasonDhill6.
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