Quantum of Light

I can say — not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots — that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.—Ayn Rand

Allegations of white privilege, injustice, environmental insults, discrimination, racial discrimination, and general horror in the U.S. are fairly bouncing off celestial spheres and shaking the world as we know it. How could an abomination such as the U.S. even grasp the measure of Ayn Rand’s description that the United States is “…the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.”?  The answer may lie in individuals grown in the garden of the founding principles who reach for the goal of a nation where truths are self-evident; “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Such individuals do not look alike nor follow the same path; they must simply be hard working, moral, courageous, reasoned, treat others as individuals in their own right, and follow their own path. The fertile ground of freedom and liberty in the United States has witnessed the harvest of millions of such individuals; some famous, most not. But each has emitted a quantum of light so that the U.S. shimmers light the shining city of lore beckoning ever more to her shores. There are stories to share.

Antonin G. Scalia

Antonin G. Scalia, husband, friend, mentor, protagonist, antagonist, father,

Portrait of Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court (Steve Petteway, photographer, Supreme Court of the United States)
Portrait of Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court (Steve Petteway, photographer, Supreme Court of the United States)

grandfather, philosopher, and Associate Supreme Court Justice completed the circle of his life nearby the mysterious lights of Marfa, Texas, on February 13, 2016. Would that we could read his opinion on the media and political chaos swirling in the vacuum of his death. Would we recoil from his biting commentary or smile at his piercing humor? Perhaps a bit of both would rattle the cage of reason.

Love him or hate him (or his views), Scalia was principled and consistent in the opinions he authored during his thirty-year term in the Supreme Court and in the life he chose to live. Scalia, the man and the jurist, believed in the United States of America and the need for preserving the country’s legacy. The body of Scalia’s work observed ‘originalism,’ a philosophy centered about the roles and responsibilities of the government and its citizens. The Scalia article in Biography.Com compares and contrasts the ‘originalism’ and ‘living document’ judicial philosophies:

Justice Scalia adhered to the judicial philosophy of originalism which holds that the Constitution should be interpreted in terms of what it meant to those who ratified it over two centuries ago. This was in direct conflict with the more commonly held view that the Constitution is a “living document,” allowing courts to take into account the views of contemporary society. In Justice Scalia’s view the Constitution was not supposed to facilitate change, but to impede change to citizens’ basic fundamental rights and responsibilities. Justice Scalia abhorred “judicial activism” and believed the place for implementing change was in the legislature, where the will of the people are represented.

Complaints are expected, even mandatory, and numerous regarding Justice Scalia’s approach to the law, but none argues that he was inconsistent. Scalia measured his decisions against a yardstick of the written words of any legislation he analyzed and whether or not decisions flowing from the court constituted judicial activism. A man habituated to a balance of toil and rest; he elected to stay in his business long after most Americans retired and continued to enjoy his particular passions. Scalia was a moral man who lived by the traditional principles of family, faith, and country. His courage in battling political and legal behemoths is legendary. Scalia chose his swath of friends from across the political and philosophical spectrum and appeared to revel in their individualism with the same pleasure as others who delight in wine tasting. Antonin Scalia understood his destiny; traveling ever forward on that trail. He taught the Supremes to ask questions, find the wolf in sheep’s clothing, and challenged them to excellence in thought and reason. While each American is a little poorer for his passing, we are each indebted to his stubborn fight to uphold the principles of freedom and liberty. The quantum of light he emitted glows brightly.

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson’s light of freedom and liberty shines through the veil of the Great Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s. Robeson’s raw courage ran through his family with the power of a great river. On November 20, 2014, The Independent’s Jessica Duchen wrote “…Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1898. His father started life as a plantation slave in North Carolina, but escaped in 1860 and eventually become a pastor. Robeson recalls, in his book Here I Stand (1958), his father’s determination and loyalty to his convictions: “From my youngest days I was imbued with that concept,” he writes. His family’s longer history of activism is noteworthy, too; his maternal great-great-grandfather, Cyrus Bustill, became in 1787 a founder of the Free African Society, the first mutual aid organisation of African Americans….”  Robeson’s early life was marred by the horrifying death of his mother in a house fire. His father picked up the family; marching it into the light of reason.

Paul Robeson honed his raw intellect and natural athletic ability to a law degree and, at least, twelve varsity letters at Rutgers University where he is proudly hailed as a Rutgers Revolutionary.  After Rutgers, Robeson graduated from Columbia Law School. Robeson took his place as a lawyer in society only to discover it narrow, biased, and racist. An apostle of the founding principles of the United States, Paul Robeson was neck-deep in a culture he found personally abhorrent. What now?

Robeson’s wife, Eslanda, an intellectual equal, understood his range and encouraged him to take another path; entertainment. Under Eslanda’s careful management, his beautiful voice and natural acting ability supported the family well, and they moved to London. During the 1930s, the Robesons traveled to the Soviet Union several times and was delighted by the absence of racism he believed he had found there. This time marks the beginning of Paul Robeson’s activism and another great contribution each subsequent United States citizen.

During the 1950s Red Scare, Robeson’s passport was suspended under suspicion that he was a Communist. Why didn’t Paul Robeson take the easy road and deny he was a Communist? According to the Rutgers article:

“…House Un-American Activities Committee in June 1956, he had already lost his reputation, his livelihood and much of his income. 

Yet, he refused to back down and say if he was a member of the Communist party.

“It was the principle,” said Junius Williams, founding director of the Abbott Leadership Institute at Rutgers University-Newark. “He felt his rights were being violated; he had the Constitutional right of free association.”

Not only did Robeson refuse to say whether he was a member of the Communist party, but he also admonished the committee for running a witch hunt.

“I am not being tried for whether I am a Communist,” he told the House Un-American Activities Committee on June 12, 1956. “I am being tried for fighting for the rights of my people, who are still second-class citizens in this United States of America.”

Robeson went on to boldly declare to the committee members: “You are the non-patriots, and you are the un-Americans, and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”…

During this same hearing Gordon Scherer, HUAC member, asked Robeson “Why do you not stay in Russia?” To which Robeson responded, “Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay here and have a part of it just like you,” Robeson replied to Scherer. “And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it.”

Robeson lost everything, including his ability to make a living. Robeson later wrote, in Here I Stand. “For more than ten years they have persecuted me in every way they could – by slander and mob violence, by denying me the right to practice my profession as an artist, by withholding my right to travel abroad. To these, the real Un-Americans, I merely say: ‘All right – I don’t like you either!’”

In 1958, Robeson won his court case, and his passport was restored. Thanks to Paul Robeson, one cannot be denied a passport simply because of political beliefs in the United States. Was Robeson a Communist? He refused to say one way or another. He was a great American, who believed and fought for the founding principles of the United States. The quantum of light that was Paul Robeson still shines brilliantly.

Josef Malcherczyk

“…Josef Malcherczyk chose to immigrate to the United States because the

Joseph Malch 1950-Rancher, San Martin, California, 1943 - 1953
Joseph Malch 1950-Rancher, San Martin, California, 1943 – 1953

Constitution guaranteed him the sanctity of his person and the product of his labor. Many passed through the U.S. portals of immigration to escape perpetual serfdom; Josef came to escape the enslavement of gentry. Josef Malcherczyk became Joseph A. Malch, a builder of businesses, an employer, a husband, and father to five first generation American sons, all of whom served his adopted county—in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

Joseph A. Malch worked hard, learned a new language, and a tough, demanding new culture, which he subtly changed by his very being. His is the story of our ancestors and the magic of American exceptionalism. Apart from Native Americans, who among U.S. citizens cannot trace their heritage back to courageous immigrants who forever left family, friends, lives, and a well-understood culture to knock on immigration’s door to the unknown?

The legal immigration process was never easy, considerate, courteous, or even humane. It was rude, prodding, even crude and dehumanizing. Still, legal immigrants came by the millions. They came for the promise and hope offered by a Constitution that recognized and attempted to protect the rights and responsibilities of Natural Law, a philosophy in which a system of right or justice is held to be common to all humans and derived from nature rather than from the rules of society. Highbrow philosophical concepts aside, immigrants massed on the shores because rumors abounded that everyone who wanted to succeed could do so if they worked hard enough. The United States became the gold rush of the soul.”…

Joseph Malch’s quantum of light enriches the United States.

Conclusion

The United States glitters with the lights of millions who over the past 240 years thrived under a suite of founding principles celebrating the individual: “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

It’s a work in progress.

“I never expect to see a perfect work from imperfect man. The result of the deliberations of all collective bodies must necessarily be a compound, as well of the errors and prejudices, as of the good sense and wisdom, of the individuals of whom they are composed.” — Alexander Hamilton

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