Before the Law

“The Emancipation Proclamation did not give human rights to the slaves,” she said. “The slaves emancipated by law had human rights before the proclamation.” She paused very briefly–perhaps only a faint exhalation through the nose.  She continued, “Lincoln did not make slavery immoral, religion did not do that. The immorality of slavery and the un-alienableness of the human rights of slaves was and is irrespective of what the society said or says. Jim Crow did not and cannot mediate our humanity or the necessity to treat other human-beings humanely.” She paused.

She continued with equal fervor, speaking to others as she often spoke to herself, or to others, unlike presently, who were not around, often speaking in her head or out loud to those not present, having the ability to carry on conversations with absent persons as if absence were itself presence (something I have explored in an essay of my own). That is, actual conversations where the absent-present person speaks and responds as if he or she were actually responding, and not entirely saying what she would have them say, what she devised for them to say.

“I have acknowledged this before in other essays. I have chosen herein to repeat myself. I have used the theme herein with slight modification of an idea from another essay–it might be others, plural. I must reiterate this notion of unalienability of rights and their universality and their precedence before the law. This idea that rights–human rights, civil rights, woman’s rights (which are not apart from or other than human rights)–yes, that these rights we hold to be true and self-evident–or at least we must do so to ensure we perpetuate a respect for them–yes, these human rights precede any law that supports them. They extend beyond any attempt to frame them, to articulate and thus support them–they are, as we would have said in a time that did not bow to the dogmas of empiricism or Positivism, transcendent human values,” she said with a smile she often wore through one or another tirade or diatribe or polemical stand on a position popular or unpopular, that is, among the community she considered herself a part of on campus and more broadly in Academia, which she intended to join, having no wish to enter the mainstream of society in other work, that others on her campus would consider more fruitful, more serious, more deserving of respect because it fit in  with their received ideas on social service and contribution, something many of the women she knew adopted in place of the other previously held received ideas on fulfillment for women, like bearing children, having a husband, raising a family. She held no such delusions, she would say.

“I know how difficult it is for many of our educated to handle metaphysical arguments and metaphysical thinking, as persistently as we have attacked the veracity of metaphysics–and we have attacked it. I am not here to launch an assault on Positivism or positivist thinking of any close or remote association to the Positivists, themselves perhaps only strict scientists. This truth I do hold to be self-evident–thus I no longer put it on the table for debate–and that is that the law can only uphold human rights, thus women’s rights; they can protect them; they might even ensure they are universally respected; however, it is our humanity in itself that guarantees our unalienable rights, these rights transcendent of and discrete from all practical attempts to deny them or support them. If all the world were to forget this maxim, I hold that it would still be true, although the truth of such a maxim in light of a worldwide and absolutely pervasive amnesia would be moot. This latter point is the one that compels us to keep vigilance with freedom, keep vigilance and constancy with our humanity, a persistence for the humane treatment of all human beings,” and this again she held to be self-evident and not something debatable. She did have truths she believed and persisted in knowing were self-evident.

“We must be clear what we are saying, as we have said above that ‘The Emancipation Proclamation’ did not give the slaves their unalienable human right of freedom–likewise, Jefferson having owned slaves, slaves he freed in his final will, is not a refutation of the principles he established for our civil society. In fact, Jefferson’s wording in a bill he introduced as President, preventing slavery from entering the northwest territories of the United States, was the wording used in the ’13th Amendment’ outlawing slavery throughout the land. We must be very careful how we address our past and interpret that past.

“The law in the United States currently stands behind the right to choose an abortion, which I assert is part of the great human-humane, the imperative to act humanely toward other human beings irrespective of race,religion, ethnicity or nationality or gender or sexual orientation, or whatever else we have or might have in the future that defines us as human-beings. Human rights as Human Rights, unalienable, are not subject to the whims of democracy or of how law gets administered. The majority in voting whatever policy in society gets enacted or made into law do have the last word on Human Rights. Law is distinct from rights; rights transcend situation, culture, power, authority, influence, courts, judges, popularity, the will of the people to go to hell in a handcart.”

How much more do we need to know about Ms. Finestra? What esle should I say, or allow her to say–I do not feel that I am impeding her from saying anything that could be said about her, or in her defense, or in aside. Whatever she would need to say would be said. Whatever she could have said she would have said. What we have herein is really enough for you–and if you do not think so, then so be it. We really can tell a lot about person by what she says and how she says it. Diction does tell us more than we are often willing to accept, or are able to understand by what we have read, often times each of us no more than sweeping the page the way a tailor would with those hand held  corn straw brooms he would use to sweep clean a suit or a coat.

“For Human Rights to flourish,” she went on, as before, with appropriate seriousness and humor mixed, adequate intesity, suiting word to action and topic and topic and actions and being to word . . . “yes, for Human Rights to be actualized and not remain the great humane potential, law must be put in the service of Human Rights . . . but once more let me insist that we do not confuse legal protection for absolute sanction nor for deliverance. Now, everything Jefferson proclaimed in “The Declaration of Independence” was true and is true with or without the Constitution. They would have remained true irrespective of our winning or losing the war for independence. Winning the war and ratifying the Constitution gave other valency to human rights.

“Women in West African Muslim Theocracies who have enforced clitoraldectomies have the right to control their own body; they do not have law on the side of their rights. Their bodies are violated; their human rights are not protected. Power works against them. And some metaphysical systems are more hostile and violent to women than others, and if they’re not some times, then that’s the accident.” She has said before that she makes no apologies to Islam and that Islam’s insistence on and dependence on and preoccupation with obedience makes it medieval for every woman in the world, and that anyone thinking of converting to the Muslim faith is thinking of taking a giant step backward morally and ethically, and she also insists that these two are not identical.

“I know that abortion is still a complex issue filled with contradictions on the sides of either pro or con. I am not herein going to enter a litany of redressed grievances against a culture narrower than it should be, needs to be, could be but can’t because . . . on and on and on once more the petty paces, each of us, more specifically, each woman the poor player who struts and frets her hour upon the stage of having to dance a dance of control in return for the privilege of acting on some of her human rights. Is the theater of life going to be another Grand Guignol, Artaud’s theater of cruelty taken literally. It is cruel and unusual punishment to subject a woman to unsafe non-medical procedures that mimic mechanical procedures in an auto body shop when she wants to exercise her basic human right to choose what she wants to do with her body–and any repetition herein about what a woman wants to do with her body should only instill with vigor the necessity to respect this right.” What then should we say, should she say, do you say, our readers, our hypocrite brothers and sisters?

“Choosing  is a woman’s birthright, as it is any person’s birthright, and this choosing to have an abortion is not an easy one for any woman or teenaged girl to make. Forcing women to make choices that are unavoidably illegal would be for what reason, to what effect? I would not want to be in her place if the choice were legal and unanimously accepted across all classes and persons in the society. I cannot be in her place, as no other woman could either. And this is important to understand–because no one can be in her place, only she can decide. I repeat myself when I say she alone is faced with this dilemma, conundrum, problem, issue, rock and another hard place. I know that I am no one to speak for her–but I am speaking for a protection of her rights to decide what no one can decide for her. I know am not one to speak for anyone. I am never more certain of the trueness and rightness of my convictions than when  I pontificate on what another person should do. Seriously articulating how every should, would and could the person I’m talking at ignores will cost him dearly is an occasional indulgence. I don’t imagine others are any different than I am; in fact, I see too many who are far worse, and they are also sometimes the ones who put bombs where their mouths are.”

A long pause. She stands still at the podium.

“I don’t see the future; I can’t imagine anyone else does either, but if someone does have a crystal ball, let me have a look and then maybe I’ll change my mind about telling others how they should live, but I don’t think so. It’s interesting how a nation founded on the idea that we should live free or die, be given Liberty or Death should put women in the position of being offered liberty curtailed.”


Drinks afterwards consumed. Food eaten. Talk talked.


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