Tuesday, February 16, 2016

bell hooks on Worship of Death As Central Component of Patriarchal Thinking: Reflections on the Legacy of Antonin Scalia

The Constitution is a dead document, Scalia said.

• You can know that a society or a church is dead or well on the way to death when it proclaims that its foundational documents (a Constitution, a Bible) are dead.

• You can be assured that a society or church is dead or dying when it treats the foundations from which it grows as a living society or church — for example, its foundational documents — as dead and not living. 

• You can be certain that a society or church is in the process of dying or has already died when the people who inform you that its foundational documents have died are the very same people who also tell you that they and they alone are responsible for conveying the meaning of those dead documents to you.

• You can know with confidence that you're in the presence of death in a society or a church when people who have benefited lavishly from power and privilege granted them by the foundational documents then turn around and inform others seeking recognition and inclusion that the meaning of these foundational documents is fixed — and does not include those others.

• You can be sure that a society or church is moribund or already dead when those (say, heterosexual white males) who have long arrogated to themselves the exclusive right to interpret the "dead" foundational documents of the society or church confront with increasingly sharp belligerence the request of long-excluded outsiders (say, women, people of color, LGBT people) to share in the task of interpreting those foundational documents, as these groups begin to claim a meaningful presence within the society or church.

• You can know with clear discernment that you're dealing with a dead society or church when those privileged insiders who engage in this disreputable work of keeping long-marginalized outsider groups outside the conversation that interprets a society or church's foundational documents are lionized as brilliant (or holy) representatives of the core values of a particular society or church.

Because living societies or churches are rooted in living foundational documents, whose meaning has constantly to be reinvestigated and renegotiated in new periods of history, as previously excluded groups are brought within the previously closed circle of a society or a church, and offer their surprisingly new readings of those foundational documents — which often brilliantly illuminate significance ignored by privileged, powerful insiders who have long taken the documents for granted . . . .

And because this process of constant reinterpretation of the foundational documents of a church or society, spurred by the new insights of outsider groups now brought inside the circle of church and society, benefits everyone within that circle, when it's permitted to occur . . . . When it's permitted to occur as those mounting belligerent attacks on outsider groups attempting to claim a place at the table interpreting a society's or church's foundational documents are blocked as they try to engage in their self-serving, destructive attacks, which undermine an entire society or church and point it towards death . . . . 

And when those mounting such belligerent attacks are not celebrated as the most brilliant (or holy) representatives of a society or a church when they go to their eternal rewards . . . .

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