I attended the rally for Mitt Romney yesterday in Cuyahoga Falls, just a few blocks from our AFSC office.
I brought with me the simple red, white and blue sign saying, “Corporations are not People.” We “protesters” were kept on the opposite side of the block from the line of people waiting to get inside. That was unfortunate since my hope was to engage people in conversation about how “corporate personhood” is a non-partisan issue which threatens real self-governance — something that hurts most Republicans as well as Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, etc.
Several people in line either nodded in approval or gave thumbs up signs when they saw the sign. Others, though, simply yelled across the street “corporations ARE people” and/or a variation of the themes of “where do you think we get our jobs from?” or “you just want more big government.” I slowly made my way across the street to speak with several people in line who were cordial and willing to listen and calmly discuss the issue.
The major points shared was to clarify that “corporate personhood” represents a series of never-intended POLITICAL and HUMAN rights separate from the ECONOMIC functions of corporations. Declaring an end to “corporate personhood” does not mean an end to corporations — only a reaffirmation that people have more inalienable rights in our society than corporations and, as such, that people possess the power and authority to define corporate actions. That’s what our nation’s founders intended since the Bill of Rights applies exclusively to human beings.
On the question of the relationship between corporations and government, most people aren’t aware that it is government that permits corporations to exist. Without government, there would be no legal entity as the corporation with legally/governmentally defined protections. A simple group of people is simply a group of people. A corporation has been legally/governmentally defined as separate from the people who compose it. For those who wish to eliminate government, they would then eliminate the ability to create corporations.
It wasn’t long, however, until the local police asked me to move back across the street — to prevent any potential disturbance. Too bad. It was an educational opportunity missed to help shed light on the absurdity of “corporate personhood.”
There were still several hundred people in line when I left. As I passed them holding my sign, women stepped out and asked if she could it. I gladly handed one (I was carrying 3 together) to her and continued walking. Before long, two people in line, an attorney and small business owner, wanted to talk. Issues of the first and fourteenth amendment came up and how corporations had perverted them for their own gain. While that was an interesting conversation, what was most interesting was what I saw right beside me. The women I had given my sign to was walking past the line of people prominently holding the sign.
“Ending corporate personhood” is truly a nonpartisan issue.