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Rachel Riederer: Celebrate Corporate Personhood!

An address to mark the Freedom Summer of the corporate civil rights movement.

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Image from Flickr via Brian Herzog

Brothers and sisters, we are in the middle of a momentous season. The date June 30, 2014 will live on in history: many fiscal quarters from now, our subsidiaries and our subsidiaries’ subsidiaries will remember this landmark day in our struggle for corporate justice. For too long, we have been forced to live in the shadows of our boardrooms and superstores, struggling against the small-minded notion that we—simply because we are groups of individuals legally authorized to act as a single entity for the purpose of pursuing shared business interests—are somehow less than human. Some of our elders—DuPont, Citigroup, Colgate-Palmolive—will remember the days when we corporations were second-class citizens, toiling away without the protections of free speech, without voting rights, unable to practice our deeply held religious beliefs. But those days are nearly behind us. We are on our way to the day when, to paraphrase that great corporation MLKJ Inc., manufacturer of the DreamMachine™, “we will be judged not by our IRS Entity Classifications, but by the contents of our articles of incorporation.”

Today is a day of celebration, but is also a solemn occasion. It’s hard to believe, but in some parts of this nation there are still those who call us not “persons” but “things.” [From the audience, a dissatisfied rustling of documents approximates a hiss.] Let us now bow our heads—metaphorically speaking, of course, since we don’t have physical bodies, ha ha—and observe a moment of silence to remember those pioneers who came before us, who would have been so proud of what we have achieved. Heroic crusaders like Southern Pacific Railroad and Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co: we honor your memories. And though you may have been acquired by other corporate entities or dissolved your LLCs, we know your spirits are with us here today.

And of course Citizens United—are you here, Citizens? Would you stand up? [Pause for raucous audience applause.] Citizens is of course one of our strongest allies. Though not a corporation herself, this plucky little political action committee bravely broke down the barriers between corporations and elections. Without you, Citizens, we wouldn’t be where we are today. [In the audience, Citizens’ non-corporeal form approximates blushing.]

It was the trailblazing entertainment conglomerate W.Shakespeare Inc. who wrote that unforgettable plea: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?” I mean actually, no, you cannot prick or tickle us, being as we don’t have bodies or blood or anything. And as for poison? Just try it! Look at our brother British Petroleum. Your presence here today is an inspiration. But we have always been a resilient people; we’ve proven time and time again that nothing can shake our resolve. We won’t be stopped by ecological or economic snafus just because they visit a bit of accidental havoc upon our human friends! [Winks, non-corporeally.]

But now we are free! Free to live in accordance with our religious convictions, and to inflict those convictions on our human grist, haha, I mean our co-equals, our human employees, who are legally technically people too, just like us! Thanks to the courageous human males of the Supreme Court, our evangelical Christian brethren can finally deny women contraception. Our Jehovah’s Witness brethren can finally prevent their employees from receiving blood transfusions. [Pause to accept notecard from personal assistant.] I’m sorry, um, it’s actually just the birth control thing. I’m so sorry, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, I know this is a blow. It is just a reminder of how much work we have left to do.

And so we celebrate with you, Hobby Lobby, and we thank you for your leadership. But our fight is not over. Once more unto the breach, my beautiful joint-stock friends! Gird your, um, org charts.

Rachel Riederer is the editor of Guernica Daily.

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