Monday, August 14, 2017

Why are we surprised America is morally bankrupt?

By Will Brown

The American carnage was supposed to stop.

This weekend in Virginia was the latest evidence that it has not. It’s easy to condemn the remarks and beliefs of the white nationalists who marched through the University of Virginia’s campus on Friday night and protested in the streets of Charlottesville on Saturday.

The challenge from the last 72 hours is identifying and highlighting the people who turn a blind eye to the fungus that has been festering in online petri dishes and in living rooms for decades.

Three people are dead and countless others are injured because not enough of us are willing to admit that there are still too many of us who would rather celebrate traitors than respect neighbors.

Considering, the University of Virginia was founded by a man who was equal parts rapist, idealist and hypocrite none of us should be too surprised the bucolic city that housed his university became Ground Zero for American carnage.

(If the idea that a woman who was owned by the author of the Declaration of Independence, is not enough to convince you that consent was not a word in Jefferson’s vocabulary, do us all a favor and ignore your next request to sit on a jury.)

Clearly, common sense is not common.

Jefferson is famous for writing: “We hold these truths to be 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. That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

What he meant to say was: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all white, land-owning men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Christian Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of only their happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among straight, white, cisgendered men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed to do as they please. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to watch us alter or abolish it, and institute a new government laying its foundation on such principles that are to the benefit of those of us who make the laws and organizing its powers though influencing our politicians in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

Our lack of independent thinking is what leads people to champion causes in which they know next to nothing about. When we choose to blindly imbibe on information, we have no idea whether we are being poisoned until we swallow — and by then it’s too late.

Hating the blacks, ostracizing the gays, objectifying the women, deporting the Hispanics and ignoring the Asians may appear to be the zeitgeist of 2017. It’s not, too many people believe those groups have banded together to eliminate the dominance of white men in America. Of course that is a falsehood—but it’s easier to characterize anyone who pokes holes into the suffocating rhetoric is labeled fake news.

We hate what we do not understand.

Long before America spoke bigly, but acted falsely, when it came to equality it was a reality in other cultures and civilizations. But, America is a Christian nation unlike any ever created in the history of the world. Our exceptionalism means that while we’re taught to lean not unto our own understanding, we do it anyway and use our Lord’s name in vain to commit atrocities that are the antithesis of the savior who has been dubbed the Prince of Peace.

He who occupies the White House — because it cannot possibly be a she, that would be uncivilized — is far from the best moral compass from this country. President Trump is not the first clueless person to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He is the only one who has shown how bereft of thought he is in real time.

When The Daily Stormer, the official publication of Neo-Nazis, takes no exception to a statement released in response to a KKK protest, there should be little argument that while our 45th president promised that “we are one nation – and their pain is our pain.  Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success.  We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny,” those are only words and they can be reneged upon at any time.

The protests began because Charlottesville had the gall to consider removing a statue of Robert E. Lee.

The name of the event may have been “Unite the Right” but anyone with sense should know that the ghouls who marched have as much to do with the American right as James Hodgkinson is a representative of the American left.

That said, Virginians need to know who Lee was. They need to know he was a native son of the commonwealth, who was considered a brilliant military tactician, but someone who led an uprising and eventually lost.

If a tale from American history can be told with a happy ending, chances are it’s not being told properly. Statues, monuments, schools and even universities that are named after traitors like Lee, Jefferson Davis, Nathan Bedford Forrest and others should not necessarily be torn down; but, they should serve as a beacon for ensuring future generations do not make similar mistakes.
The stains of America’s peculiar institution will not go away if we ignore it. We must accept our past, learn from it and not repeat it.

For the same reason Virginians should know who Lee was, Floridians need to be reminded that Andrew Jackson was not only America’s seventh president — and, for now, the face of the $20 bill — but a genocidal general who forcibly removed people from their ancestral lands.
Earlier this year New Orleans removed statutes devoted to Confederate leaders. The Crescent City was not only one of the largest ports in the United States, but one of — if not the biggest —slave markets in the country.

The city proved to be a vital cog in the Confederacy losing The Civil War. Once the Union took over the port in 1862, it was able to suffocate the South and prevent the sale of cotton, tobacco and other products that would have financed the traitor’s fanciful cause.

We need to know this history.

The antebellum period was not idyllic, it was the calm before the storm. Reconstruction ended after less than a decade for a reason. African-Americans did not have a monopoly on being on the receiving end of exclusion in the 19th century, as evidenced by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. There are countless other examples, through the years that are hiding in plain sight in our history books.

Educating ourselves is only part of the solution. Distancing ourselves from white nationalists is another.

The Chaos in Charlottesville is a clarion call for a challenge all of us must take seriously if we are to wipe away the stains of America’s original sin.

We must challenge our families, our friends, our classmates and our colleagues when they say an exclusionary joke. We must admit to ourselves that privilege exists in this country and the easiest way to eradicate it is to shine a tiki torch into the crevices that allows it fester. We must trust our neighbors even if they live, pray and love in a way that differs from us.

If it were easy, we would have done it by now.

Virginia is for lovers. The rest of America should be as well.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

How much more can we overcome?

By Will Brown

It was a Sunday night in suburbia. The much-promised rain finally came and few people were on the roads.

The movie, featured a man, Martin Luther King, who is only discussed for 31 days a year — the weekend before his national holiday and during Black History Month — before being neatly packaged back into our comfortable history. 

The recently released movie “Selma” has renewed attention on the small Alabama town that played a pivotal role in illuminating America’s moral failings during the Civil Rights Movement.

How far have we come when it takes a movie to educate us about something that occurred a half century ago?

As historically accurate as the movie may be, it’s an indictment on all of us that it took a movie for some to be enlightened about the darkness that descended on the American south for decades after the War Between the States. This was not antiquity, this was Alabama.

I have visited the Sixtheenth Street Baptist Church, the post-Katrina Louisiana Superdome, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, seen Robben Island with my own eyes, witnessed America inaugurate a black president as well as read countless books about America’s peculiar institution and its ramifications. None of those experiences stirred my soul like my drive across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

It was May 2004. I was driving to Shreveport, Louisiana to spend the summer interning at a newspaper.

I was heading west along Highway 80, the famous Highway 80, from Montgomery toward Meridian, Miss. I was on the phone with a friend from college because it was a Sunday afternoon and my mind was wavering.

As I approached, I asked her to give me a minute as I drove across the bridge in silence.

As my gold Nissan Stanza reached the crest of the bridge, a feeling came over me that I have never experienced before or since. The chills started at my shoulders and ran all the way down to my lower back. I looked out at the Alabama River and wondered why people would inhumanely treat others as was the case on Bloody Sunday.

It didn’t make sense to me, as a 19-year-old college student at the time.

I was upset, but not angry; sickened, but not spiteful; emboldened, but not embittered. The souls who risked their lives, and those who did not have the opportunity to live long enough to see the peaceful protest of power spoke to me as I drove over the bridge.

For nearly two miles I was alone in my thoughts. My moving car ensured I did not remain locked in the past, but focused on the future. It was not until I looked down that I realized I had abandoned my conversation.

Hate and racism are taught.

Hate is less tangible than a cigarette, but there are parallels between the two staples of 20th century America. Both are consumed in private, clandestine places because it is now uncivil to do so in public. Both eventually kill you from too much consumption. Both have featured numerous legislative and social attempts to eradicate them. Both have infected second-hand consumers.
The new century has not eliminated either.

We are more secretive about our consumption. Both are deadly. But, those who choose to self-medicate with poison, do not want others looking down at our failings.

Discrimination may have been the vice in vogue five decades ago. As that has dissipated, others have replaced it.

This dignity cannot be found in man's possessions. It cannot be found in his power or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom, he shall choose his leaders, educate his children, provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being.”

President Johnson’s words in March 1965 were just as prescient today as they were when he challenged Congress and the rest of us to do better.

That day, Johnson told all of us that we shall overcome. Five decades later, we have overcome many of the rivers that segregate us, but not enough of them.

Laughs and liveliness,