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Thursday, June 25, 2015

More Hopefully Not Self-Indulgent Thoughts

I preface this by saying that I am not (yet) a writer of history books; I am a guy who has learned a lot of things, more oral than written, and I remember most things more or less correctly. Any defects herein can be attributed to my teachers failing to learn broadly, or my failure to heed them.

In a sense, though the American president emerges as a contrast to the British de facto head of state which comes from the legislature, the American president in effect works to enact the legislative priorities of whichever party has selected him. This was certainly true of Abraham Lincoln. He was the compromise choice of the party nominally dedicated to the abolition of slavery. There were those within who wanted to go further and faster, affirming civil rights almost as we know them today, and there were simply those who thought that dividing this grand American experiment was a fools' errand.

I don't recall being taught that being thankful for the defeat of a rival nation (albeit composed of our brethren) explicitly dedicated to white supremacy meant that such people, to a person, were devoid of all virtue and humanity. Yet I fully understand black American unwillingness to sit on symposia devoted to the virtues of Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. The Japanese fought with all manner of courage, tenacity, and devotion to family in World War II.

In both cases, thank God they lost.

To me, this isn't hard. The principles for which wars are fought largely determine their justice, or lack thereof. Only a nation with noble principles can coherently judge itself as having fallen short of them, or to have chosen immoral means to achieve them.

What noble principle was South Carolina defending in 1962, when it hung that odious flag over the capitol? Do you really think Ben Carson's neighbors just coincidentally had an urge to honor courage in battle when he moved in? In Maryland? Granted, some of us are inculpably ignorant; perhaps we've seen Gone With The Wind too many times. That nostalgia melts away when you have to look into the eyes of a black friend or brother and tell him you don't mean *that*. Good luck. It'll go about as well as trying to say the "n-word" doesn't have to apply to black people. In some weird universe, maybe not. But you're still saying you don't expect much out of whoever that is. You know how "they" are. Which was the dehumanizing point of the word (and countless other ones) in the first place.

If I want to be human, if I want to love, I say, "Take my 'heritage' away from me, if in so doing, we make a new one together." Wasn't the enduring power of the Civil Rights Movement the fact that black America shared its heritage with us? I'm not transfixed by "I Have A Dream" because I have been cowed by a liberal mob; I'm transfixed because people of love decided that it was time I saw the greatness of America through their eyes; that without them, my highest ideals are just empty words. That is a conversation I want to have.

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