Senator George Leland is back, this time in an uphill battle for reelection against a former NFL star, as race issues engulf his campaign—and his family. Fifth in a series.
If we define tragedy as a crucible of human pain where vast forces collide and blame is unclear, the centuries-long ordeal of black and white in America is exactly that.
When Abraham Lincoln, born 201 years ago today, delivered his immortal Gettysburg Address, he called for a "new birth of freedom." He had issued the Emancipation Proclamation more than a year before, which gave a wartime justification that he knew would ultimately be a peacetime bounty: the end of slavery in America. This "new birth" entailed shedding the remnants of old world conditions in the new by removing the massive contradiction between a free, republican constitution and the bondage of millions of human beings. No one understood more than Lincoln how revolutionary was this massive change in American life, but it took a man of his conservative thought and disposition to foresee its possibility long before and patiently await its consummation in the right circumstances. In his Lyceum speech given a quarter century before the enforcement of the Proclamation, Lincoln warned of a man of towering genius whose fame would eclipse the founders’ by either emancipating slaves, or enslaving freemen. Men of the highest political ambition are not satisfied with serving in a regime of someone else’s making. But this was also an implicit warning that the nation’s unresolved dilemma could not forever be ignored.
Some of Lincoln’s critics, whether among the die-hard confederate sympathizers or liberal debunkers, saw in this early speech signs of a Caesarist temper. But Lincoln proved by his years in Whig politics that he was not an abolitionist and not thirsting for unmerited glory. Indeed, by constantly harking back to the founding fathers and their political principles, particularly in the crisis spawned by the Democratic party’s continual efforts to expand the territory of slavery, he reminded the nation that those principles are a rebuke to domestic slavery that are not to be forever ignored.
As to why the founders did not themselves abolish slavery, it had long been understood that its massive presence in half of the original states had rendered that eminently desirable object impossible. But Lincoln turned attention back to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery in the future states of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin; not to mention the Missouri Compromise of 1819, which prohibited slavery in most of the Louisiana Territory–at least until the Kansas-Nebraska Act opened it up to that evil in 1854.
It is also a fact that northern states all prohibited slavery by the time of the Constitution’s completion in 1787. Lincoln’s explanation was as simple as it was profound: the "central idea" of the Declaration of Independence was "the standard maxim for free society." While it did not result in the complete prohibition or elimination of slavery, it was "constantly labored for," however imperfectly, as "circumstances would well admit." Those principles of equality and liberty are eternally right, but require the consent of the governed for their full implementation.
The right circumstances came in the midst of the Civil War, a conflict in which Lincoln, in his second inaugural address, identified slavery as its cause. Not only the survival of the Union but the future of liberty was at stake in that war, which dragged on far longer than anyone had foreseen or desired, and had forced a choice on the commander-in-chief. Defeating the rebels required that they be deprived of a powerful asset, namely, the continued labor of their slaves while the masters and their sons fought the war’s battles. Sustaining support for the war in the North required that the sacrifices of thousands of its men not result in maintaining an institution that shamed the nation in the eyes of the world. Thus did the "ancient faith" of the American people impose their authority decades after its utterance in their founding documents.
As Union soldiers overran rebel strongholds and ultimately forced their surrender, slavery was doomed. The ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which prohibited domestic slavery or involuntary servitude was at war’s end a foregone conclusion, thereby fulfilling Lincoln’s lifelong but long-delayed hope. But the imperatives of equality and liberty did not cease with the end of fighting. There were civil rights and voting rights to be guaranteed, in order that the gift of freedom for millions of Americans not be devoid of promise. But in fact that promise was long delayed, until agitation for equal protection of the laws a century later culminated in the passage of comprehensive civil rights laws.
Given the oppression that slavery and racial segregation uniquely imposed on persons of African descent, it is not surprising that lovers of liberty should continue, for good or for ill, to dedicate themselves to improving the lot of the race so afflicted. Yet it is well to remember that America’s crisis developed precisely because a growing number of its leaders–primarily but not entirely in the South–came to believe that freedom was for white people only. The "domestic" character of slavery, as well as its confinement south of the Mason-Dixon line, tended to place it out of sight and out of mind, enabling Americans outside the South to ignore it. Such, dear readers of this piece, is the plight of unborn children, who are not only primarily a "domestic" matter but completely invisible in their mother’s wombs–however visible their impact on their mother’s bodies.
That the issues of the Civil War should be revisited in our time will surprise–or disturb–only those who believe that they concerned only the place of blacks in American society. But the principles are universal and only incidentally concern race, which is, after all, only an accidental and not an essential attribute of our human nature. It can hardly be doubted that everyone generated by the union of a male and female human being is a human being from the moment of conception. And while the founders (or Lincoln) could not be said to have had the unborn specifically in mind when they dedicated their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to winning independence from a despotic regime, their principles are no respecter of persons. No member or class of the human race can claim a monopoly on liberty and equal rights.
The language of the Declaration of Independence is clear: "All men are created equal." Children are not created at the moment of their birth, but rather nine months prior. However unequipped to exercise or understand their rights (and what child is before his or her majority?) , unborn children are at the very least entitled to equal treatment and freedom from oppression or death at the hands of those nurturing them. With ultrasound technology, we no longer have the excuse of not knowing that children are developing before birth and we see bodily features and movements which settle the question of their humanity.
From the moment the United States Supreme Court issued its infamous decisions in Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton in 1973, the nation has not been wanting in conscientious citizens who argued for the humanity of unborn children, and thus their entitlement to the law’s protection; and in due course the parallel they saw with the plight of blacks held in slavery. More to the point, an earlier Court, in an equally infamous decision in 1857, Dred Scott v. Sanford, declared that black men had no rights which white men were bound to respect. It galls today’s cast of sensible and not-so-sensible civil rights leaders for anyone to make the comparison between Negroes and unborn children, partly because they fear that it distracts attention from a more compelling issue and partly because they have adopted the feminists’ claim that women’s rights entail the right to an abortion at any time during the entire nine months of pregnancy.
But the founders’ principles and Lincoln’s recurrence to them continue to work out their consequences in the hearts and minds of Americans. Just as the premises "All men are created equal" and "all blacks are men," lead to the conclusion that "all blacks are created equal," so too do the premises, "All men are created equal," and "all unborn children are men," lead to the conclusion that "all unborn children are created equal." We must not be tempted, as the nation was tempted in the mid-nineteenth century, to abandon the faith of our founding fathers. And perhaps we will be spared from paying the heavy price it paid for that apostasy.
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. - Karl Marx While not in the habit of quoting the father of "scientific socialism," I know a good Marxian quotation when I see one–and boy does it ever apply to the current follies in Washington, D.C. Governing parties in America are always unstable coalitions which, in the Democrats’ case is not surprising, given the racist legacy which is at the core of their being.
There is much talk these days about the Blue Dogs in the Democratic party who have slowed the Obama Administration’s rush toward socialized health care. Although the Democrats have solid majorities in both houses of Congress, and therefore theoretically have the votes to pass any bills they wish, approximately 50 Democrat members of the House of Representative are haggling over the cost, the funding and the coverage of so-called Obama Care.
This has not stopped Democrat spokesmen from denouncing Republicans for all the "lies" they’ve been telling about the estimated trillion dollar program that Obama claims will save the taxpayers money. But if we take a longer historical perspective than the first few months of his administration, we will recall that when the Democrats ruled Congress between New Deal and Great Society days, northern and western liberals shared power with white southern racists.
The only difference is, now the racists are primarily outside the South, and come in both black and white. For years the dream of full equality for former slaves and their descendants was stalled by Democrat apartheid south of the Mason-Dixon line, even with the ascendancy of liberal Democrat politics. As long as northern Democrats did not challenge racism and southern Democrats did not oppose Big Government, the party kept its majority.
Civil rights legislation proposed by the Eisenhower Administration was watered down by a Congress dominated by two Texans, Senate majority leader Lyndon Johnson and Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn. When Johnson became president he saw the advantages to his party from the 90 percent black vote in metropolitan areas outside the South. His embrace of Civil Rights legislation came at the corrupt price of converting the idea of equality of opportunity to, as Johnson put it, "equality as a fact and equality as a result."
As black columnist Star Parker has so often written, liberal Democrats have switched to black racism and bringing blacks onto what she astutely calls "the government plantation" of perpetual dependency and missing out on full citizenship.
Back in 2006, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer devised a clever scheme in which they ran moderate Democrats in traditionally Republican districts. Their object was to gain a House majority, enabling her to become Speaker and Hoyer to become majority leader. All the candidates had to do was to speak and act like Republicans (pro-life, fiscally conservative, etc.) so that Republicans unhappy with their party would feel comfortable voting for a Democrat.
The strategy worked. But when Barack Obama became president and sent costly and intrusive stimulus, cap and trade, and government health care bills up, the relatively less liberal newcomers began to show signs of independence. Currently, they have prevented passage of any sort of health care bill by the time of the August recess, as planned.
Of course, this independence is tenuous. The House leadership controls the committee assignments and is not above abandoning the Blue Dogs when they run in their party’s primaries next year. Thus, it is premature to declare that these worthies will do anything more than delay bad legislation, shave off a few billion dollars here and there, or kill controversial provisions.
Nevertheless, the irony is rich. Whereas in the mid twentieth century white and black liberals needed white racists to keep control of Congress, how black and white racists need Democrats that look like Republicans to maintain and expand their Big Government plantation that keeps minorities down with what former President Bush called "the soft bigotry of low expectations."
Of course, President Obama does not consider himself a racist, for he means to make members of all races dependent on federal largesse and regulation so that no one gets too far ahead of anyone else.
As long as we "spread the wealth around," as he revealingly said to Joe the Plumber last fall, everyone gets to be on the plantation. There may be some overseers around to keep uppity folks under control, but no one said that commandeering the lives, liberties and properties of 300 million people was going to be easy.
John Lennon’s 1971 lyrics to “Imagine” reflected the head Beatle's lofty idealism -- which was embraced by many, while others attacked the song's brazen, impudent, hardened, and bold promotion of socialism. Imagine there's no Heaven , It's easy if you try No hell below us, Above us only sky Imagine all the people, Living for today
Imagine there's no countries, It isn't hard to do Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion too Imagine all the people, Living life in peace
You may say that I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one I hope someday you'll join us, And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can No need for greed or hunger, A brotherhood of man Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world
You may say that I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one I hope someday you'll join us, And the world will live as one
Lyric highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective): IMAGINE THERE’S NO HEAVEN…IMAGINE THERE’S NO COUNTRIES…AND NO RELIGION TOO…IMAGINE NO POSSESSIONS…IMAGINE ALL THE PEOPLE, SHARING ALL THE WORLD…I HOPE SOMEDAY YOU’LL JOIN US, AND THE WORLD WILL LIVE AS ONE.
Weren’t statements like "imagine no possessions" characterized as un-American in 1971? How about no religion, no countries, and his vision for a one world society? John Lennon expressed his world vision to a rebellious and sympathetic post-Vietnam war America. Was his agenda idealistic, therefore, unrealistic? Was he promoting Communism or Socialism, therefore, a radical agenda? Most assuredly.
According to Wiktionary “What goes around comes around” is an English Proverb which means the status eventually returns to its original value after completing some sort of cycle. That can be a frightening thought, but, unfortunately, it is true. Fast forward 38 years…
Can you IMAGINE a police officer in Cambridge, Massachusetts arresting a hostile and unruly Harvard University professor late one night after which the President of the United States, shooting from the hip, hastily and irrationally jumps into the fray offering “I don’t have all the facts, but the police acted stupidly.” After several days of hectic damage control meetings and frantic back peddling by his minions our “beloved” President spoke again saying “I should have chosen my words more carefully.” No, Mr. President, you should have stayed out if it. But I am thrilled you have alienated every policeman and policewoman in America. And to cap off several days of irresponsible remarks our #1 hothead-in-chief offered “it might have been better if cooler heads had prevailed.”
Don’t you have anything else to do Mr. President? How about dealing with the unprecedented debt, reckless spending, massive unemployment and the economic crisis you and your cronies in Congress foisted upon an unwilling America? Or yet another “Obamnation” due to your ill-advised and disastrous cap & trade plan which is nothing more than a new tax on the working class? How about the health care program you are forcing down our collective throats despite our repeated protestations? And all you can do is resort to name calling for those who oppose your plans (“obstructionists”). That doesn’t sound like really mature leadership and the change we need, Mr. President.
To add fuel to the fire Massachusetts “beloved” African-American Governor Deval Patrick chimed in with this ill-advised remark, “A policeman coming to your front door is every black man’s worst nightmare.” What? Oh, did I mention Cambridge police sergeant James Crowley is white and the unruly Harvard professor is an African-American and the neighbor who called the police to report the apparent home break-in was also African-American? It should all be irrelevant.
While others may say President Obama is arrogant I cannot agree. He is more than arrogant...perhaps elitist. It has been said his arrogance is exceeded only by his lack of integrity. Shame on President Obama and Governor Patrick for their racially divisive and uninformed remarks.
EPILOGUE: My personal response to the very talented Mr. Lennon whose life was cut way too short and the perhaps well-meaning but certainly inexperienced Mr. Obama regarding your shared agenda for socialism in America… no, I cannot IMAGINE that!