History Lessons

I’ve been pondering the current re-emergence of racism in America while reading a history of the contentious and violent 1968 presidential election. This takeover of the party of Lincoln and Eisenhower has its roots in the Southern Strategy of Nixon and the blatant racism of George Wallace and Strom Thurmond. Donald Trump is simply the latest horrible outbreak of the evil virus that has been in this country from its very beginning.

There has been attention drawn to the 14th Amendment recently by Trump’s unconstitutional assertion that he can abolish birthright citizenship with a stroke of his pen. The scary thing is that if he retains control of all three branches of government next year he probably can and will. That’s what dictators do.

But here’s the history lesson we need to remember. The 14th Amendment, along with 13 and 15, that abolished slavery and granted citizenship and voting rights to African American men (women had to wait another 60 years to vote along with their white sisters), all three of those amendments were adopted during Reconstruction. That means the southern states never did and never have adopted those basic human values because their economy and heritage was founded on enslaving and abusing other human beings.

On my most depressed days I wonder if Lincoln was wrong to try and preserve this deeply divided union. Maybe we would have been better off as two separate but unequal nations?

But then the Holy Spirit taps me on the shoulder yet again and whispers in my ear, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

And my hero Nikos Kazantzakis shouts in the other ear, ““My prayer is not the whimpering of a beggar nor a confession of love. Nor is it the trivial reckoning of a small tradesman: Give me and I shall give you. My prayer is the report of a soldier to his general: This is what I did today, this is how I fought to save the entire battle in my own sector, these are the obstacles I found, this is how I plan to fight tomorrow.” (Nikos Kazantzakis, “Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises”)

Where does that faith and courage to fight the good fight come from? The clue is this other quote from Kazantzakis that is his epitaph: “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”

3 thoughts on “History Lessons

  1. I’ve been thinking along the same lines and appreciate as always you are thoughtful and insightful observations. My sources for reflection I’ve gone in a little different direction. The final few pages of the president is missing, these pages perhaps being the only ones that were written by Bill Clinton, stand as a kind of manifesto of what our country is really about. 40 items by Nina Willmar it’s a history of East Germany 1945 to 85. Her family lived on both sides of the wall and her perspective on it’s impact on their lives is telling about what is going on in America now. Dear Madame President by Jennifer Palmieri is a breeze but impassioned letter from one of Hillary Clinton‘s chief staff people to the first woman who will Eventually become president. Each of these works provide information and perspectives to fill out and broaden The insights found in your post. It is a complex and awful Circumstance you have brought to our attention. Thank you for adding your understanding. Mike

  2. I have been repeating the same line for a few months now – There is nothing new or special about these people. There is nothing unique about them either. This has kept my sanity because it reminds me that we’ve been through this before and we will probably be through it again. Same sin, just with different names. And this too shall pass. And when those in power are out of power, then those who follow will turn to someone else.

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