Today, folks in the US are celebrating the 4th of July which is known as Independence Day. It is an important day, but what it meant was an idea of independence from Great Britain. We still had to fight for it. And, we should not forget there were many in our country who remained loyal to the crown and did not want indpendence.
I think this last point gets forgotten, but it is a precursor to what makes this construct created by our founders so lasting. Our citizens consistently disagree with each other on issues. This disagreement is not new, nor is it always civil. And, it has been violent on occasion. But, most of the arguments have been traceable back to power.
We argued about slavery from the outset which led to a civil war. When a landowner’s human assets are his most valuable possessions, it is hard to tell him he cannot have them.
When women wanted to vote, men did not want to share power saying women did not have the smarts or temperament to understand voting. I wonder if we went back in time and said more than 50% of college students are now women would we be believed?
When the KKK had a growing influence in Congress with 25 Senators and over 100 Congressmen with some ties, it took their misstep of openly condemning Jews to make their power lessen. This was not Nazi Germany, this occurred in the United States.
When Jim Crow continued for much too long, it took pictures, horrific events and courageous souls to make people take notice. It was an uphill fight that cost many lives, but men with names like Martin, John, Medger, Malcolm, Lyndon and women with names like Rosa, Billie, Coretta, Shirley, et al made us take notice.
When a populist from Wisconsin used television and his Senate pulpit to make things up to cause Americans to fear communism, people lost their jobs, reputations, and some their lives. It took a concerted effort and time from newspeople with gravatas and a few witnesses to reveal the evil nature of Senator McCarthy. Even President Eisenhower had to tread carefully with this mean spirited and untruthful acting person.
When a more quiet movement called the “Lavender Scare” occurred, men and women who were perceived or known Gays and Lesbians were fired from their government jobs. Many of these folks were loyal, diligent and proficient public servants, but they were let go. This movement continued from the end of the 1940s throughout the fifties.
When we moved hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans to camps during WWII, we violated their rights as citizens. We took away their possessions, livelihoods and homes. The communities they served with commerce were malserved. There had to be a better way than the cold-hearted decision that was made.
Now, we have a too divided union resulting from purposeful misinformation and disinformation. We had a populist president who has used similar tactics to that of McCarthy. Make things up, sow seeds of division, blame someone, rinse and repeat. We are more at odds because a former president with a shallow ego is not man enough to admit he lost an election. So using his own niece’s phrase, he is burning it all down to avoid losing.
Folks, it is OK to disagree. Even couples and siblings disagree. But, we should listen to each other and not take their heads off. We should not demonize their opinion as that is the worst form of name calling, which is simply not a good argument. When people name call, especially if they have clout, dig deeper. Ask questions. That is what finally got McCarthy to back down. He did not have answers to questions and sweated on camera when you asked good ones.
To say it simply, our country has survived a lot because we asked questions and showed spotlights on bad behavior. We should not let our democracy crumble because of name callers who per Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Freidman said “Do not have a second paragraph.” Civil discourse. Civil questions and answers. Fear sells and wins elections, but it does not govern well over time or sometimes from the outset.
Happy Independence Day. Let’s keep that flame alive.