The Lessons of History?

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” — George Santayana.

“Head-desk” — a UCC Minister

It’s the 50th anniversary of the March in Selma, Alabama, a turning point in American history in which African-Americans made strides toward voting rights and civil rights. The history of the day is described poignantly in the movies “Selma” which came out in the past few months.

It is the story of hard hearts and closed minds of Southern Whites and the resulting hard and hurting hearts of Southern Blacks, the pull toward violence in the Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) overtaken by the non-violent love, dignity and respect for persons given by Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Confrerence (SCLC) and King”s leadership.

In the same era as The March on Selma was happening, White Southerners wouldn’t let what were then called  “Negroes” or “Coloreds” the right to sit down in the same restaurants and coffee shops,  From the sit-ins that were a response to the coffee houses and the March came two of the most united times as a people and two of the proudest moments in American history.

In remembrance of these significant events, three stories have come to the fore:

1) The party which now controls Congress has made a point of refusing to send its leaders to the remembrance.

2) Oklahoma Senator Joseph Silk has stated that LGBT people “don’t have the right to be served in every store”.

3) The Ferguson, MO mayor whose city was besieged this past summer, has seen a report by the Department of Justice that says there were widespread abuses and policies which created the situation and resulting problems says that even though “The report stated there was probable cause to believe the police and court routinely violate people’s civil rights. But, Knowles said, “that’s not proof.” He added that “there is probably another side to all of these stories.”

Is anyone seeing a pattern of absurdity here?

To give some perspective here, this would be like this happening:

On the week prior to July 4, 2016,  as the Prince Harry and Kate Upton are preparing to come to America to celebrate American Democracy and Independence and what it has mean to the world,

Members of the Labour Party state in a press conference that they would not send a letter of congratulations to the US on the Fourth of July because they didn’t want to stir up hard feelings. I don’t know if they normally would, but going on record as saying they wouldn’t is a statement in itself.

Following this, A member of Parliament states that Americans are not welcome in England because “many of them” are traitors. Further, people with both American and English citizenship would be sent back to America, because their citizenship in Britain was no longer considered valid.

Shortly thereafter, The Prime Minister states that regardless of what history has said, democracy has not succeeded in America despite the list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence, there were no “repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States”.  Therefore, the supposed Revolution isn’t legitimate because “there’s no photographic evidence that the events described by the Americans ever took place”. Even if they did happen , the PM went on to add, it would be a matter of “They said, We said” because there are two sides to every story.

Every day that week, there is a new story that tells the decline of relations between the two countries, even while the Prince and Princess represent the “official version of history” and are embarrassed by the news from home.

Can you feel the craziness coming on? This is what it’s like to live in America today  as a “minority” of some sort, or as a supporter of a minority.

Here’s the reality and good news of the Civil Rights movement:

1) There was a problem of civil rights for some Americans.

2) When Americans of all stripes saw how bad the problem was, they fixed it. White people (LBJ and Congress) gave to Black people what was due them and felt proud of themselves for doing so,

3) The option for violence was presented again and again and — for a time — the minorities remained non-violent and looked to heal America.  When the leaders of the movement who had tried so hard to love were killed. Violence erupted against those in power and divided us again.

Those are the facts of history. We became a better people because we faced our own issues and dealt with them. We were proud to be Americans. When we didn’t deal with our issues, there was violence.

Now, there are people in power who say that we should be divided, that we shouldn’t be proud, and that violence will not erupt as we revoke the civil rights of some of our citizens, because our democratically elected (twice) president might have a bias. Those who can’t remember their past…

There are usually two types of hurts: Intentional hurt of others and ignorant hurt of others (someone didn’t know the situation and, as a result, hurt someone unintentionally.) While many of us are trying to argue the latter of those two regarding Ferguson and others, leaders have now added a third category — refusal to acknowledge the hurting of others and blaming them for being hurt.

So these are our choices as I see it: 1) Pride, dignity, and respect for us, unity, support for each other and belief in one America or 2) chosen ignorance, no respect for us by other countries, a diminished sense of unity, less pride in what we have accomplished, less love and more violence.

It’s oddly exhausting and feels crazy at times, because others shout louder and lie more aggressively, but I’m going to go with option 1.

Peace,

John

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