In a previous blog we spoke about the indebtedness we had as a nation to what I called our children of August. This was shorthand symbolism for the lives of some of Our Children murdered in August 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and the recent murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia
We spoke hopefully about the possibility that events in Charlottesville August 2017 might provide a bridge for our nation to finally “crossover” from the shame of our legacy of slavery to 21st century commitment to the principles and precepts enshrined in our Declaration of Independence.
We acknowledged the pain and deep-seated antagonism that persist among the descendants of slaves and former slaveholders currently exemplified over the retention or removal of monuments and statutes commemorating leaders of the slave owning states of the Confederacy defeated in our earlier Civil War.
Presumably, those persons most passionate and active in their opposition to removal of monuments honoring the leaders of the Confederacy forgot or did not know the poignant powerful words of President Lincoln spoken November 19th, 1963, at a blood-soaked battlefield in Gettysburg, PA.
Lincoln sought to reset the moral compass of the nation following our Civil War:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate ― we can not consecrate ― we can not hallow ― this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us ― that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion ― that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain ― that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ― and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Had any of those persons in Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrating to prevent removal the statue of Robert Lee ever read or heard about Lincoln’s Gettysburg address?
Did president Trump reflect on this before his ’moral equivalency” remarks in the lobby of Trump Tower Tuesday in New York?
When we say “moral equivalency” we suggest that when President Trump equated the protests of those who support the retention of Confederate monuments as being as “morally right,” he abdicated and besmirched his moral leadership as president of these United States of America.
Are persons who supported the institution of slavery “morally equivalent” to those who opposed it?
Is the institution of slavery simply a matter of opinion? Some people can agree with it, other people can disagree, but both opinions must be respected?
Are the opinions and views of those who believed it was okay for slave traders to transport millions of the ancestors of the current generation of African-Americans in slave ships to be slaves in our country to be given the same respect and veneration as the opinions of those whose ancestors who were slaves?
Are the views of those persons in Charlottesville who are not offended that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust under Adolf Hitler morally equivalent to the opinions of those whose grandparents were murdered under the Nazi’s regime?
The reason a compass has been historically used by Mariners is that it gave them a sense of “true North” on the sea. It enabled persons to chart their direction from some commonly agreed terrestrial point. The compass has a universally accepted direction of North in contrast to South, East or West. There is no “equivalency”.
Legend has it that some of our past great leaders in Congress would often carry with them a pocket-size version of our U.S. Constitution. We recommend that President Trump keep with him at all times the text of the speech that Rabbi Joachim Prinz, President of the American Jewish Congress, delivered August 28th, 1963, at the March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom.
Speaking before an estimated crowd in excess of 250,000, 25 percent of whom were white, gathered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, he said:
“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not ’.the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.”
“A great people which had created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality and in the face of mass murder.”
“America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent. Not merely black America , but all of America . It must speak up and act,. from the President, down to the humblest of us, and not for the sake of the Negro, not for the sake of the black community but for the sake of the image, the idea and the aspiration of America itself”.