Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
It has been nearly three months since I wrote anything on this blog. Since my last article so much has happened and frankly I have been so busy preparing our old house to sell, purchasing and moving in to our our wonderful home, as well as finishing the last quarter of teaching Rhetoric, the History of the Renaissance and Reformation, and early American History to the Civil War that I have had hardly any time to do anything else. Frankly, I have been too tired and emotionally exhausted to write anything.
However, on this night I am writing. It won’t be long but I hope that it will be meaningful. This is the 157th anniversary of what some have called “The Most Glorious Fourth.” It is not only the anniversary of Independence Day and the promise of the Declaration that “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Though the committee of five men, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams who drafted the Declaration included a scathing paragraph condemning slavery, that paragraph was removed because the Continental Congress could not ensure the unity of the country if it were included in the Declaration. It is certain that South Carolina and Georgia specifically rejected because they had no intent of ending the slave trade or slavery, and other states where slavery was not only integral to the economy but society would have rejected it out of hand.
So it was expunged. Had it not been those words, which Abraham Lincoln and others believed were meant to apply to an ever expanding and diverse populace composed of every race and religion, and have been instrumental in the hopes and dreams of people around the world would have had much more of an impact, the slaveholders of then, the Confederates who expressly included slavery as their primary reason of secession, and the White Nationalists, and insurrectionists who attacked that Capitol on January 6th, and their leader, former President Donald Trump be damned.
The words of that draft paragraph expressed a sentiment that those who with mythologize our past or condemn the men who drafted the Declaration as not going far enough would be embarrassed to read, so I post them here:
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
Had that paragraph been included it would have changed the course of our history for the better. Blacks would have been emancipated and made citizens sooner, and instead of a massive institution of Slavery which poisoned the country for 89 years after independence, a further hundred plus years of Jim Crow, racial violence, the wholesale destruction of Black communities, the lynchings of thousands of Blacks, bombing s of Black churches and assassinations of civil rights leaders including Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. Despite the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and Civil Rights Act of 1965 a resurgent White Nationalist movement, which though a significant minority of the voting population of the United States have so gerrymandered the congressional districts of so many states that they have far more house members, and a plurality of Senators who use a hackneyed version of the Filibuster, called Cloture, to ensure that a supermajority of at least 60 Senators have to agree to a bill to pass it into law, or to appoint Justices to the Supreme Court. This has ensured that the White Supremacist Republicans led by Senator Mitch McConnell have used Senate procedural rules to block Democratic nominees to the Supreme Court and end up with a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court, which just last week dismantled the last remaining pillar of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. As this was being litigated hundreds of measures to restrict voting rights have been introduced, and in some states like Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas have been passed by state legislatures and signed into law by their governors.
July 4th 1863 is often referred to as the Most Glorious Fourth because on that day following their decisive defeat at Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began their retreat to Virginia, while General John Pemberton’s Army at Vicksburg surrendered to the armies of Ulysses S.Grant, exactly four score and seven years after the publication of the Declaration of Independence. On that day one Confederate Army was eliminated from the war and the most dangerous, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was so shredded that it could never go on the offensive again.
Now, twelve score and five years after the Declaration we are facing an existential threat to our democracy from the party which used to be the party of Lincoln, emancipation, and Reconstruction to that of the Southern Democrats who fought for slavery, fought civil and voting rights for Blacks, rolled back the rights fought for by Union Soldiers and voted into law in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution and the afore mentioned Voting Rights Act of 1964 and Civil Rights Act of 1965.
The simple fact is that our democracy is under attack and it is very possible that this Independence Day May be the last that we observe as a democracy. It is imperative that we fight at the ballot box, in state legislatures, in Congress, and with the power of an incumbent President committed to that democracy to beat back the attempts to overthrow it by legislation ,through the courts and by violent coup attempts. We may even have to take up arms to defend the American Experiment. If we do not we will cede the field to those who have already done everything they can and are working on more to disenfranchise most Americans and form a minority controlled, authoritarian, Christian Nationalist state that restricts the rights of the majority to maintain political control and cede power to an oligarchy of Christian Nationalists, Corporate interests, and violent White Supremacists. In effect we are at the same point as the Union in 1861 and the Weimar Republic in January 1933. We know how well those ended. Both ended in the defeat of the authoritarians but a great cost.
Many of the people endangering our system of government, our democracy and way of life have been convinced by propaganda and are completely ignorant of our history. Their ignorance is not something we can excuse. That being said we cannot treat them as enemies until they attack. Thus, we have to peacefully to to become this friends and show them how they have been deceived, just like most poor Southern Whites before the Civil War, and many otherwise decent and moral Germans in the 1930s. If we can do that. If we can win without violence and and help change the hearts of people ignorant of our history and Constitution we can defeat this racist, theocratic, and authoritarian threat before it can claim complete power in all branches of of government.
Historian Timothy Snyder wrote:
“The hero of a David Lodge novel says that you don’t know, when you make love for the last time, that you are making love for the last time. Voting is like that. Some of the Germans who voted for the Nazi Party in 1932 no doubt understood that this might be the last meaningfully free election for some time, but most did not. Some of the Czechs and Slovaks who voted for the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1946 probably realized that they were voting for the end of democracy, but most assumed they would have another chance. No doubt the Russians who voted in 1990 did not think that this would be the last free and fair election in their country’s history, which (thus far) it has been. Any election can be the last, or at least the last in the lifetime of the person casting the vote.”
If we do not succeed, we will enter the most dark and dystopian future imaginable, it will be like the series The Man in the High Castle. That is not the future that I want to contemplate, however with the election restrictions being pasts in many states, the Supreme Court backing those restrictions, and an ever increasing violent element in the Republican Party we cannot be complacent.
So, I wish to a happy Independence Day and please don’t take it lightly. Democracy is fragile and under threat by Americans who would rather see a one party authoritarian State based on White Christian Nationalism. A State where Racism and anti-Semitism in its crudest forms takes over the nation.
This is not a partisan issue. Many people voting for the GOP are doing so because of years of propaganda who have no earthly idea of just how badly it has already harmed them, socially. politically, and morally. Conservative wings of Christian Churches have become nothing more than mouthpieces for the anti-Christian and anti-humanitarian new-fascists of the GOP, poisoning the faith and causing many people to abandon it.
I don’t know about you, but I will fight that future, if need be to the death.