• Thomas Jones

This Is Who We Are

On January 6 an insurrectionist mob stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC. They paraded Confederate flags; one wore a "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt; they built gallows with hangman nooses; they ransacked offices of Congress; some had weapons and explosives. Five people died. In the immediate aftermath some commentators expressed shock that this could happen in America. President-elect Biden said "This is not who we are, we are better than this."

But this is who we are. This is our "evil self". These are the same people who killed four black children attending Sunday School in the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The same people who murdered 300 blacks and burned their Greenwood neighborhood in the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma race riot. The same people who lynched 4,000 African Americans in the years 1870-1950. The same people who codified and practiced chattel slavery which reduced blacks to the legal status of livestock, accorded no human rights. These people have been part of America from its founding.

America is also the people who wrote the noble words "all men are created equal" in the US Declaration of Independence. America is the people who fought a Civil War which resulted in emancipation and citizenship for former slaves. America is the people who desegregated the American military in 1948. America is the people who legislated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Housing Act of 1968 to outlaw various forms of discrimination against African Americans. This is America's "good self".

America's "good self" and "evil self" have been in conflict many times in the past, usually resulting in compromises which defused and delayed conflict without resolving the underlying issues. For example, the 1787 Constitutional Convention antagonism between pro-slavery and anti-slavery states was resolved temporarily by the "three-fifths compromise" favorable to the pro-slavery states, only to erupt 75 years later into the Civil War. After the Civil War the Compromise of 1877 removed federal troops from defeated Confederate states and facilitated reconciliation between North and South, but the Ku Klux Klan terrorism and Black Codes and apartheid segregation which were thereby enabled in Southern states are the origin of today's race conflicts.

America is, metaphorically, like an individual battling the impulses of good and evil in one's soul. Each American individually wages this struggle between moral worthiness and depravity, which is within each of us. As each American individually determines the outcome of this personal moral struggle, it will collectively determine America's destiny. Good cannot compromise with evil -- it doesn't work, either for the soul of a person or the soul of a country. Each of us is part of this battle for the soul of America.

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