As the na­tion fights, we’re for­get­ting who we are

Orlando Sentinel - - Opinion - Cal Thomas tcaed­i­

It is a gift, as Robert Burns wrote, to see our­selves as oth­ers see us.

One of those “oth­ers” is Caro­line Glick, who writes on her web page from Is­rael: “Amer­i­cans are now ex­pected to kneel for the Star Span­gled Ban­ner and dis­avow Amer­i­can his­tory while swal­low­ing whole a false, ma­li­cious new his­tory that claims Amer­ica has been a force for evil at home and world­wide since it was noth­ing more than a sparkle in a racist colo­nial­ist’s eye.”

Regimes in China and Iran, which vi­o­lently re­press even peace­ful demon­stra­tors, are mock­ing us and claim­ing we are no bet­ter than they when po­lice and the Na­tional Guard put down street vi­o­lence.

These are the in­evitable con­se­quences when a na­tion for­gets who and what it is and when some of its ci­ti­zens re­ject the val­ues that built and sus­tained it. Have we for­got­ten that the evil of slav­ery and Jim Crow laws through­out the South have been mostly cor­rected and, in some cases, atoned for in blood and leg­is­la­tion? Per­fect we have not yet be­come, but our jour­ney is ad­vanc­ing, not re­treat­ing, or “shel­ter­ing in place.”

The cur­rent an­ar­chy started with jus­ti­fi­able out­rage over the killing of Ge­orge Floyd. Af­ter peace­ful demon­stra­tions, things turned vi­o­lent. Po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and cen­sor­ship of speech quickly fol­lowed as mob rule be­came the norm.

TV pro­grams about the po­lice have been can­celed be­fore a sin­gle com­plaint. “Gone with the Wind” is gone from HBO Max. Ca­reer jour­nal­ists are be­ing fired for writ­ing head­lines that “of­fend” cer­tain em­ploy­ees who claim words can lead to phys­i­cal harm. Stan Wis­chnowski, the top edi­tor of The Philadel­phia In­quirer, re­signed af­ter he at­tached this head­line to a col­umn: “Build­ings Mat­ter, Too.” His ca­reer at the pa­per spanned 20 years.

The New York Times, which brags of its com­mit­ment to a “di­ver­sity” of opin­ions on its editorial page, apol­o­gized and with­drew from its web­site a col­umn writ­ten by Sen. Tom Cot­ton (R-Ark.), who called for a mil­i­tary re­sponse to street ri­ots.

Ri­ot­ers and loot­ers seem to think of them­selves as sec­ond Amer­i­can revo­lu­tion­ar­ies and morally su­pe­rior to the founders, some of whose stat­ues they are pulling down and oth­ers they are de­fac­ing.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for the re­moval of Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues from the Capi­tol Build­ing. The irony is that most, if not all, of these no­table men were Democrats, a party op­posed to Re­con­struc­tion af­ter the Civil War and the au­thors of Jim Crow laws. Their racist de­scen­dants op­posed civil rights leg­is­la­tion in the 1960s. Will these purists tear down the Richard Rus­sell Se­nate Of­fice Build­ing, named for the sen­a­tor from Ge­or­gia who op­posed all such leg­is­la­tion?

Yes, re­forms are needed as they al­ways are in a plu­ral­is­tic na­tion with com­pet­ing ideas, es­pe­cially be­cause of our racial his­tory. But tear­ing things down, in­clud­ing his­tory, does not help oth­ers rise. No life is im­proved, no fam­ily sta­bi­lized.

“Out of many, one” is our na­tional motto. We seem to be prac­tic­ing it to­day about as much as the un­of­fi­cial one, “In God we trust.” Un­for­tu­nately, the trib­al­ism un­leashed on the land ap­pears to have be­come out of one, many, and we are fight­ing each other with a zeal that would be bet­ter di­rected at real en­e­mies.

As Abra­ham Lin­coln ob­served in his first in­au­gu­ral ad­dress: “We are not en­e­mies, but friends. We must not be en­e­mies. Though pas­sion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of af­fec­tion. The mys­tic chords of mem­ory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the bet­ter an­gels of our na­ture.”

If only it were so to­day. The shame is ours that it is not.

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