Rightfully suppressing the toys and the tantrums of the unreasonable

Photo credit: Janice McDonald
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) signs bill that permanently removes the Confederate Battle Flag from a pole on the grounds of the state capitol in Columbia, July 9, 2015. She is surrounded by former governors and families of those killed in Charleston’s June attack. Photo credit: Janice McDonald. Used here with permission

Call it the unraveling of the Republicans’ over forty-year-old “Southern Strategy.” Driven by a party that finally sees the dangers of perception that come with aligning itself with racists and secessionists, the GOP is letting go of the Confederate flag as a means of reaching a segment of the voting population. Like an obese diabetic swearing off corn syrup, they are looking for other ways to get their sugar that are more easily digested by the public.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying all Americans who live in the South are racists. Neither are all Southern Republicans, but when you feast at the trough of intolerance, one is bound to adapt at least some of the affectations of one’s dining partners. The need for votes and money and more money and even more money means that even if your find the racial and social attitudes of the pigs abhorrent, you can’t be seen without a snout mask, lest you reveal an upturned nose behind it.

The Democrats had to exorcise that demon back in the 1970s, and it cost them the 1980s, but this is a different time in racial politics. The flag furor is a distraction, and it helps Republicans look less intransigent on social issues, at a time when the culture wars are really heating up.

The causes of the culture clash remain the faith-based rationales for intolerance, discrimination and militarism. The problem is not with the faiths. It is with the way they are implemented by some adherents, meaning their inability to keep their dogma in perspective, as part of a pluralistic society. Those in public service who swing to God to justify their manifestos are all too happy to provide the kindling for righteous indignation and bogeyman politics. It is a maneuver worthy of a ten-year-old boy, for whom every challenge is stridently answered, “Uh-uhhh,” or, “Your mama.”

Aware of humanity’s inconsistencies in abiding by the principles of freedom and tolerance that are necessary to preserve our republic, Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address, issued several cautionary advisements. More than a few point to the stubborn divisions which even now grip our country and freeze our government with an intolerant zeal usually relegated religious fanaticism.

After expressing his expectation that all would rally around the young Constitution, “and unite in common efforts for the common good,” he added:

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle: that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable.”

After the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, where a young bigot walked into a historic black church and gunned down nine people during Bible study, some on the Right were quick to cast it as an attack on faith in general, and the Christian faith in particular. Such speech feeds the monster of intolerance they count on to get elected, and rallies their political base to show up at the polls. But is their “will to be rightful” at all reasonable? More importantly, is using the faith community, fallacious argument that it is, consistent with our nation’s founding principles?

It was Jefferson who said, citing mankind’s long history of wars and killing for the cause of religious superiority, “that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance [just] as despotic, [just] as wicked, and capable of [just] as bitter and bloody persecutions.”

Instead, he said, we are a nation “enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter.”

Those who are quick to wield the sword of some maleficent deity, clinging to a single truth against coexistence, cleave all Americans from our heritage as a free country. Fanatics and zealots of all stripes are corruptions of “a benign religion,” and their extremism is an anathema to a belief in the “happiness of man.”

Their dogma distorts.

Perhaps it is the fanatic’s belief in exclusivity that drives his myopic zeal, a deeply seeded understanding that his race and religion make him part of a group that is destined to inherit the keys to the kingdom and rule over others. For a soul so possessed, there can be no “common good,” only the distorted fulfillment of their distorted perceptions of God.

Children are also often told they are special, that they make their parents proud. This is a perception most grow to understand as coming from the unfettered love a parent has for for their child. Very few carry it into adulthood. That is, unless they find the world so daunting and unwelcoming that they hasten back to the warmth and comfort of memory and seek a way to prove to the world what their parents convinced them was true.

The rambling letter the confessed killer in Charleston, posted online, is rife with the delusion of superiority and entitlement he thinks are due Americans of European ancestry. According to D.R. (I’m not going to empower him by using his name), Whites in America “are in fact superior,” and because they are superior beings, they are also victims of “lies, exaggerations and myths.” And, he adds lamentingly, “I have tried endlessly to think of reasons we deserve this.”

Poor Whites. And it’s all the fault of “Jewish agitation of the black race.” Jews, he says, operate secretly under a cloak of Whiteness. “If we could somehow turn every jew [sic] blue for 24 hours,” he suggests, “I think there would be a mass awakening, because people would be able to see plainly what is going on.”

It’s so simply juvenile, this racist rant by a man incapable of taking responsibility for his own shortcomings. Jews are an “enigma.” Blacks “are stupid and violent.” Hispanics may have European blood, but “are still our enemies.” He and the people he sources never stopped blaming others for a country growing and changing. We accept. We consent. We grow. We put away childish things like the Confederate flag and hopefully, someday, the pointy white hoods of the racists. We put away the fear of losing wealth for the joys of clean air, a sound education and healthcare for all.

This is not our country changing in some foreign way. It is, instead, precisely the way our Founding Fathers envisioned our republic evolving.

“E pluribus unum – out of many, one,” is the motto of our nation, a true declaration for pluralism and tolerance, so that we can thrive, Jefferson said, “possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation.”

Welcome to the “golden door.”


PS. Truly principled freedom rings out from the Virginian’s speech, and it is at the very least regretful that he polluted the consistency of his principles by owning slaves. That is a fact that cannot be easily washed away by high minded thoughts and words. Nevertheless, I urge you to embrace the message, if not the messenger.

One thought on “Rightfully suppressing the toys and the tantrums of the unreasonable

  1. PG, your use of our English language continues to impress and entertain me. However, as usual, I have disagreements with your content and philosophy.
    Over the last 40 years, Southern Republicans have not aligned themselves with racist or secessionists,if anything, it is the other way around. The perception of this untruth is in the minds, rhetoric and propaganda of the leadership of the Democrat Party who propagate this lie. The Republican Party is not a party of intolerance. Over the last 40-50 years, it has been a party of standards trying to “conserve” these standards in the face of a progressive movement engaging in undermining these standards, institutions, laws mores and morals that have been the foundation of our American way of life.
    I love how you then brush aside the lie down with dogs and you get fleas rhetoric with “The Democrats had to exorcise…” sentence. The Democrat party for most of its history, is the party of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, busing and the “evil” injected into the CBF craziness. You then jump on to carefully chosen words of “faith based rationales for intolerance, discrimination and militarism”. To be clear, you are not talking about Muslims, Buddhists, Jews…etc. You are talking specifically about Christians. Then you add that the problem is not the faiths, but some of its adherents. You lost me in some of your lovely poetry, but it seems that you are contending that some church going people use G-d to justify intolerance, militarism et al. I don’t attend church, but I don’t think any church preaches this. I believe that some other religions do, but not churches. DR was a mentally disturbed person period and the Republican platform does not advocate for making a law to establish a religion. Your attempt to blend Republicans with church and intolerance is inaccurate and misguided.
    You then go onto quote Jefferson about constraint in majority rule. You failed to expand on the cherry picked quote in the context of Jefferson’s complex life and times. For instance, during Jefferson’s life, only people that owned property voted and State Legislators elected the Senators to serve in our national Congress. Additionally, the quotes from his 1st inaugural address, were referring , ironically, to states rights and minimal Federal government intrusion in everyday life.
    You site that “some on the right cast it as an attack on Christian faith” Can you tell me a name. I never heard that coming from any body.
    You referenced again from Jefferson on religious and political intolerance…He was referring to a government sanction religion. Virginia had the Anglican Church. We as a nation, have not sanctioned church and never have. The killer was a mentally sick individual as were most of the highly publicized shooters in our history: as of late DR, the guy in Aurora Colorado, Jared Loughner and others.
    Your attempt to connect the shooting in Charleston with Southern Republicans along with the flag controversy is putting a square peg in a round hole. DR is a crazy person and not a mainstream Christian Republican voter. He is not a representation or reflection of Southern conservative Republicans, their party platform or policies. The political minorities in South Carolina are exploiting this tragedy for an item on their political agenda. With help of the PC crowd, the national media and others, they are guilting the SC Legislature into the flag removal. It goes without saying that prior to June 17th, flag removal was not on the legislative agenda for 2015.
    History is a vital part of who we are as a nation. So much of our nations history is distorted in our contemporary society and our citizens are so poorly versed on our nations 250 year journey that the tragedy of 9 murders in Charleston can be linked to the CBF with ease. This is a sad reflection on our current political environment and a capitulation of our history and the value of memory. 620,000 soldiers died in the Civil War. Sad to say but in 2015, 325 million Americans ignorant to why and the significance of the lessons learned and progress made since. Some countries put a high value on history, warts and all. I always thought that we were one of those countries. I understand that, to many people, the CBF represents white privilege, white supremacy, slavery, discrimination, KKK and other racial injustice. For that reason alone, perhaps it should not be on state grounds. But, the flag, the pledge of allegiance and other symbols have been used as a political football so often. South Carolina can do what it likes, I just don’t like the tone of your piece when it bends history and original intent into the prism of modern day America. The truth is so much richer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s