On June 17th of this year, a horrific act of violence, a mass murder took place at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston SC. In a place where everyone should feel safe and secure, nine souls, including the senior pastor Clementa Pinckney went to their final judgements that day at the hands of 21 year old Dylann Roof.
Subsequent social media photos of Roof posing with the Confederate battle flag have not only re-ignited controversy concerning that flag, but some have used it as a catalyst to begin to eradicate all symbols, leaders, and traces of the Confederacy and the antebellum South.
eBay, Amazon.com, Apple and other retailers and e-tailers have declared that they will no longer sell any merchandise emblazoned with the confederate battle flag. I find this extremely curious, as on all of these sites one can still purchase shirts, flags, games and other merchandise emblazoned with all sorts of symbols of oppression, murder and cruelty including the Stalinist era Soviet hammer and sickle and Nazi garb of all sort.
By comparison, the plantation owners of the American south were dilettantes, mere amateurs as it relates to the areas of hate, slavery, cruelty, death, and destruction. During the Soviet era, Stalin enslaved at least 20 million people in his gulags over 24 years. And while conventional wisdom says that the Soviets murdered 20 million more, according to R. J. Rummel, Professor Emeritus at the University of Hawaii, the correct number is closer to 62 million souls murdered under the Soviet Communist regime. The horrors of Nazi Germany are well known, in part because the Nazis were very good at keeping records. According to a 2013 series in the London Telegraph, Nazis killed at least 20 million people. So it appears that certain symbols of oppression are okay while others are not.
State and City leaders, including New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu want, at great expense, to tear down, eliminate, and rename longstanding monuments that have any relationship to the pre-civil war south. This includes Lee Circle, named after confederate general Robert E. Lee. This plan is being heavily promoted by the extremely left leaning NOLA Media Group/New Orleans Times Picayune. I wonder if the NOLA Media Group would be willing to pay the estimated $2 million price tag to do this? I also wonder if that $2 million could be better spent improving race relations and other aspects of the quality of life in a city riddled with crime, poverty, illiteracy, and crumbling streets. I am sure that $2 million sent to the place where I minister as a Catholic Deacon, Cafe Reconcile, would have more of an impact than tearing down and renaming an intersection. But that certainly would not have the same public splash value.
Now, I can understand not wanting the Confederate Battle flag flying over a state capital building. It seems to me that the only flags appropriate for flying over a state capital are the official state flag and the flag of the United States of America.
But wait a minute! Should not we really ban the American flag also? For while the confederate battle flag (which is reality was The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia) only flew over slave owning areas for less than four years, Old Glory flew over slave owning states for almost 90 years. It has to go.
And while we are at it, to the best of my limited research ability, I have found that the following founding fathers all owned slaves: Charles Carroll, Samuel Chase, Benjamin Franklin, Button Gwinnett, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, James Madison, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Benjamin Rush, Edward Rutledge and George Washington.
In fact, history shows that although George Washington was not completely comfortable with the concept of slavery, at the time of Washington’s death, there were 318 enslaved black people at his Mount Vernon estate. So, should we not erase any monuments, buildings, streets or other public structures named after or dedicated to these men? To be consistent, we need to change any currency or postage stamps with the faces of any of these men, as well as streets, universities, and anything else named after these racist slave-owners.? The Washington monument – that has to go. Our nation’s capital, Washington, DC should be renamed.
The leader of the Union Army that fought to free the slaves and end racism and subsequent president of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant owned slaves until 1865 (yes, 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation) while confederate General Robert E. Lee freed the few slaves the he owned voluntarily by the year 1863. Grant was not the only union general to own slaves. A brief search of history books shows that the following were among the slave-owning leaders of the Union army; General George Thomas, General William Tecumseh Sherman. General Andrew Johnson. I am sure that there were others. Let’s search the country and eliminate anything related to these men.
|The Trail of Tears Depicted In Art|
Shortly after the Civil War, as part of Andrew Jackson's Indian removal policy, the Cherokee nation was forced to give up its lands east of the Mississippi River and to migrate to an area in present-day Oklahoma. The Cherokee people called this journey the "Trail of Tears," because of its devastating effects. The migrants faced hunger, disease, and exhaustion on the forced march. Surely this was a racist action and anything to do with Andrew Jackson should be changed and renamed. Goodbye Jackson Square. The French Quarter will never be the same.
During the WWII administration of President Roosevelt, Italian and Japanese Americans were classified as "enemy aliens" and some were detained by the Department of Justice under the Alien and Sedition Act. I remember seeing my Sicilian grandmother’s card registering her as an “Enemy Alien.” My mother tells me that she put on her best dress and hat when she went to register, to show them that she was “a good person.”
So what is the point of all of this? Frankly, I do not have a clue. The history of the world is unfortunately overflowing with stories of brutality, hate, mass murder, oppression of all kinds for all reasons – skin color, religion, beliefs, you name it. Banning the symbols, leaders, and names of these things is not going to make it go away. It started with Cain and Abel and I fear that it will never end. One thing that I am sure of is that renaming monuments, buildings, currency or anything else will not change a thing.
What needs to change are people’s hearts. And that is only done one heart at a time. No government edict, law, policy or anything else is going to make that happen. Insufficient laws are not the problem. Hardened hearts are the problem. Hearts that are lacking to some extent in their ability to love. What do we do about this?
To quote Pope Francis “Who teaches us to love? Who frees us from this hardness?" he asked. "Only the Holy Spirit. You can take a million catechetical courses, a million courses in spirituality, a million courses in yoga, Zen and all these things. But all of this will never be able to give you the freedom" of being a child of God. The Holy Spirit ‘moves’ hearts and compels people to cry out, ‘Father,’ and become docile to "the freedom of his love."
Yet, at least in this country, God is increasingly being pushed into a smaller and smaller corner. God is the solution, but is slowly and ever so surely being banned from public discourse.