23 June 2015

Notes from Norm: Take down the Confederate flag

Take down the Confederate flag.

Take it down.  Put it in a museum.  

And, remember what it stood for and what it stood against.

The dead of Charleston deserve no less.

The living of America must demand much more.

There can be no denying that America’s tortured racial past has not been resolved.

Racism remains in America.

It has, thanks to the blood, sweat and tears of millions of Americans, become less of the everyday life of millions of other Americans.

That being said, a nation that was founded on the belief that all men were created equal – that all deserved life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – turned its back too many times on the hopes, dreams and aspirations of millions of Americans.
But the shackles that enslaved millions of human beings should not handcuff America’s future.

There is racism in America.  There are racists in America.  They are not just in Charleston or South Carolina.

They are throughout our nation.

They always have been.  

It would be an injustice to Charleston and its people – or the people of South Carolina – to allow the deeply evil act of a deranged racist to pass judgement on an entire population.

Equally so it would be an injustice to the overwhelming and vast majority of white Americans to condemn them for the horrific and indefensible acts of one man in Charleston – or to pronounce that in their hearts lies the deep seated racist hatred that fueled his murderous rampage.

In the midst of the pain and the tears in Charleston have already been pleas for forgiveness.

By the families, no less, of the victims who will never have another moment among the living.

I cannot imagine what courage and strength and faith in God must be within that allows them to so quickly offer grace to a man who could find none in the faces of the men and women he slaughtered.

But their offer of forgiveness should in no way be mistaken as an invitation to forget.

Perhaps in our haste to put our past behind us we too quickly neglected to remember what that past did to millions of Americans.

Have we forgotten that hundreds of thousands of men and women were brought to America to be traded as property? Sold, bartered and handed down to others as nothing more than a business transaction.

Have we forgotten that 700,000 Americans died in a Civil War to determine whether America would be a nation that honored the words of its Founding Fathers – or a nation that made exceptions when it was economically and politically convenient to do so?

Have we forgotten that less than 100 years after that war there were men and women being persecuted, oppressed and murdered simply because of the color of their skin?

We cannot forget that less than a week ago a racist walked into a church and murdered nine men and women.

Not because of something they did.  Or didn’t do.  

He killed them because they were black.

Taking down a flag that is a symbol of oppression of African Americans should be a simple act.  

It must also be seen as a vital act of symbolism.  

It isn’t a first step.  The people of Charleston, of South Carolina., of America – we have all walked many steps since a time when racism was a way of life in our country.

It’s a next step.  

Let us make this a new step toward something better. An important and necessary step in a journey which is not yet complete, but which sets us as a people and as a nation on a course that must be traversed.

Every step we take together puts us closer to those ideals for which we strive, for which so many travelers before us have fought, bled and died: freedom, equality, justice, dignity, tolerance.

For all.  

At all times. In all situations.

So let us take this step. And the next and the next until together, we’ve built a new road, forged a new path, blazed a new trail toward hope and strength and righteousness.