The violence in Charlottesville on Saturday demonstrates afresh that acts of white supremacist racism and bigotry against one of us unites us all in denouncing and condemning such acts. But we must go beyond denouncing and condemning white supremacy because hate groups seek to undermine our democracy and the civil rights and liberties of us all. Collectively, we grieve with the family of Heather Heyer, whose life was taken in a deliberate, malicious act of racist hate.
Racist hatemongers who hurl vile obscenities, vandalize homes, businesses, and public places; threaten and carry out violence under the flag of white supremacy, demonstrate a disregard for civilized discourse, take the lives of our fellow citizens, hold our laws in contempt, and jeopardize our democracy, take notice:
THIS FAR AND NO FURTHER.
Our civic participation gives us the authority to make changes in the law and hold accountable members of these hate groups; we must put that authority into action. Although active civic participation has been increasing since the 2016 election, we have become passive and complacent in our civic participation; we have not demanded accountability and penalties to the fullest extent of the law for acts of hate committed by white supremacists and their ethnic cleansing crimes. Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers joined Allied Forces in World War II to eradicate the global threat of Nazism and white supremacy at the cost of over 400,000 US military deaths. From the time of the triangular slave trade and long before the Emancipation Proclamation and ever since, civil rights leaders and citizen activists have sacrificed and worked to establish and protect civil rights with the loss of thousands of lives. During the Jim Crow era, over 4,000 ethic cleansing murders were perpetrated by white supremacists from lynching alone. Very few, if any of those white supremacist murderers were even arrested; government officials turned a blind eye. Unfortunately, past acts of domestic terrorism and ethnic cleansing cannot be persecuted, but any act in our time must not be merely condemned and denounced. Crimes of hate must be prosecuted to the fullest extent; white supremacy and other hate groups are not free to perpetrate acts of violence.
Unchecked acts of white supremacy, based on the concept of ethnic cleansing, threaten the heart of our democratic society.
The fresh surge of white supremacy in the US was rekindled by the challenge of President Obama’s legitimate citizenship and authority as President, and this racial hate has undergone metastasis to spread across our democracy in the last decade, becoming increasingly bold and blatant in the last two years. White supremacists rely on domestic acts of terrorism to embolden their members, increase their ranks, and suppress the civil rights of their victims; ramming a car at speed into a crowd of protesters is just as much an act of domestic terrorism as a lynching. (Lynching is both domestic terrorism and ritualized murder.) Hate groups attempt to incite fear in their targets by relying on the emotional energy of their members generated by hate, which metastasizes into rage against anyone considered ‘other,’ with a vehement focus on people of color, Jews, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, and anyone they consider weak, such as people with disabilities. Hitler’s “euthanasia” program was an attempt to purge people with disabilities from what he called “the master race.” Today’s white supremacy groups, like the KKK and Neo-Nazism have a goal to bring Hitler’s irredeemable philosophy into the 21st Century, especially by couching that philosophy in more neutral language.
With this resurgence of white supremacy, we, the people, must support one another and stand together. It is long past time to link arms in a human chain and pledge to one another and all hate groups:
THIS FAR AND NO FURTHER.
The violence at any rally supporting racist ideology has been coming for some time now, and as a people we have accomplished far too little to secure equality and stamp out racist acts and hate crimes. Civil rights laws exist to squelch hate crimes and civil liberty violations; yet acts of white supremacist terrorism seem to be escalating in spite of legislation. Civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, and Bruce Klunder lost their lives through acts of the KKK and white supremacist hate groups, but their deaths did not stop the civil rights movement, they gave it revived focus. For ordinary people living their lives, the occurrences of injustice compound with odious regularity: live videos of brutal racist beatings posted on social media, the unprovoked shooting deaths of young men of color, including Treyvon Martin and Philando Castile reflect racist attitudes; we must not forget the horrific murder of 14 year-old Emmett Till in 1955 as a heinous murder far more vicious than lynching. On a community level, protests against racial injustice that had violent instances include Ferguson, MO; Anaheim, CA; Baltimore, MD; Charlottesville, VA; and the extremely violent Los Angeles riots of 1992, sparked by the acquittal of four police officers who had been videotaped beating Rodney King during a traffic stop a year earlier. Rodney King’s words during those 1992 Los Angeles riots echo today: “Can we all get along?”
A civil rights violation against even one person undermines the civil rights of all. To preserve and defend our democratic society, we must deliberately choose to get along. It isn’t easy, but maintaining a democracy of the people and by the people takes effort.
Let me be clear: I am talking to my fellow citizens from all walks of life, people from all creeds, religions, ideologies, all races, all ethnic backgrounds. As citizens, we the people, all of us, fell into a complacence of accepting our legislators views without question or failing to pay attention to the votes of our legislators.
We forget, or perhaps were never properly taught, what our responsibilities are as citizens. I include myself in this observation. How can we the people, as citizens, make the changes in our democracy that are necessary to truly obtain equity in civil rights? What is the solution? We need diverse participation in the governing process to bring about the changes we, the people, want for society.
This year many of us have participated in marches and protests and called our representatives and senators to voice our concerns regarding their votes; and we have made a difference in some decisions of our congressional representation. We, the people, can effectively change laws and elect candidates with a majority of votes. (Except for the election of a president, in which the electoral college votes on behalf of the majority popular vote in a state. We can change that, too, if we, the people, want to badly enough.)
If we want something passionately enough, we, the people, have the power to make it happen.
We need to exercise that power to its full extent.
As an ideology, racism will continue to exist, and while a majority of US citizens claim that white supremacy is a reprehensible ideology, at its root is racism. Some people will never be free of that deeply ingrained belief, and many people who hold some racist views don’t consider themselves racist. It’s a good thing that holding a belief is not against the law and Thinkpol only exists in Orwell’s fictional 1984; however, an act of violence, based on the “actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person” is a hate crime. While our legal system has faults, those faults in criminal code can be resolved in the legislature through improved legislative language, on the streets through effective law enforcement, and in our courts through adherence to the law by prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges. As citizens, we have the power to enact change, but we need to wake up and act.
It is time to exercise our power as citizens and make clear to those who would suppress social equity and civil rights:
THIS FAR AND NO FURTHER.
We are citizens of one united nation of states, based on the principle that we all are endowed with specific inalienable rights. If we cannot support and defend democracy, especially when we have differing views, then our democracy has indeed broken and we have surrendered those rights. As a nation, we can unite based on the foundation of democratic ideals, regardless of our differing views.
President Lincoln’s first Inaugural Speech remains wholly relevant today, perhaps with a heaviness not felt across the nation since President Lincoln delivered his address in 1861, just before the start of the Civil War:
“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.”
We, the people, can embrace our diversity and deliver a message to the racists and bigots that threaten our democracy, and in one voice shout:
THIS FAR AND NO FURTHER.
As a nation, this day, this year, this 45th president, this virus of hate and intolerance serve as a flashpoint of almighty change for this nation. The future is not determined, but what that future holds for us depends on summoning our better angels, being better citizens, and listening to one another’s ideas, viewpoints, and concerns. Throwing hateful racial slurs, spraying mace, hurling bottles and rocks, and mowing people down with cars are reprehensible acts that have no place in our democracy.
In my lifetime, I would never have believed that, as a nation, we would experience such intense regression in regard to civility, equity, and human rights. The bedrock foundation of our country is the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. While civil equity is the foundation, establishing that equity for all of our people has taken nearly all of our 241 years to establish (considering the foundation as 1776 with the Declaration of Independence). And we still need to work on equity and civil rights for all. The First Amendment of our Constitution guarantees the right to peaceably assemble. The First Amendment, however, does not provide anyone the right to diminish or deny the rights of another individual or to attack, bludgeon, shoot, mace, disfigure, or kill people in the streets with cars, guns, or ropes.
This nation is founded on the principles that when we disagree, we have open discussion, and then we vote.
We perform work of national importance as citizens.
We elect representatives and senators who serve as our voice in federal and state legislative bodies. We expect that those representatives adhere to the oath they affirm to support the Constitution at the start of any term in office. That oath is a promise that they will support the Constitution without any reservation.
It is easy to slip into complacence and take for granted that our members of Congress will establish laws that we, the people, support. If we don’t tell them what we want, they will listen to lobbyists and to the extreme voices of their party to make decisions. If we do not engage in our duty as citizens, we risk losing our liberty in less than a generation. Two election cycles could wipe out all of the progress toward civil rights. It has already begun with the current administration.
Our society is founded on a declaration of solidarity in opposition to the tyranny of King George III crafted by men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor as one voice and proclaimed:
THIS FAR AND NO FURTHER.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect [sic] their Safety and Happiness.”
It is long past time for we, the people, to stand together and speak in one voice against the tyranny of white supremacy:
THIS FAR AND NO FURTHER.
We, the people, must practice reason and rationality in our government; we, the people, must look to the founding documents and do the work of national importance and participate in our government and vote. We cannot continue to stand by passively and shrug our shoulders and say ‘what a shame’. If we do not engage in civic responsibility and participation in our government, then we forfeit a democratic government.
At the Constitutional Convention in 1789, Benjamin Franklin’s final speech indicates Franklin’s consent to the Constitution even though it may have some faults;
…“there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.”
Have we become corrupt as a citizenry so as to deserve forfeiture of our democracy and live under despotism? What would Franklin say? What would any of the men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor say? They would be outraged at the complacency to which we have succumbed.
How dare we not participate in preserving this democracy when so many bled and died to establish it between 1776 and 1789, reunite it in 1865, and defend it when attacked in 1941 and again in 2001? Have we no decency? Where is our honor?
All US citizens should memorize and live by the oath that immigrants are required to affirm in order to become naturalized citizens:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.” **
The work of national importance involves active participation in our democracy, including service on a jury when called and the duty to vote in all elections. The word vote is derived from Latin, meaning a vow, or a pledge. One vote, one voice, can change a law, the outcome of an election, or the conviction or acquittal of a defendant at trial.
One voice can make a difference. Consider the lesson from Horton hears a Who! (1954), written by Dr. Seuss:
“A person’s a person no matter how small.” In the story, Horton, the elephant, defends the tiny community of Whos that live on a speck of dust, but other animals refus to listen to Horton and claim that he is delusional to defend an inanimate speck of dust. Horton implores the mayor of the Who town to get all Whos to shout and make noise so they would be heard. At the last moment, just before being thrown into a vat of boiling oil, the smallest Who shouts a YAWP and the threat of extinction is gone.
All persons in the US have the same inalienable rights, regardless of age, ethnicity, race, color, creed, sex, religion, affiliation, or gender status. No matter how different. No matter how similar. No matter what.
As a people, we must preserve and defend our democratic republic, our Constitution.
We Must Yawp. And Yawp again.
We can get involved in a way that upholds our constitutional duty as a citizen and preserves our rights as individuals. We can volunteer at local public service agencies, call our senators and representatives, join a group of citizens with similar political views, register to vote and vote in EVERY election: local, state, and national. Whatever our particular YAWP is, we can do it. No matter how great or small our participation, we must YAWP.
And keep on Yawping.
THIS FAR AND NO FURTHER!