FINALLY — WINNING!
Don’t worry, this is not going to be a diatribe over the Orange Julius Caesar, satisfying as that might be. Part of Donald J’s playbook for his gullible and misinformed base is to throw out a lot of promises, knowing that after the cheering stops, most won’t remember them or keep track. And if someone does remind them he never kept that promise, they don’t care. Those who have been most hurt by his policies are the ones most likely to embrace them as their own “winning.”
Since his notion of winning is the polar opposite of mine, I just figured that would be one more thing he couldn’t pull off. But now — I might have to choke on the words: “we agree!” Lots of movement toward more winning going on for equality and justice, thanks to the sacrifice of George Floyd.
Except I’m sure he does not see what’s transpiring now in streets around the world, and in our own police departments, city halls and governor’s mansions, as winning. But I do. We do. The vast majority of Americans who love our country and what it stands for, do. Give props to the younger generation for sure, but it is multi-generational and multi-racial, and must be. The size of the crowds, even around the world, thrill my soul.
WHICH BRINGS ME TO THE FOUNDING FATHERS (FF)
I fear there are people on both sides who don’t know their American history very well. (Our education system sucks and that sure needs to change too.)
On Monday, marchers in Portland pulled down a statue of Thomas Jefferson.
No, no, no, no, no.
I know there are some who will disagree, strongly — he was a slave owner!! — and will feel like I’m missing something important, so please let me make my case.
A very wealthy man, Thomas Jefferson owned some 600 slaves during his lifetime. You can’t excuse that away — it’s terrible, his participation was horrific — but it was, in fact, at odds with much of the work he did to abolish slavery.
At the time of the American Revolution, Jefferson was actively involved in legislation that he hoped would result in slavery’s abolition. In 1778, he drafted a Virginia law that prohibited the importation of enslaved Africans. In 1784, he proposed an ordinance that would ban slavery in the Northwest territories
Thirteen of the 21 signers did not own slaves. Others, like Franklin, were moving in that direction and were already part of the abolition movement and did later free their own slaves. (Benjamin Franklin owned two, house servants. He wrote in his will that his children would get nothing unless they freed their own slaves.)
When considering important figures in history one must always consider the context of history. Clearly, from the fierce debates, and all the writings, The Federalist et al, this contradiction was something many, especially in the north, fought to change. (It would seem they were more comfortable leaving out women, though that was briefly debated.)
They were creating a new nation, inventing a system of democratic government never before seen on earth. They had to get agreement among diverse elements, from Massachusetts Bay Colony/Maine to Georgia, for this proposed one nation. Outlawing slavery lost out to pressure from Southern, plantation states. Most scholars believe they hedged their bets with
VERY SPECIFIC LANGUAGE
The opening salvo, second paragraph, of the Declaration of Independence (Jefferson wrote it) was “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
Slavery was this nation’s original sin, our great shame, and the men who created this nation were, too many of them, guilty of it at the time. But the system of government, a democracy, was an ideal, and to our credit we are still trying to live up to it. That’s what all this marching is about. Making the words, the concepts, ring true for every American. With Liberty and Justice for all.
I’m not saying give Jefferson a pass. I’m saying, it is dangerous to condone discrediting the Founding Fathers because their ideas, which we have as a nation only glacially moved toward fulfilling, are still the best bet on the planet, and have been for 230 years. Those ideals are what everyone is in the streets marching for.
The sins go back 401 years, but it now looks like there is a huge majority who want to see us finally live up to the ideals the Founding Fathers so eloquently expressed. And there is a fascist, xenophobic minority who are ready to start another civil was to halt that, to maintain their white privilege, and if they can discredit the Founding Fathers they can discredit American democracy, for their own horrible version of America.
BUT LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING
There is an element in this country, stronger today than at any time I can remember, who do not share those ideals of democracy. They say, immigrants, criminals, looking for a free ride? Free speech? For socialist scum? Hell no. Free press? Fake news, shut ‘em down. Freedom to assemble? Pepper spray those demonstrators, use tear gas and rubber bullets on Antifa “terrorists.” (Antifa, as an organization, is a myth, but I hope you know “Antifa” is short for anti-fascist. You know, Nazis. Mussolini. Tojo. The ones our parents and grandparents fought, bled and died to defeat, so their children and grandchildren could continue to live the free American dream. We should all be “antifa.” In the US, we have the KKK, among too many others, exhibiting most of the characteristics of fascism.)
Those people would love to see demonstrators go after Washington and Jefferson, tarnish them, reject them. They would love to discredit their ideals and their work because of their personal failings. I can just hear it now, from those pursed lips: “Jefferson, you know, he was a slave owner, he said he owned black people, his slaves… and probably did terrible, awful, really awful things to them, I don’t know, some say he did. So I’m not sure if you can trust his so-called Declaration, and that Constitution thing.”
SOME CRED FOR TED
There’s no question most of the City Council members read this column, but the only one I ever hear from, for quite some time now, is Ted Winterer. I’ve heard a similar tale from others, that he’s now the only one who reaches out to residents.
Ted has dropped me an email twice in the last couple of months, to let me know I got something wrong in a column (and I did), but he does it in the most civil manner possible, and I appreciate that. Remember when I used to be a tiny bit uncivil, sometimes, in my column? Maybe he’s influenced me. He even wished me a happy birthday. Dang.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org