Our land is grand.
This nation was built on the idea that all people are created equal. That all people are endowed with certain unalienable rights. Rights that no man has the authority to take away.
Or was it?
We should often remind ourselves of a bitter legacy. A legacy that many call America’s “cardinal sin”. The sin of slavery. Of repression. Of violence towards others simply because of the color of their skin.
Roughly one month ago, a gathering of violent, torch-bearing white supremacists presented a stark and vicious manifestation of this country’s historical baggage and its horrific capacity to claim the lives of the best among us.
We have seen this before. Tulsa, 1921. Selma, 1965. Los Angeles, 1992. Now, Charlottesville, 2017.
History has a way of repeating itself. We may use different words or have different leaders, but it’s repeated nonetheless. That cardinal sin continues to fester. We may no longer have slavery as an institution, but we have folks in our midst who still view others as less than human, based simply on the color of skin or the God that they worship. We’ve called them different names throughout time. From confederates to white supremacists. From Nazis to the “Alt-Right”. Different name, same game. And they’ve snarled their nasty teeth once again.
They’ve came back, of course, because of people taking an act of moral courage, just like before.
In Tulsa we wanted equal justice in the courtroom. In Selma, we sought equal access to the ballot box. In Los Angeles, we wanted justice for Rodney King.
In February, Charlottesville voted to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from one of its public parks. They chose to stop revering the Confederacy. To stop honoring the evil to which it stood and fought. The same evil that now rears its ugly head, illuminated by tiki torches.
To the alt-right and other white supremacists, the Lee statue’s demise would represent a fundamentally American virtue they cannot stand. The capacity to change into a better, more compassionate nation.
Their goal was nothing less than to intimidate and brutalize. They are waging a battle to maintain the structures and symbols of white supremacy. To keep in place every remaining fragment of a dying and outdated social order in which blacks and other minorities are persecuted and silenced. These people fighting against those ideals for which the Union fought. Fighting to preserve a monument to a group of traitors whose cruel, bigoted heart never stopped beating.
And in this battle, they may just win. I have heard too many friends suggest that by taking down these monuments, we are erasing our history. That we simply are refusing to look back.
I disagree. There is a place where we can place these monuments of a failed rebellion without revering them. That place is a museum. Having these monuments in public parks, resting high on pedestals, isn’t just remembering. It’s honoring. It’s revering.
Here on the campus of Northwestern there is a monument of a different form. One that is often overlooked by many, because of where it is placed. Go look for it. I bet you’ll have a challenge finding it.
It’s a rather large bust of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. A man, who arguably, was one of the greatest presidents who ever served. A man remembered due to the actions he made in just four short years of his life. From his election causing the outbreak of the Civil War, to the passage of the 13th Amendment in Congress just three short months before his assassination. His 1863 Emancipation Proclamation changed the mindset of the Union. Changed the spirit of why we were fighting. He changed it from a simple legal matter to a moral imperative. He chose to fight to ensure that slavery as an institution would be ended. He is a man worth honoring. A man worth having a monument.
The terror that was cast upon Charlottesville should serve as a rallying call for all of those who see what is happening in America. The roots of this bigoted terror are strong and old, engrained in the DNA of America, and it will take every ounce of our moral fiber to rip them out. However, that is the purpose to which we must rededicate ourselves. It’s an effort that should span across those same lines of politics and ideology that keep us weak and divided.
Here in the Ranger Nation, we have a healthy and diverse family. We come from all different backgrounds, faiths, ethnicities, nationalities, and races. Hate and bigoted views have no place among us. We, as a family of Rangers, are all equal, and we must not hesitate to reach out and spread that old message where ever we go. A message of progress. A message of equality. That message is needed now, more than ever. #riderangersride #ridewithpride