Henninger: Protesters in the streets today have very little in common with the American Revolution
This July Fourth, take some time to read the Declaration of Independence and its message, The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger says.
During the last few weeks, we’ve witnessed a burst of violence, destruction and the brazen flaunting of the rule of law unprecedented in modern American history. The fabric of our society – of our country – seems to be fraying.
As a farm boy born in the 50’s into poverty on a rural farm, I saw how ugly racism was up close. As a 26-plus year Air Force officer, I saw the greatness of our nation up close too.
Today, as a father and grandfather, I worry about the country they will inherit. And, as a member of Congress, I listen to the speaker of the U.S. House blame Senate Republicans for the murder of George Floyd, and it makes me sick.
Here are a few observations, from my perspective, about where we stand as a country on this Independence Day weekend, at this pivotal time in American history.
The Confederate flag is not patriotic. The Confederate States of America went to war with the United States. They lost. We’re one nation today, and it’s the American flag that’s patriotic.
An overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are good people trying to do a very difficult job.
Black lives do matter…as do all lives. And shame on the Republican party if we don’t aggressively compete to earn the black vote and defeat a Democratic party that has, for decades, taken the votes of black Americans for granted. Nobody will forget former Vice President Joe Biden’s arrogant statement, “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain't black”.
History proves that America isn’t perfect. There’s more work to do. The initial, peaceful protests in Minneapolis demonstrate that. However, Americans of all colors have freed more people around the world from oppressive fascism, communism, terrorism, slavery and tyranny than any other nation on earth. The graves at Arlington National Cemetery and Gettysburg prove it, as do the thousands of American crosses at Normandy. I wonder if our schools still teach that.
Today, social media has made it easier to hate others for holding different views. It is much easier to type vicious things to someone than to say hateful things while looking into the eyes of another human being.
America would be a better country if our young people were required to serve together, for a short period of time, in the military, a fire department or in law enforcement. Americans from different parts of the country, income levels, races and faiths should mix together, sweat together and sacrifice together more than we do now. Many of us lack empathy for our fellow citizens because we don’t know them.
I remember when free speech was encouraged on college campuses. But today, a politically incorrect view is now “hate speech” that is banned in “safe spaces”. This produces intolerance. Intolerance creates real hate. Hate creates mobs. Mobs hurt others, burn down and loot businesses, throw bricks at police officers and tear down statues.
I was raised by a single mom. She was a strong woman, as most single moms are. But a single mom is no replacement for having both a mom and dad, in a loving marriage, living under the same roof. Many studies confirm that children raised in fatherless homes are far more likely to experience emotional problems, live in poverty, drop out of high school, commit crimes and go to prison – particularly boys. I was one of the lucky ones. Our society is based on the health of a strong family unit, and America’s family unit is sick. As we push God further and further from public life, we get angrier, less tolerant and more selfish.
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So, our society’s fraying shouldn’t be a surprise. It took a horrific, tragic video to ignite a national fire that was already smoldering. America is just as much simply an idea today as it was when our founders penned the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution…an idea just as fragile. It can evaporate like a vapor if we don’t treasure it and keep it alive in our hearts…and the hearts of our children.
The question on this Independence Day: where do we go from here?
Are we the fundamentally good, but imperfect nation with a complicated past rooted in the ideals of freedom and equality that our forefathers sought when they turned back the British at Concord and sought to salvage on the fields of Antietam? Or are we a nation irreparably poisoned at our roots by the evils of racism and exploitation with no hope of salvation?
As Ronald Reagan once said, “This is a time for choosing”.
I know where I stand. Where do you?
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