James R. LOWELL, December 11, 1845, protesting America’s war with Mexico, wrote:
“Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side; Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight, Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right, And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light”.
“Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand, Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land? Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ‘tis Truth alone is strong, And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng”.
“Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own”.
Those of you with more than just a casual knowledge of the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. know that he would frequently incorporate the last verse of this poem of Lowell in several of his speeches.
Victor Hugo, in his Les Miserables, said: More powerful than the March of Mighty Armies is ‘An Idea Whose Time Has Come’”. This too Dr. King would reference/
Many readers or our blogs know that we had the privilege, for seven and a half years, of working first, as a political adviser then personal lawyer and draft speechwriter for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In our Memoirs, (Working Title): A PENCIL AND A DOLLAR BIILL-Reflections of An African American During and Eight Decade Journey, we describe in detail our meeting and almost five hour discussion with Dr. King in connection with the drafting a “Statement” he planned it issue to the press on the Pres. JFK’s assassination.
Among other things, not expressly stated in his eventual Statement, was our underlying analysis, conclusion, and thesis that: AT THAT TIME,” It was unlikely that there would be any FUNDEMATAL transformation on the issue of race in America unless it is carried out under the leadership of a white southern political leader.
Since his initial political thesis our country experienced the election of Southern Presidents, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George Bush. Only Bill Clinton came close to trying to effect a national reconciliation on the issue of race during his Presidency.
In 1998, he convened a special White House Conference:
“On June 14, 1997, U.S. President Bill Clinton announced One America in the 21st Century: The President's Initiative on Race. This initiative, established with Executive Order 13050, was a critical element in President Clinton's effort to prepare the country to embrace the rapid diversification of the American population. Clinton viewed race relations as something that too often divided and weakened the nation even as America was rapidly becoming the world's first truly multi-racial democracy”
One our “Mentors”, the pre-eminent historian Dr. John Hope Franklin, chaired President Clinton’s “Advisory Board”.
In the current controversy surrounding the removal of monuments commemorating Confederacy insurrectionists during our Civil War there is a bit of irony that the leadership to recapture the soul of America on this issue would come from an Indian American woman, former governor, Nikki Haley of South Carolina. She supported the effort to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House following the murder of nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina.
Asked by a Black churchgoer why he was a attacking them, the shooter, 21 year old, white, Dylann Storm Root responded, "I have to do it. You rape our women and you're taking over our country. And you have to go."
Then Governor Haley’s response, after the church killings was that "These grounds are a place that everybody should feel a part of. What I realized now more than ever is people were driving by and felt hurt and pain. No one should feel pain."
Recently, the action of Louisiana Gov. Mitch Landrieu in calling for the removal of Confederate monuments at the Louisiana State House is an example of the prescience of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on that somber day after the assassination of President Kennedy; and to a lesser extent, former President Bill Clinton in 1998.
Like so many people in our nation we have often reflected on just what event or events would have to occur to create what the new social media scribes call an “inflection” or “tipping point”?
What event or series of events could force our Country, as a nation to once and for all. to publicly, and nationally, confront how the historically persistent issue of our earlier institution of slavery and its companion doctrine of white supremacy continues to impact our nation today?
Ironically, it is was not the issue of a alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government; or, his earlier public comments disparaging the parents of Muslim American parents whose son was killed during his voluntary military service for our country; or, Presidential candidate Trump’s videotaped predator sexual behavior released on national television; or, his mimicking of a disabled journalist who criticized him, that caused political leaders of the Republican Party and several leaders in the corporate private sector to publicly disassociate themselves from the president..
Apparently they could “abide” this earlier conduct by Trump. The actions and comments of a wide range of former and current Republican political leaders and business people have been prompted by President Trump “moral equivalency of those who supported retaining Confederate monuments resulting in the murder of Heather Styer with those whose wanted them removed.
Efforts by some persons to NOW disassociate themselves from the president are in the spirit of the poet James Russell Lowell, and that of the Mississippi newspaper editor, W. Hodding Carter, II who said:
“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings”(NY Times Reporter, Claude Sitton, asked years ago, readers of today how an editor who opposed enactment of a federal anti-lynching law as unnecessary and public school desegregation in Mississippi as unwise can be called a champion of racial justice.? The answer: Absent his efforts and those of other Southern editors of courage and like mind, change would have come far more slowly and at far greater cost”).
It says a lot about the national moral bankruptcy of political and other leaders in our country that only when President Trump nationally elevated the protests of white supremacist Nazi anti-black anti-Semitic demonstrators as being “morally equivalent” to demonstrators in Charlottesville Virginia supporting the removal of monuments of Civil War generals of the confederacy, resulting in the murder of Heather Styer did they THEN speak up.
The POTUS’ use of the words “on both sides” elevating the “righteousness” of those protesting monuments commemorating the legacy of slavery to the “righteousness” of those opposing their continued presence in Charlottesville, was the conscience of our national leaders awaken.
Sadly, Pres. Trump didn’t appear to have the common sense and decency to instinctively understand that white supremacist Nazi demonstrators supporting the retention confederate monuments with the intentional use of a motor vehicle driven into a crowd of anti-monument demonstrators, resulting in the murder of Heather Styer, would be the MORAL “tipping” or “inflection” point that our nation could no longer abide.
We do not join those who politically celebrate with glee, in the spirit of, “I told you so. “President Trump is a stone cold racist” and therefore must be irrevocably regarded as irredeemable, and removed from office ASAP.
We see a unique opportunity coming up, Monday, August 28th, 2017, the 54th Anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” Speech. On that day, from the Oval Office, President Trump, in the spirit of recent comments by former Mass governor and Republican Pres. candidate Mitt Romney, who said:
“He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize," the 2012 GOP presidential nominee wrote on Facebook. "State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville."
President Trump could address the nation and ask that we recommit ourselves to the principles and precepts enshrined in our Declaration off Independence.
An Oval Office speech by President Trump could reaffirm the words and spirit of Dr. King when he publicly challenged our nation to “Dream” with him; and ask that we come together in reconciliation and healing.
Most important of all, our proposed speech by President Trump could finally redeem and renew the promise of our nation during “Reconstruction,1863-1877, “America’s Unfinished Revolution”, to make our nation, one nation, indivisible with protection and equal access to opportunity for all, irrespective of one’s race, color, religion or creed.