I spent some time in the Czech Republic not long after the Wall fell. One day I was sitting in a small park with a statue at its center. The statue showed a Soviet soldier protecting a woman—presumably Czech—from a Nazi. This in graphic form was the story the occupying Soviets had told the Czechs for many years. The older folks of the village performed a ritual when they walked through that park: each walked up to the statue, spat on it, and then walked on.
The biologist D’Arcy Thompson once wrote, “everything is the way it is because it got that way.” As an explanation of the way things are, this is as good as any and better than most.
The question of the week is how the United States got to the events that just occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. The best answer I think is Thompson’s: “everything is the way it is because it got that way.”
That oft-quoted phrase “all men are created equal” mentioned in the Declaration of Independence may have been a self-evident truth, but it was’t something the founders believed. And the framers of the US Constitution never planned on making equality a truth. We know that because . . . they didn’t.
They didn’t even try.
Time, platitudes, wars, and legislation have yet to make the lie a truth.
Let’s look at a bit more for context:
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 . . .
As an excuse for treason, this isn’t bad. As a formula for governing the diverse group of human beings living in the British colonies at that time, it was unthinkable to those who framed the Constitution.Since that time many people have worked to make the aspirations a reality. But many others, especially white males, have worked just as diligently to make sure the dream is not realized. Some of it has been conscious, some the unintentional effects of systems built out of Euro-American assumptions.
However it got that way, how it is today offends those with a conscience.
An old labor song asks, “Which side are you on?” That’s always the question. Talk about that moral arc of the universe that bends toward justice is metaphysical talk—theology—not a description of reality. No more a description of reality than the Declaration of Independence.
The US is the way it is because it got that way. How it got this way is not an accident. White Supremacy has been a governing assumption from the start. Something over 900 hate groups and lots of Confederate statues underline the point.
I hope those old folks in the Czech Republic had the pleasure of seeing the Soviet statue torn down. I hope the young folks in the American South have the pleasure of seeing many statues torn down.
Realists realize it can go another way. The UU minister William R. Jones asked, Is God a White Racist? The answer is yes.
Whatever else the gods people worship do, they always reflect the mores and prejudices of the people who worship them.
Now is a good time to get to work . . .