Recently I have been reading about our Founding Fathers and their views concerning religion. It is easy, this day after July 04, 2018, to forget that the men who created our nation were of different opinions about many topics such as finance, government, slavery, and religion. It is convenient today to lump the Founding Fathers into a common mold and not see them as individuals who did share certain values and ideas and a belief in the new country they were shaping. However, they had to reach some accord in order to create the documents that we hold dear, such as the Constitution. Such documents that formed our Republic were created after much debate and many drafts to reflect exactly what they desired. The founding of our country did not come easily. Like any birth, it had moments of pain. A pain that was debated, then reconciled.
The sitcom All in the Family was a popular television show from 1971 to 1979. The show centered around what was then called, “a lovably bigot,” Archie Bunker, who brought open prejudice into the living rooms of America and, to a significant extent, made it acceptable because the bigot was comical. The character of Bunker was viewed as somewhat heroic for many viewers because he spoke for them because he said what they thought. In one infamous clip available on-line, Bunker’s daughter Gloria is trying to explain a piece of sculpture she has purchased and how it represents the “coming together of mankind,” After looking at it with a quizzical expression, Bunker announces to his daughter, her husband, and his wife that he is alone [in his thinking] in the house and that soon “the coons will be coming.” Much laughter from the audience. When I asked a regular viewer of the show if he was offended by Bunker, he said that he laughed at the expressions of the actor who played Bunker, not the racist remarks. This explanation was given by many people I asked about why they watched the show week after week. The subtle racism in America oozed to the surface during the playing of All in the Family.
Today’s Charlotte Observer has an article about the three candidates running for the North Carolina Supreme Court. The article quotes the GOP executive director Dallas Woodhouse about Chris Anglin, who is running for the seat, but was until June 07, a registered Democrat. Woodhouse says, “The party has endorsed somebody, and (Anglin) will be treated like the enemy is.”
I don’t know Mr. Anglin or anything about him but for what the article has. However, I can’t for the life of me, believe that he is the enemy of the GOP or any other group or any person in America. He may be an opponent or a challenger or foe or adversary of many things, but how can he be an enemy? As we know, every word has its denotation, its literal meaning; but it also has its connotations, or its suggested meaning. An enemy is more than a foe or opponent. An enemy wants to destroy. For instance, I want to be seen as an adversary, perhaps a “worthy adversary” of some people and their beliefs concerning our country. However, because we are all citizens, I am not their enemy, nor they mine. It is change in their thinking that is wanted, not their destruction.
Subtle racism is alive and well in our nation and full of people who would enjoy the on-line clips of Bunker. Some people, like the minister I met today, see President Trump as the one to brave enough to make necessary changes in America; others are ready for impeachment. We cannot heal ourselves by using words such as “enemy” or “infest” or Republican or Democrat to label other citizens. We will not heal subtle racism by accepting “infest” to describe the arrival of desperate people to our borders, pretending that its user is speaking truth. Our words reflect our thinking and so does our acceptance of their use.
King Solomon writes, “Turn nor to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” When we call fellow citizens by such labels, we go off the road on one side or the other. If we go too far, we will crash into a ditch or woods or some other danger.
If our Founding Fathers can come to a consciences and create America, amid all their disagreements, it seems to me that we can come to agreement after we each hear the other and arrive at a place not driven by fear and loathing of what we do not understand.