The American Civil War endures. Although formal hostilities ended on May 9, 1865, the divisions and strains which both caused and resulted from our internecine conflict have continued. The shocking resurgence of hate groups across America as evidenced by the marches in Charlottesville, Virginia and other free speech rallies in Oregon and other cities reminds us that old wounds still cause fresh pain.
On the surface it is easy to condemn the forces of hatred and bigotry we see displayed at some of these marches. It shocks the conscience to believe that deep into the second decade of the 21st century, an armed group bearing the battle flags of two sworn enemies of the U.S. (the Confederacy and Nazis) would march through the streets of our cities, spewing vile threats against their fellow countrymen.
It's incredulous that we need to remind ourselves how dearly a price in blood and treasure we paid to rid ourselves of the scourges of slavery — and the encroaching horror of Nazi atrocities in the last century.
While Americans enjoy a constitutional right to speak freely and bear arms, what is permissible is not always prudent. The confrontational nature of these protests is designed to provoke and intimidate others. African Americans and Jews seemed to be the intended targets in Charlottesville, perhaps especially so because the city is home to a large number of blacks, and its mayor, who happens to be Jewish, has endorsed a city plan to remove Confederate statues.
This hit home with me recently when I found out that my friends Dr. Ben and Candy Carson’s Virginia home had been vandalized with anti-Trump and racially derogatory messages. Dr. Carson, who is a man of uncommon grace, was reluctant to speak publicly about the incident.
Upon hearing what happened to Dr. Carson's home, I was simultaneously frustrated and fuming!
This seemed like a declaration of war by his political enemies. As their friend, I wanted to lash out to protect him — and protect them.
And that’s where the seduction begins. We begin to let hate seduce us when we believe we are facing an existential threat and want to lash out against it. In the face of globalism, Islamic extremism, and tough economic conditions at home, many people are floundering.
They are searching for answers, as well as a sacrificial lamb who will suffice; that is, one in lieu of simulataneously real and practical solutions. Yet, sacrificed at extremism's altar are the very character traits that actually would save us from the very ills we fear. Those include our forbearance, fortitude, patience, and kindness to our neighbors.
We burn in effigy our tolerance of others and in so doing, lose the ability to harvest our collective strengths in the essential work of personal and community transformations.
The individuals who vandalized Dr. Carson’s home, have no regard for African Americans, Jews, or anyone who is not in synch with their line of thinking. Yet, despite this, Dr. Carson refused to react and respond out of fear and hate. This is something we could all learn from during these tough, difficult times.
This doesn't mean we ignore what is done, nor does it mean that we don’t make any efforts to make a difference. When hate is unleashed it rarely restricts itself to the objects of its hatred. As we witnessed in Charlottesville, it was a white Christian woman — not an African American or a Jew — ultimately paying the highest price for the weaponization of ethnic and racial hatred.
No matter what the underlying frustrations of the marchers in Charlottesville were, they betrayed their own causes by aligning themselves with the KKK and Nazis. They were not in that moment behaving as good, decent people. They crossed the line by using the power of evil as a vindication for their pain. In accepting the aid of evil, they entered into a false bargain — one ultimately destroying their true aims.
In a post to his Facebook page Dr. Carson says, "Several years ago we bought a farm in rural Maryland. One of the neighbors immediately put up a Confederate flag . . . all the other neighbors immediately put up American flags shaming the other neighbor who took down the Confederate flag."
The key to our collective response to hate should follow the wise example of Dr. Carson’s neighbors. They did not resort to acts of violence and vandalism by tearing down the neighbor’s Confederate flag, as some would have done. Rather they chose to exhibit the virtue of love, and in so doing, overcame hate.
I remain hopeful that as a nation we can pause and reflect about the character traits and principles making us truly great. Traits and principles upon which we must rely if we are to be restored to glory. We are a country upholding the sanctity of life, and the human rights of individuals — regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. We cannot move forward as a nation until we abandon hatred, returning at once to our principles.
Armstrong Williams is the author of "Reawakening Virtues." He is a political commentator who writes a conservative newspaper column, hosts a nationally syndicated TV program called "The Right Side," and hosts a daily radio show on Sirius/XM Power 128 (6-7 p.m. and 5-6 a.m.) Monday through Friday. He also is owner of Howard Stirk Holdings Broadcast TV stations. Read more reports from Armstrong Williams — Click Here Now.
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