There’s no arguing that the current political culture is toxic. There’s an Us-against-Them mentality that divides — and defines — too many of our people. Those divisions are based on race, political party, socio-economic status, birthdate (millennials vs. Generation Y vs. Gen Xers vs. Boomers vs. the Geritol Generation).
It’s interesting because the latest generations claim to have a goal of inclusiveness, yet they are intolerant of anyone whose ideals don’t line up with theirs.
And despite what they say (or, more likely, tweet), they really aren’t that involved. For instance, you can count all of them on one hand that you spot at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day function or a gathering at the Veterans Memorial Museum (not including those who are so young, they have to go with the parents).
You won’t see white millennials — or any millennials, for that matter — at an MLK Day function who are there on their own accord. But if word got out that the KKK was going to set up across the street from a program to honor the great civil rights leader, then they’d show up. That’s because they’re itching for a fight … or at least something they can video and post so it looks like they’re in the fight. The goal, of course, isn’t unity. It’s a selfish desire for clicks and the potential for personal notoriety.
Thank God that most of the people we honor were selfless in their motives. They had the greater good in mind. Dr. King certainly did. It sounds so simple, to ask that people be “judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.” Oh, how we long for King’s dream to be reality.
But now his name and his mission have been hijacked by hustlers and hucksters who make their living on a bastardized version of his legacy. King’s goal has been reached. Institutionalized racism is a thing of the past. Individual hearts and minds can’t be changed by legislation or fear tactics. But hustlers can cause setbacks by claiming racism every time something doesn’t go their way. It hurts the cause, and it insults people who faced real racism, sacrificing life and limb, during our country’s painful past.
We cringe on this day every year when white people say, “I’m going to be celebrating Robert E. Lee’s birthday on Monday.” They say it as an act of defiance instead of making the general sound as if he is actually worthy of adulation himself. He is. That’s something that the current culture doesn’t allow, though — nuance.
Lee was a great man who fought for a flawed cause, and King was a flawed man who fought for a great cause.
That’s not a knock on either one of them or their very different missions. We can’t take present standards and use those to judge people from the past. These younger generations and other people with more selfish agendas don’t want to hear that. To them, things are either all good or all bad. You can’t say Mel Gibson makes incredible movies, even though he’s an anti-Semite. You can’t say that Bill Cosby was a great comic and his show was groundbreaking, even though he drugged women. You can’t take one statement someone makes or writes (or a video) and use it out of context just to forward your agenda. (See the current video of the Kentucky Catholic high-schoolers vs. Native American protesters in Washington, D.C., as the latest example.)
We can’t — and shouldn’t — sanitize our history.
If an individual who was an addict, a prisoner or any other sinner saved by grace who became successful, he or she would say that their past — mistakes and all — made them who they are now. And the crowd would cheer and applaud.
Well, America started as an experiment and became the greatest country on earth. And our past made us what we are — and what we can be — if we could only make it our singular goal to be great again.