Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Republicans, Martin Luther King, And The Strangers In Our Midst

Anyone who has been following Connecticut Commentary – and the stats suggest many people are – knows I  have written extensively on cities, territorial pools more or less owned by Democrats over the years. Here are some few columns, all of which have been printed in a handful of Connecticut newspapers.

In one of them, I fell to my knees and beseeched Republicans not to cede this fertile ground to Democrats. That cry has not resonated with many Republicans, but it should. And by Republicans I mean the whole enchilada:  Republican leaders safely ensconced in the General Assembly; Republican worker bees of every kind; African American and Hispanic Republicans who have found, much to their surprise, that one of the chief difference between the Republican and Democratic Parties is that The Republican Party is NOT a closed shop; and minorities and whites who have survived the left leaning biases of academe and are familiar with the history of both parties from the post-Civil War period through 1964, when the Civil Rights Act was established.

The Civil Rights Act, it will be recalled, enforced the constitutional right to vote, conferred jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States of America to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, empowered the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes. After lengthy filibusters by Democrats, the Senate bill was voted upon in the House. Democrats favored the bill 63-37 percent, Republicans 80-20 percent.

The first time a Civil Rights Act was presented to Congress was in 1875. Republican Congressmen Robert Brown Elliott and Josiah Thomas Walls, both African Americans, spoke in favor of the bill in the House of Representatives.

Congressman Walls said, "Men may concede that public sentiment is the cause of the discrimination of which we justly complain...If this be so, then public sentiment needs correction...Let it be understood that individual rights are sacred and it is the duty of men, in whose hand is trusted the destiny of the Republic, to remove from the path of upwards progress every obstacle which may impede its advance into the future."

Frederick Douglass was the Martin Luther King of the pre and post-Civil War period, a gifted civil rights leader who, like Martin Luther King, straddled the ages. President Abraham Lincoln invited Douglas to the White House because he wanted Douglas’ opinion on his second inaugural address. It was during that speech that Lincoln quoted from the Bible and said:

“The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.'"

Douglas gave his approval.

The sentiments here expressed by Lincoln, engraved on the interior North Wall of the Lincoln Memorial, were part of the marrow of Martin Luther King’s bones when he stood on the steps of the memorial, not very far from these very words, and thundered, at the urging of Marion Anderson:

“When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, Free at last, Great God Almighty, We are free at last."

Martin Luther King was a Christian minister of the word whose father was a Republican.

There were some sharp differences between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X at the time. Malcolm X was unwilling to forego violence in response to violence exercised against African Americans, especially in places where the Klan was still operating. After Malcolm X returned from a Hajj in Mecca, where he had met many white Muslims and embraced Sunni Islam, his views on racial separation underwent a change. On his return, he broke publicly with the Nation of Islam and denounced both racism – “I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I'm sorry for now. I was a zombie then ... pointed in a certain direction and told to march” -- and Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad. Malcolm X was assassinated in February, 1965 by three members of the Nation of Islam.

The 1960s was the decade of the assassins. Just count the corpses: President John Kennedy (November 1963), Martin Luther King (April 1965), Attorney General Robert Kennedy, (June 1968). Whatever their differences, they all shared in common one golden perception – that real freedom, personal liberty, may only be found on the path that leads to self-reliance. When Malcolm X died in a hail of bullets, it was a free man who died, and the same may be said of Martin Luther King.

So then, how goes it on the freedom and independence front in 2014?

The figures point to a new and resilient kind of dependency. Since the 1960s, the two mediating institutions that truly lift the struggling poor out of poverty – work and marriage – are disappearing in the broader culture, but in the cities they are already a ghostly presence.

In 1970, marriage throughout the United States was the rule rather than the exception: 90 percent of women and 80 percent of men between 25 and 29 years of age were married. The comparable figures today are 50 percent of women and 40 percent of men. It is astonishing to think that in the 1960s fewer than 10 percent of children were born to unmarried mothers.

The poverty gap between the races has grown over the years. Among non-Hispanic white married couples, the poverty rate is 3.2 percent, while the rate for non-married white families is seven times higher at 22.0 percent.  Among Hispanic married families, the poverty rate is 13.2 percent, while the poverty rate among non-married families is three times higher at 37.9 percent.  Among black married couples, the poverty rate is 7.0 percent, while the rate for non-married black families was seven times higher at 35.6 percent.

The strongest and most dependable bulwarks against poverty are solid marriages and a sound education. In the absence of either, women are thrown into the bony arms of a solicitous state, where they remain unawakened, doomed to a fitful and uneasy sleep, hoping that perhaps the child of their hearts will not fall prey to the ravening wolves prowling about the neighborhood.

It is this challenge from which Republicans retreat when they leave what has falsely been called “social issues” to Democrats who, since the 1960s, have shaped the unsafe at any cost social “safety net” – especially in urban areas, where not a whisper of resistance to Democratic hegemony is possible.

What is missing – what is needed, far more than a crippling and false solicitude – is a Republican Party mission to the very heart of darkness. That mission must have as its object a restoration of those saving and mediating institutions that have always stood between children and a soul-crippling dependency that can only be described as a milder form of slavery, in which the futures of children are thrown upon the mercy of a state that regards them as problems and strangers.

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