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Racism is racism, and too many recent comparisons don’t make sense: Letter to the Editor

Posted 8/23/17

The news cycle spins so fast that it’s difficult to contemplate one event before the next one crowds out the latter from our minds. 

James Miller’s piece in last week’s …

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Racism is racism, and too many recent comparisons don’t make sense: Letter to the Editor

Posted

The news cycle spins so fast that it’s difficult to contemplate one event before the next one crowds out the latter from our minds. 

James Miller’s piece in last week’s Press & Journal — “Leftist violence vs. Trump-aligned groups worrisome” — was being printed when President Donald Trump doubled down on his racist remarks.

But to get caught up in the next news spectacular and not respond to both Mr. Miller and Trump would be to give both tacit approval.

In times like these, I am always reminded of something one of my professors said in class more than 50 years ago. Dr. Harry Hutton said, “Beliefs not formed through reason will not be changed through reason.” For some, no amount of logic will enable such people to question their beliefs. Remember Trump saying, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and I wouldn’t lose votes?”

So, when Miller says, “Trump is right: Both sides are culpable…,” he’s both justifying Trump’s remarks — wrong though they are — and shifting blame.

Mr. Miller, Trump is not right. Both sides are not culpable.

But that kind of twisted thinking reminds me of a school playground incident where the teacher reprimands a child for throwing stones, and the child says — take your pick — “but he was throwing sticks,” or “making faces,” or my all-time favorite, “he was looking at me!”

It’s childish and a sign of not very deep thinking to equate, as Trump did, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson with Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Washington and Jefferson were men of the Age of Enlightenment who worked on declaring our freedom from England and writing the Constitution. 

The slavery issue was present at those important continental meetings, but in the name of unity at that time, the topic of slavery was kicked down the road for Abraham Lincoln to tackle.

 And make no mistake. Lee, Jackson and all Confederates were guilty of treason. Because Lincoln was more focused in healing the nation, he decided not to pursue the justice due these traitors. 

I even heard an alt-Right argument that purported that if statues of Robert E. Lee must be removed, then Muslim mosques should be removed, too. Sorry, folks. This is a non-sequitur; the analogy does not work. Robert E. Lee is a symbol of racism. Moreover, many of the Confederate statues (save those on historic sites) were erected during the Jim Crow era — a time when racial segregation was promoted. Mosques are holy meeting places for people practicing freedom of religion, a cornerstone of our Constitution. 

And please, people should not show their ignorance by equating Black Lives Matter with the events in Charlottesville. That insipid claim does not deserve an explanation because these situations are mutually exclusive; that is, they’re not in the slightest way related to one another.

Let’s make one more thing very clear: Trump said that there were “very fine people” on both sides. This is not true. The protestors were neo-Nazis and White Supremacists. Both are hate groups. Yes, antifa (which stand for anti-Facist) groups were in Charlottesville, but as Miller said, “Ideas are like viruses. They need hosts to survive.” If the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists cease and desist, so will antifa.

Miller went on to say, “If white supremacy is anti-American, so is the antifa insistence that believers in racial superiority not be given the right to freedom of assembly.” No one is denying anyone freedom of speech and assembly. But freedom of speech and assembly cuts both ways. People have the right to answer these jerks. 

How did White Supremacy come about? Slavery has a long history. Simply read the Bible and you will find frequent references to slavery. Mostly, slaves were spoils of war. You lost the war, now you’re my slave. But there was not the attitude that the slave was a less-than-human person. Unlucky, but not inferior. In fact, in Roman times it was customary to celebrate Saturnalia (the shortest day of the year) by having the slaves and slave owner switching places! They had so much fun doing that that early Christians decided no one would notice if they celebrated a Christ Mass (Christmas) down in the catacombs of Rome. Hence, Christmas became celebrated in December. (Christ was actually born in the spring.)

But American slavery was different. Southern slave owners were Christians. Owning slaves caused the slave owners great cognitive dissonance. How could a devout Christian keep slaves? A ha! If the slaves were less than human, and the slave owners were benevolent in taking care of these poor ignorant people, well, then, that’s just fine under the eyes of the Lord.

This mental game worked well until the Emancipation Proclamation. Now, the former slaves were free, but the attitudes of less-than-human persisted. Moreover, the former slaves (unlike in Roman times) were easy to identify. These “less-than-human” people were a different race, hence racism.

Neo-Nazis form another hate group. These people morphed from Hitler. In the 1930s, Germany was crippled by the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I, and by the worldwide Depression. Hitler needed scapegoats — people to blame for all this misfortune. So, Hitler invented this master race concept where he could spew hate upon anyone who was not Aryan — white and German. He saw the Jews and so, so many others as less-than-human compared to his master race. 

Neo-Nazis were in Charlottesville masquerading as Hitler Nazis by carrying torches, Swastika flags and shouting anti-Semitic slogans.

Mr. Miller seems to be suggesting that we should all play nice. Sorry, this is not a Left vs. Right argument. This is not a conservative vs. liberal deliberation. This is not even a Republican vs. Democratic debate. Racism and anti-Semitism have no place in America. Yes, hate groups have the right to say what they want. The rest of us have the obligation to speak out and stand up against every last one of these warped-minded people as thousands did in Boston this past weekend. No, we won’t change their minds (see above) but we can make clear that the hate they spew is not all right. 

You can read all about American Hate Groups by going to the website of the Southern Poverty Law Center (www:splcenter.org). The SPLC tracks all American Hate Groups.

Richard Ammon

Middletown

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