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America’s political schizophrenia

Melvin B. Miller
America’s political schizophrenia
“‘Day of patriotic devotion?’ I don’t think so!” (Photo: Dan Drew)

Last week the nation’s temperament was philosophically confusing. Monday was a national holiday to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday. On Thursday there was a state holiday in Texas to celebrate the heroes of the Confederacy. Jan. 19, the birthday of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army, has been chosen as the date for that celebration. And on Friday morning, Barack Obama’s term as president of the United States came to an end. At noon on Friday, Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, was sworn in. These notable events demonstrate the conflicts that continue to exist among Americans.

Even now, 151 years after ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which made slavery illegal, many Americans have not accepted the concept expressed in the Declaration of Independence (1776) “that all men are created equal.” Even if the concept of enslaving another human being is not considered by some citizens to be offensive, certainly the treasonous assault on the established Union government primarily because of the policy of ending the practice of slavery should hardly be a source of pride.

Texans are considered to be assertive and independent. It was the last state to accept President Abraham Lincoln’s executive order that ended slavery during the Civil War. However, it still has not dawned on Texans that involvement in the Civil War to establish the Confederacy was an act of treason.

Along came Martin Luther King with another vision for America. In his effort for racial equality and justice in America, King brought sound wisdom to the nation’s leaders as he led the Civil Rights Movement. Fundamental to this campaign was his statement, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign for civil rights.

The effect on the American psyche of MLK’s ministry undoubtedly prepared the way for the election of Barack Obama as president. With racial discrimination so predominant in America, few expected to see a black president in the White House. Those eager for an end to racism were delighted. Those who believed in the superiority of the so-called white race were not pleased with the American electorate.

According to reports, leading Republican members of Congress had a dinner the night of Obama’s inauguration, and they agreed to oppose every legislative initiative so that Obama would be a do-nothing president. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is now the Senate majority leader, is reported to have said, “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Republicans even abnegated their constitutionally prescribed duty by refusing to consider Merrick Garland, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Donald Trump, who is now president, at that time went so far as to assume leadership of the “birther” movement, which challenged Obama’s right to serve as president because he was alleged not to have been born in the United States, as required by the Constitution. In light of these assaults on Obama, how does one reasonably attack John Lewis (D-Ga.) for stating that Trump is not a “legitimate” president. There is evidence that the Russian hacking of election data in favor of Trump might have affected the election outcome. Relatively minor changes in only three states would have changed the result.

For many citizens, the issue of Russian hacking has not been satisfactorily resolved. Congress has agreed to investigate the matter further. Lewis has established a reputation for courage and integrity. Just as he stood tall on the Edmund Pettis Bridge on Bloody Sunday (March 7, 1965), Congressman Lewis stood alone to preserve the integrity of American democracy.