For the love of our country I’d like to share a few words.
I believe in us: “we” the people.
Though we are a nation divided, I believe we can unite by finding the common ground amongst us. We have more in common, than not—and it is in this that we can come together.
It’s Black history month and a good time to reflect on where we are in our evolution as a nation—how far we’ve come, and where we go from here.
As we look into our recent past we can determine our progress relating to the current state of our union.
A brief reminder (this is our story):
Our division is a scar on our history. Our nation split 160 years ago; states seceded and left the United States (the Union) after Abraham Lincoln was elected President. The Southern states presumed that Lincoln’s hostility towards slavery would impede their “rights” to own slaves. They were correct. Lincoln passed the 13th amendment, abolishing slavery. The Confederate States did not want to be part of a country that impeded their rights to own slaves. To defend their rights to be sovereign states, they started the Civil War. After 4 years, the Union emerged victorious; the Confederate surrendered and rejoined the Union. With many left disgruntled, a confederate sympathizer retaliated in support of the South and assassinated Lincoln. He intended to dismantle the Union government and revive the Confederate. The South opposed the ratified amendments of the civil war and continually found ways to defy them: Black Codes, riots, lynchings, Jim Crow, the KKK…”They held the fundamental belief that Whites were superior to Blacks and that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is the natural and normal condition.”
This mentality has prevailed throughout our very short history. Every effort to enforce and uphold the 14th and 15th amendments, granting “freedmen” citizenship with equal civil and legal rights—including the right to vote, was impeded and obstructed. Following the Civil War, this was enabled by President Andrew Johnson (President Lincoln’s successor). “Johnson favored quick (and lenient) restoration of the seceded states to the Union—and implemented his own form of Presidential Reconstruction. His plans did not give protection to the former slaves, and he came into conflict with the Republican-dominated Congress. While Johnson clashed with Congress over Reconstruction, ex-Confederates and other Southerners used increasingly violent methods to oppose federal authority and re-establish their own dominance. Through a mix of legal and extra-legal means, many African-Americans were forced into a coercive labor system that left most blacks without true economic freedom.”
“When Southern states returned [to the Union] many of their old leaders passed Black Codes to deprive the freedmen of many civil liberties. In response, congressional Republicans refused to seat legislators from those states and established military districts across the South. Johnson vetoed their bills, and congressional Republicans overrode him, setting a pattern for the remainder of his presidency. The battle over Reconstruction encouraged both radical and moderate Republicans to seek Constitutional guarantees for black rights, rather than relying on temporary political majorities.”
“Moderate Republicans were hopeful that Johnson would sign the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which had passed Congress with nearly unanimous support from Republicans. Though most of Johnson’s cabinet urged him to sign the Civil Rights Act, the president vetoed it, marking a permanent break with the moderate faction of the Republican Party. Within three weeks, Congress had overridden his veto, the first time that had been done on a major bill in American history. The veto was for many his defining blunder, setting a tone of perpetual confrontation with Congress that prevailed for the rest of his presidency”.
“Congressional Republicans were angered by Johnson’s obstruction of Congress’s Reconstruction program, which eventually led to his impeachment. The impeachment was the result of political conflict and the rupture of ideologies in the aftermath of the American Civil War. It arose from uncompromised beliefs and a contest for power in a nation struggling with reunification.”
“When Johnson made a statement indicating that he planned to fire Cabinet secretaries who did not agree with him, Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act—restricting Johnson’s ability to fire Cabinet officials. When he persisted in trying to dismiss Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, he was impeached by the House of Representatives, making him the first U.S. president to be impeached.”
“Edwin Stanton helped guide the Union to victory. He openly criticized Johnson for failing to provide more federal intervention in the affairs of Southern states that denied blacks basic civil rights after the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which banned slavery.”
By firing Stanton, President Johnson could put forth his own ideas for Reconstruction. In the end, Reconstruction (reunification) failed; and as a result, the assault against African Americans has persisted. The United States and the Confederate States were unable to reconcile their differences, consequently reunification was left undone. The ex-Confederate States did not accept the new Constitutional laws of the United States, which were implemented based on human and moral conscience. They continuously violated and opposed the Constitution. They were anti-America. The Civil war determined what kind of nation we would be. The USA chose to live up to the declaration that all men are created equal. We embraced the promise of an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, throughout the years many attempts have been made to obstruct this: President Abraham Lincoln (1865), President John F. Kennedy (1963), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968) and Robert F. Kennedy (1968)—were all assassinated to impede the uprise of real freedom and equality (real American values).
It took nearly 100 years for the 14th and 15th amendments to be enforced. The push back was severe (and still is). The Civil Rights movement in the 1950-60’s achieved the most important breakthrough in equal-rights legislation for African Americans was since the Reconstruction period (1865-77).
Throughout history the Old South has maintained representation in Congress. “President Johnson granted amnesty to most former Confederates and allowed the rebel states to elect new governments. These governments, which often included ex-Confederate officials, soon enacted black codes, measures designed to control and repress the recently freed slave population.”
This has enabled the continuation of hate crimes—which are still prevalent today. The KKK still exists, white supremacists still exist—and they continue to promote their anti-American (racist) views. When we see the president condoning and rewarding those who stand by the sentiments of white supremacy, we have reason to be concerned. Such views are not at all aligned with real American values. This type of disposition, in no way breeds confidence in knowing that our common interests are being protected. Our social security, our health care, and our basic human rights are all at risk. Our loyal veterans, servicemen/women, war heroes and patriots are being scorned. Constitutional law is again being defied.
If we want to uphold the real values of America (with liberty and justice for all) then we need to choose leaders and representatives who are aligned with these principles; those who stand by the promise of America—the true America that promotes humanity, fairness and equality for everyone. We have the power. The choice is ours.
President Johnson was impeached by the House, but was not removed from office. They had one vote short of 2/3.
“The final impeachment vote maintained the principle that Congress should not remove the president from office simply because its members disagreed with him over policy, style, and administration of office. But it did not mean that the president retained effective governing power. For the remaining months of his term, Johnson was a nonentity with little influence on public policy.”
“Recent historians rank Johnson among the worst American presidents for his frequent clashes with Congress, strong opposition to federally guaranteed rights for African Americans, and general ineffectiveness as president.”
I think Johnson has some competition now.