How critical is this moment for Americans?
I cannot help but think that a large majority of American citizens are very, very concerned about the current state of our union.
The increasing hostility and political protests that have roiled our society for the past few years seem to be reaching a crescendo in the events that have unfolded in the aftermath of an extremely acrimonious election cycle in which there seemed to be little common ground. Many people have blamed President Trump for this increasing level of incivility, but he was more a symptom and a product of the dissatisfaction and unrest of many citizens, rather than its progenitor.
Throughout the summer and fall of 2020, numerous people were quoting the late, great Martin Luther King Jr., who had sought in 1967 to explain the phenomenon of “riots” without condoning them, observing that “A riot is the language of the unheard.” The left was quick to seize upon this explanation as a reason for the violent protests that wracked many of our cities in the summer and early fall of 2020. Mr. Trump, the first president to be elected without any prior political service, or alternatively just having won a war (generals Washington, Grant, and Eisenhower), was obviously a political phenomenon produced by a significant segment of the American population between the two coasts who felt “unheard” in their frustrations in being victimized by globalization and the consequent disappearance of their livelihoods.
How else do you explain a Donald Trump? Like most political observers, I would have said what Trump did in going straight to the White House in his first political campaign could not have been done – until he did it.
Unprecedented reaction to his victory in 2016, with significant segments of our media and political culture never accepting the legitimacy of his victory, stating “He will never be my president,” and calling for his impeachment within hours of his taking the oath of office. It helped raise the temperature and rancor of political discussions at an alarming rate.
Now we find ourselves in the position where many Americans feel disenfranchised by President-elect Biden’s victory, and the censoring of political speech by the High Tech Cartel (Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, Apple, etc.). Once again, I would not have believed such a denial of the First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech until it occurred. Evidently, these vastly powerful entities have been so consumed by their hostility to President Trump they do not see what they are doing. How else to you explain Twitter condemning precisely the same behavior in a foreign country (Uganda), stating, “We strongly condemn internet shut downs – they are hugely harmful, violate basic human rights and the principles of #openinternet.” They further observed that “access to information and freedom of expression, including the public conversation on Twitter is never more important than during domestic processes, particularly elections.” I could not agree more. It’s true in Uganda, and it’s true in the USA, too.
And now, we’ve been treated to the spectacle of the U.S. House “impeaching” the president less than a week before he leaves office, with the earliest the Senate could take up the case being 1:00pm on January 20, 2021 when Mr. Trump will have already been replaced by then President Biden. This makes a mockery of the intended constitutional purpose of impeachment, which is to remove a sitting president, and reminds me of nothing quite so much as the British royalists who returned to power in 1660 disinterring Oliver Cromwell’s corpse from Westminster Abbey, where he had been buried in 1658, so they could hang his corpse in chains and then decapitate him. Cromwell’s head was displayed on a poll outside Westminster Hall until 1685.
It is well past time for all Americans of good will of all political persuasions to listen to our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, who in his first inaugural address in 1861 closed with this eloquent plea for Americans to turn aside from secession and looming civil war:
“I am loathe to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The multiple chords of memory stretching from battle-field and patriot grave, every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, and by the better angels of our nature.”
Tragically, too many of our ancestors chose not to heed Lincoln’s urgent plea, and the entire nation reaped the whirlwind of a bloody civil war that ripped the country asunder and cost approximately 750,000 war dead (J. David Hacker) North and South and multitudes of widows and orphans in their wake. Let us all hope and pray that we heed the warnings and listen to the “better angels of our nature” this time.
In closing, I want to reference a powerful novel, Word of Honor, written by Nelson DeMille and published in 1980. Word of Honor is the semiautobiographical novel of a man who served as an infantry platoon lieutenant in the Battle of Hue in 1968 in a similar time of national division and recrimination in our country. Anyone who lived through that year remembers it well. Although the preacher parts of me are offended by some of the passages, it is a riveting read. The lieutenant is on trial in 1980 for his platoon having purportedly committed war crimes in Vietnam. When he recounts to his attorney what actually happened, his attorney replies, “What else? Steal chickens, too?” The lieutenant replied, “As a matter of fact, they were not bad. Not in the beginning. But you can only log so many miles on a man and imprint so many obscenities on his brain before he begins to malfunction.”
I am fearful that too many of us are heedlessly imprinting the equivalent of obscenities on our fellow citizens and on our society – which is a living, breathing thing – and it is beginning to malfunction.
It is the duty of every American to do everything we can to stop it before it imperils our country.
Dr. Richard Land, BA (magna cum laude), Princeton; D.Phil. Oxford; and Th.M., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (1988-2013) and has served since 2013 as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Land has been teaching, writing, and speaking on moral and ethical issues for the last half century in addition to pastoring several churches. He is the author of The Divided States of America, Imagine! A God Blessed America, Real Homeland Security, For Faith & Family and Send a Message to Mickey.