As our major cities smolder upon our 244th Independence Day, some of us may be wondering how many more years we will be able to celebrate our independence and freedom. America has conquered many challenges over the past couple centuries, but this generation now faces its greatest test. We have defeated many enemies all over the globe, but now we face an internal crisis as the anarchists and Marxists declare America fundamentally and inherently racist and therefore hopelessly irredeemable. And sadly our largely brainwashed youth are ripe to accept this deceptive and pernicious propaganda.
As we reflect on this experiment in democratic self-government called the United States of America, we should consider two tales of our national symbol, Old Glory. In 2016, San Francisco 49ers Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand for our national flag and the National Anthem in protest of what he described as oppression of black Americans. He said: “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid and getting away with murder.”
Kaepernick was referring to police brutality focused on people of color. There are surely incidents of police brutality and we can debate whether it’s pervasive or rare or whether black Americans are actually targeted more than other Americans. However, he accused all police of racism and attacked the police as “pigs” not worthy of any respect, but Americans and 99% of police do NOT condone brutality against anyone. He can certainly raise this issue, but his disrespect of the flag implied the very foundations of America are inextricably racist. The majority of Americans were repulsed knowing intrinsically the American ideal is liberty and justice for all.
Another black American had a very different view of the flag and this nation. William H. Carney was born a slave in 1840 in Norfolk, Virginia. His father escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad and then worked hard to purchase the freedom of his family. Once reunited, the Carney family settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Young William learned to read and write and became interested in becoming a minister until 1863 when he answered the call to defeat the Confederacy by enlisting in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment. He stated: “Previous to the formation of colored troops, I had a strong inclination to prepare myself for the ministry; but when the country called for all persons, I could best serve my God serving my country and my oppressed brothers. The sequel in short—I enlisted for the war.”
The 54th spearheaded the attack on Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina on 18 July 1863. After a day of land and sea artillery bombardment, the 54th attacked after nightfall. As they advanced, the color sergeant was wounded and faltered, but Carney threw down his rifle, seized the flag, and made his way to the front to lead the charge. Despite being shot FOUR times, Carney pressed on. When he finally returned to the rear, he was greeted by cheers and before he collapsed he said: “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground!”
To a former slave, Old Glory embodied the American ideal of freedom, so he willingly risked his life to honor and protect our flag. Like Fredrick Douglas, Carney came to the conclusion that while some Americans had enslaved his family, this Constitutional Republic was founded on a framework and ideal that should and would guarantee equality and liberty for all. His devotion and heroism was an inspiration to all Americans. Eventually, William H. Carney was the first black soldier awarded the Medal of Honor in 1900.
These two tales provided an illustrative juxtaposition. The man who actually suffered oppression in this country was still inspired by the brilliant dream of our founders and then served that country to further that goal. The other has not suffered any real adversity and has no discernible service to this country; yet despite enjoying the opportunity and prosperity Carney fought for still finds this nation racist and unworthy.
This is not to indict Kaepernick; he has a right to his opinion and there is some validity in his grievance. But his means are ineffective at best if not counterproductive. We should address police brutality and racism; and arguably we are and have, but he assails the very ideals that unite all Americans.
America is not perfect and never will be, but since its inception Americans have always strived for a more perfect union. Americans are flawed like all humans, but we aspire to the iconic principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for every American regardless of race. We will always have work to do, but our flag represents the ideals of freedom that binds us. We will always have disagreements, but we should always be able to rally around Old Glory because America is intended for good for all. And on that simple premise we can all agree.
Let’s continue the conversation and the experiment; and most important, let’s pray to God to lead us to unity and deliver us from division. God bless America!
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Romans 12:9
Pete Riehm is the host of Common Sense Radio heard 8pm every Thursday on FMTalk106.5 or streaming at fmtalk1065.com. Email him at [email protected] or on Twitter @PeteRiehm or visit http://peteriehm.com.