Today — May 8, 2020 — is the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (or V-E) Day, when the allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany. World War II was a time when the countries of the world came together to combat bigotry, racism, fascism and hatred. I had a father, uncles, and aunts who volunteered to serve, one of whom was at Normandy on D-Day. Many men and women made the ultimate sacrifice in those years. Yet all went to war because of what happened when xenophobia and demagoguery supplanted real leadership.
Last month we passed the 155th anniversary of the surrender of Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army on April 9, 1865. The victory, while complete on the battlefield, was not capable of eradicating 250 years of racism. So we all soldier on for a better, more just world. Abraham Lincoln said it best when he spoke of the reasons for the Civil War — and our unfinished task as Americans — at the dedication of the Union cemetery at Gettysburg:
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
This nation fought two wars to combat bigotry, hatred, and enslavement of other humans. We won both wars at a terrible cost of life.
Real American patriots don’t gather in public spaces with paramilitary-level weapons intended to sow chaos and promote white nationalism, knowing full well that if people of color did the same, they would be immediately arrested. Real American leaders don’t normalize such activities, calling those who are involved “very good people.” Real American leaders don’t support those who promote intimidation and the threat of physical harm to stir up fear and feed rancor.
I am a son of the South, and yet my belief in this one point is deep and unwavering: Real American patriots don’t walk around flying Nazi and Confederate flags. Period.
More to come…