Paul R. Lehman, American protest and prejudiceMay 8, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Posted in American Bigotry | Leave a comment
Tags: American protest and prejudice
When the pilgrims arrived in America, they brought with them the mindset that God had given them this country. They simply had to remove its present occupants and take control. We must remember that these were Christian people who saw themselves as the new Children of Israel, a concept known as topology. Their objective in coming to America was to first possess the land, and they believed that with God’s help they would possess it. In addition, they were to practice religion the way they saw fit. This belief was based on their interpretation of the Bible, namely Deuteronomy 2:31-36, as well as other biblical references:
31 The LORD said to me, “See, I have begun to deliver Sihon and his country over to you. Now begin to conquer and possess his land.”
32 When Sihon and all his army came out to meet us in battle at Jahaz, 33 the LORD our God delivered him over to us and we struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army. 34 At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed [a] them—men, women and children. We left no survivors. 35 But the livestock and the plunder from the towns we had captured we carried off for ourselves. 36 From Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the gorge, even as far as Gilead, not one town was too strong for us. The LORD our God gave us all of them (New International Version).
This idea of God giving this land to these Europeans eventually turned into a policy known as Manifest Destiny. The belief was that America was a European American country, ordained by God. The fact that these Europeans thought themselves superior to the natives and non-European also informed their beliefs. Incidentally, the Pilgrims and Puritans believed that a person should never try to rise about the social and economic status in which they were born. If God had wanted them in another social/economical group, He would have paced them there: “Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches” (1 Corinthians 7:17 (New International Version).
Somewhere along the way a nation was formed with the guiding principles of democracy as its objective—the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all. The idea was to not perpetrate on the new European inhabitants the same injustices that they had encountered from England. Over the years the experiment in government has been at work, striving towards it democratic objective with one primary exception—ownership of America. The idea of America being the land of European Americans has never been expunged from some of their minds in spite of the progress made in accepting the value of all human beings.
Today, much of the public descent and protest comes from some people who identify themselves as Christian conservatives, Tea Party members, concerned citizens, American patriots and a host of other terms. The descent and protest began in earnest when Obama was elected President. Following Obama’s election was the appointment of a number of influential officials who just happen to be people of color. The stated objection of the Congressional Republicans to any legislation offered by Obama became public knowledge. The fear that has come to surface in society today is based on the idea of a loss of country and special privilege by European Americans. Rather than embracing the idea of democracy, the protesters see themselves as victims of a process to deprive them of their country and their privileged citizenship. The reasons offered for protest, the economy, budget, immigration, health care and others are simply covers for the fear, hatred, and bigotry hiding behind the masks.
For proof of this fear one needs only to look at the various signs displayed at the public protest gatherings. Viewing some of these signs one get the impression that someone has taken the country away from Americans and they want it back; or that government is too big and needs to be brought under control; or that too much money is being spent by the government on things not needed or wanted. Even more signs present a likeness of President Obama in a negative way. Since no alternative suggestions are offered at these gatherings to correct the problems displayed in the signs, fear, hatred, and bigotry seem the only reasons for the protest.
At some point in America, reasonable minds might conclude that if we as a people and a nation are going to succeed at this democratic experience, we will have to come together. Coming together does not mean agreement on everything. The art of comprise is part of the political process if it is employed correctly. Protest is also part of the rights and privileges of each and every citizen if it is directed at some reasonable objective. Protest for protest sake makes no sense at all. What many of the protesters must come to realize is that the fabric of their old belief in America as belonging to European Americans began to unravel once the Constitution became to law of the land. We are constantly reminded of our responsibilities as Americans every time we look at a coin that states “E Pluribus Unum.”
America is a land of diverse ethnic and immigrant populations who came together to share and enjoy the blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Part of our responsibility is to help protect these rights and privileges of and for each other. Biases, prejudices, and discrimination are all part of the human experience, but as Americans we can rise above these negative elements when we place concern for the betterment of our country above partisan, emotional, irrational and insensitive issues. Time limits on presidents and congressmen were established by the framers of the Constitution for the reason of addressing the people and the problems not to the liking of some citizens.
Regardless of the beliefs of some people, America never was a land given by God to European Americans nor is it a land that respects the rights of only some of its citizens. Too many Americans hold a restricted view of history and their implication in it. History is never static; it changes every time we learn something new about our past. Please protest if that will bring attention to the problems or concerns at hand; that is a right and privilege. However, hiding hatred, fear, and bigotry behind reasons for protest will eventually manifest itself, and expose the fools behind the masks.