• We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately. -Benjamin Franklin, Freedom Fighter

  • We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. -Martin Luther King, Jr., Freedom Fighter

  • Let us be cautious in making assertions and critical in examining them, but tolerant in permitting linguistic forms. -Rudolf Carnap, Philosopher

  • A clash of doctrines is not a disaster—it is an opportunity. -Alfred North Whitehead, Philosopher

  • If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet

  • Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. -Rumi, Mystic

  • If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things. – Rene Descartes, Philosopher

  • A house divided against itself cannot stand. -Abraham Lincoln, President

  • Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein, Scientist

  • Be the change you want to see in the world. -Mahatma Gandhi, Freedom Fighter

Martin Luther King Day, 2019

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Two weeks ago, King’s dream of a day when all of us would be judged by the content of our character, not the color of our skin, was once again put to the test as the Republican Party in Tarrant County, TX, voted on a motion to expel its vice-chairman for being Muslim.

Opponents to the county vice chairman, Shahid Shafi, a trauma surgeon, sought to remove Dr. Shafi because of his Muslim religion and after unsubstantiated allegations that he favored Sharia law and had ties to terrorists. [1]

That Americans anywhere would consider expelling someone from a political position because of his religion, metaphorically the “color of his skin,” 56 years after King’s I Have a Dream speech—232 years after the founders explicitly rejected religious tests for national public office—is but one more illustration that we still live in a nation where, for too many, character counts less than color.

Should another example be needed, consider Representative Steve King’s offensive remarks about White Supremacy. This is the same man who, in 2013, explained why he opposes legal status for Dreamers who were brought into the country as children: For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.

And, of course, there are the continued statements—and policies—of the President. Mr. Trump continues to be—at the very least—racially tone-deaf. Throughout his career, he has emboldened the voices of bigotry and hate.

But the story is deeper.

When put to the test, the county Republican Party overwhelmingly rejected Dr. Shafi’s recall. The vote to expel Dr. Shafi wasn’t even close as nearly 75% of the 188 county Republican officials voted for character over color.

When put to the test, several prominent Texas Republicans including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, also supported Shafi. As news of the motion to remove Shafi garnered national attention, the state GOP executive committee passed a non-discrimination resolution that affirms and supports “all Americans’ right to practice their religion … and recognizes the contributions of Republicans of every faith who advance conservative policies and ideals.”

When put to the test, Republicans also overwhelmingly condemned Representative King’s remarks. The Republican House Leadership removed him from committee assignments. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. said that “There is no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind … I have no tolerance for such positions and those who espouse these views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms.

The Democratic Party’s tolerance for bigotry and racism is being tested, as well. The Women’s March has issued a series of statements denouncing anti-Semitism, apologizing for its delayed response to Women’s March co-president Tamika Mallory’s public praise of Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, who is widely reviled for anti-Semitic speeches. In response to the failure of the March organizers to more significantly condemn Ms. Mallory’s praise of Farrakhan, several prominent supporters of the March bowed out this year, including the Democratic National Committee and several 2020 Presidential prospects.

What we might hope is happening is that the Republican and Democratic Parties—in response to the forces of hate being unleashed by the President’s own racism—are being forced to denounce hate-mongers, like Steve King and Louis Farrakhan, in their midst.

Talk is cheap, of course. Particularly from politicians. What matters here isn’t the position they are taking but that they are being forced to take a position. The overtly racist opinions of people like Steve King on the right and Louis Farrakhan on the left are forcing the Parties, particularly the Republicans, to take a position against racism.

And as society’s fracturing is unleashing public displays of racism and bigotry that would have remained below the surface in the past, a significant majority of Americans are saying “No. This is not who we are. This is not what America is.”

The emergence of the Niskanen Center illustrates the ongoing realignment of the Republican Party and, with it, the opportunity to enlist new allies in the struggle against racism. Founded in early 2015 by former staffers of the libertarian Cato Institute in large part over policy matters related to climate change, the Center works to promote an open society … a social order that is open to political, cultural, and social change … open to the poor and marginalized … open to different beliefs and cultures.

Which brings us back to Martin Luther King, Jr and the dream of an America where character —not color—counts.

Even as we see increasing incidents of ugly brutal racism, we also see America taking a firm stand that we judge each other on character, not color.

We see it in America’s response to the anti-Muslim Republicans of Tarrant County. We see it in the Republican Party’s rebuke of Steve King. We see it in the struggles of the Women’s March over Louis Farrakhan. And we see it in the emergence of conservative think tanks, like the Niskanen Center, which recognizes that the Blessings of Liberty require social justice.

We see it also in the results of the recent National election and the election of so many people who have been historically marginalized.

The struggle, of course, is far from over. But with the splintering of the Parties over racism, particularly the Republican Party, there is now a unique once-in-a-generation opportunity to bend the arc of the universe a bit more towards justice.

And how are we to do take advantage of this opportunity? As Martin Luther King, Jr. said: I have decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems.

Let Freedom Ring.

[1] Dr. Shafi was one of several Pakistani Muslim Doctors profiled in the docudrama Hidden Angels.

Copyright © 2019. Stan Stahl, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to republish this essay provided the essay is reproduced unedited and in its entirety, its source is identified as The Agnostic Patriot at www.agnosticpatriot.org, and this copyright NOTICE is included.


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