• 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

Memorial Day, 2021

… that these dead shall not have died in vain. 
~ Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg.

In my first freedom essay — written on the Thanksgiving following 9/11 — I expressed thanks for a civil body politic, a legacy of the 1620 Mayflower Compact.

On January 6, 2021 the world saw America’s civil body politic under attack as it has not been since Lincoln spoke those words at Gettysburg nearly 160 years ago. … that these dead shall not have died in vain. 

The violent January 6 insurrection was the outcome of the Big Lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, that the election had been stolen through massive fraud. Notwithstanding multiple recounts throughout the country, more than 50 lawsuits that were rejected by judges appointed by Republicans and Democrats, the conclusion of Trump’s own Justice Department and CISA (the Government Agency charged with ensuring the security of the election), and despite the fact that the only evidence of fraud has been individual fraud committed by Republicans … despite the absence of anything close to credible evidence of any significant organized fraud … a violent mob of several thousand Trump supporters stormed the Capital on January 6, many shouting “Hang Mike Pence,” in a treasonous attempt to subvert the will of the American people.

While the specifics of January 6 center on the Big Lie, the roots of January 6 go much deeper. The roots extend to that place that says we are not all created politically equal; for does not political equality require that the losers in an election accept the results of that election? Isn’t the alternative, the insurrectionists’ actions in storming the capital in their attempted coup d’etat not clear evidence that they believe they are more equal than the rest of us, that they — not we the people — get to decide who will be President? And is that not equally true of the people who incited them to storm the capital that day? Are not their actions a clear demonstration that they do not believe America’s creed?

* * * * *

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
~ Edmund Burke

On Friday, May 28, following the lead of the former President and Senator Mitch McConnell, 35 Republican Senators voted against a bill to establish a bipartisan independent commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection. An additional 9 Republicans did not vote. A majority of Republicans in the House — 175 — also voted against the bill.

At the risk of sounding a little cynical, let me point out that these are the same Republicans who routinely say Blue Lives Matter whenever anyone suggests that America might be a better place for all our citizens if we made it a point that Black lives also matter. The three Blue Lives who died as a result of the insurrection apparently don’t fit into their calculus.

The bill to establish an Independent January 6 Commission had been negotiated in the House. Republican leader Kevin McCarthy had asked for — and received – (i) equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats on the Commission, (ii) both parties having full subpoena rights, and (iii) delivery of the Commission’s report by the end of 2021 so as not to interfere with the 2022 mid-term elections. What could be fairer than this? Does this agreement not shout out that we are all equal?

And yet, after the former President announced he was opposed to any investigation of the January 6 insurrection, House Republicans changed their minds. With Trump’s opposition came Kevin McCarthy’s opposition to the bill he had helped write. And when the bill got to the Senate, Mitch McConnell not only opposed the bill, but he also reportedly asked Republican Senators to do him a “personal favor” by voting against the bill.

This is the same Mitch McConnell who said in February “Former President Trump’s actions that preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty. Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.” I’ll leave it to you to decide what to make of McConnell’s behavior but where I was raised such duplicity is the height of hypocrisy.

The January 6 insurrection is an evil on the body politic. The responsibility of lawmakers in both the House and Senate to investigate it is clear.

These lawmakers have all sworn a sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution. This means their responsibility is to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

How are we to form that more perfect union and do these other things if we can’t even come together to investigate the most violent attack on a civil body politic since the Civil War?

If these were good men, they would not do nothing.

* * * * *

In the nearly 20 years I have been writing these essays I have struggled to keep from framing our differences in “we – they” terms. I have tried to honor the Golden Rule which I see as the source of the Declaration’s sacred words that we are all created equal. I have advocated for reaching across the aisle, remembering Lincoln’s words that “we are not enemies but friends,” that “if you want to win a man to your cause, first be his friend.”  

And yet, by their words and their actions, the Trump-led Republican Party is saying they have no interest in being friends. They have not only voted against an investigation of the insurrection, they have made it clear they have little interest in working cooperatively with President Biden in meeting America’s many challenges. Where we need to build bridges, they seem interested only in building walls.

I have seen this disdain for the rule of law and a civil body politic before, this contempt for the proposition that we are all created equal. I saw it when Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in a schoolhouse doorway saying “Segregation forever.” I saw it on the Edmund Pettus Bridge at Selma, I saw it in a bombed Black church in Montgomery. And — in behavior that portends McConnell’s refusal to work with Biden to co-creatively craft win-win-win-win solutions to our many challenges — I saw it in the lose-lose behavior of too many Whites who in the 1960s chose to close municipal swimming pools rather than open them to Blacks.

I saw this contempt for America’s creed in the hateful chants of the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists in Charlottesville, “Jews will not replace us.” I saw it in the dog-whistle politics of Richard Nixon and the segregationists of my youth. The roots of insurrection stretch back through Jim Crow and lynchings and the Tulsa massacre and the KKK all the way back to Gettysburg, to the Lost Cause.

* * * * *

America’s challenges go far beyond coming to grips with the January 6 insurrection. We need Congress and the Administration to collaborate on ensuring America has a job-creating economy that can thrive in a 21st century global economy. We need leadership on COVID, climate change, cybersecurity and privacy, law enforcement, racial justice, voting rights, gun violence, responsibilities of social media companies, our aging population, the impact of robotics and AI on work … the list goes on.

And we need this leadership while our enemies … Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea … are using social media to sow discord, making it increasingly more difficult for us to politically resolve our challenges.

How we meet our challenges will determine if we are to continue to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. And our circumstances are such that we must meet these challenges without the cooperation of the current Trump-led Republican Party.

The danger to the Republic is greater than it has been in 160 years. Our responsibilities to those who have come before and those who will follow weigh heavy on our shoulders … that these dead shall not have died in vain.

And yet in the danger, in the chaos, lies opportunity … opportunity to take us to that next plateau on our journey towards ever-more perfect union.

The opportunity — like it has been since the first Continental Congress— lies in union. The time is ripe for those of us who believe in government of the people, by the people, and for the people to unite in a new American coalition. I never imagined supporting Liz Cheney, yet I recently sent her an email thanking her for her courage. We are at our best when everyone has a seat at the table. And we are fighting an evil that wants to steal our table.

Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We … will be remembered in spite of ourselves. … The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.
~ Abraham Lincoln

Let Freedom Ring.

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  1. Rick Shapiro (Ridlow) says

    Well said, Stan.

  2. david marlin says

    You’ve said it all eloquently.


  3. Peter Berk says

    I enjoy these comments, coming from an American of broad perspective, immensely. It is hard to believe, and stomach, that compromise and unity are pivotal to our chance for success as a nation with liberty and justice for all.
    No one is ever ALWAYS correct. Few are always wrong, though acting as though one is superior to all others leads down a road in which wrong decisions are made, both knowingly and inadvertently.
    Doesn’t it make sense to embrace rather than automatically push away a person, or ideas to improve our lives, environments, government, regulations…, simply because it comes from someone else, from another state, country, universe?
    I am wearied (and worried) by the confrontational nature of significant elements in the country. I fear another uprising, similar to, though broader then, January 6. I’m not sure it can be avoided unless those who (must) know better don’t actually ACT better and in good faith.
    May freedom ring.

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