The Souls of All Folks

Although receiving considerable reproach for peaceful protest, our fellow Americans are attempting to initiate a discussion; to draw attention to matters they feel need discourse, both socially and politically.

Using inherent rights to draw attention to injustices is a founding principle of America. It is what Americans abroad are fighting to defend.

It is quite literally what America stands for and why she exists.

The deliberation of the appropriateness of these protests is ludicrous, but not nearly as unreasonable as the necessity of their occurrence.

America is, for millions of people, a nation of deliverance from the injustices; not only of the British, but of despotic governments, economic hardships, social prejudice, and so much more. 

Her values are attractive-life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-and her principles strong; that all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights. 

Our fathers presumed to differ from their tyrannical government in respect to the wisdom and the justice of burdens and restraints. They went so far as to pronounce the measures of government unjust, unreasonable, and oppressive, and altogether such as ought not to be quietly submitted to.

Feeling themselves harshly and unjustly treated by their government, our fathers, like men of honesty, and men of spirit, earnestly sought redress. They petitioned and remonstrated; they did so in a decorous, respectful, and loyal manner. They saw themselves treated with sovereign indifference, coldness and scorn. Yet they persevered. They were not the men to look back.

But, with that blindness which seems to be the unvarying characteristic of tyrants, since Pharaoh and his hosts were drowned in the Red Sea, the British Government persisted in the exactions.

Oppression makes a wise man angry. Our fathers were wise men; they felt themselves the victims of grievous wrongs, wholly incurable in their colonial capacity.

With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression.

Our fathers made good that Declaration of Independence. They succeeded; and today we reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is ours.

The principles contained in that Declaration are saving principles, practiced in America as in no place else on earth.

Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.

It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men, in unity for a cause so important. These were statesmen, patriots and heroes who believed in freedom, justice, and equality.

They loved their country better than their own private interests; all will concede that this is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect.

Today, men and women strive to live in the example of these great men.

Individuals, citizens, and patriots; Americans leave their homes behind to stand for freedom, both at home and abroad. Fighting for the same principles our forefathers set out to protect.

Fully appreciating the hardship to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of our cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest our sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility we have assumed, wisely measuring the terrible odds against us, and acting as our forefathers who, before us, founded this republic under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, America stands as a pillar of freedom, democracy, and the equality of all her citizens—all Americans stand thusly representing the principles for which this great nation stands.

We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and to the future.

Now is the time, the important time.

Our fathers have lived, died, and have done their work, and have done much of it well. Yet we would do well to remember that men seldom eulogize the wisdom and virtues of their fathers but to excuse some folly or wickedness of their own.

This truth is not a doubtful one.

It was fashionable, hundreds of years ago, for the children of Jacob to boast, ‘we have Abraham as our father,’ when they had long lost Abraham’s faith and spirit. That people contented themselves under the shadow of Abraham’s great name, while they repudiated the deeds which made his name great.

Need I remind you that a similar thing is being done all over this country today?

Are the great principles of freedom and of natural equality, embodied in that Declaration of Independence extended to all the citizens of these great United States or is there a sad sense of the disparity between us?

Our fathers have fought and died defending the equality of man and yet, we have entered a period of inequality. A time where separation is deemed fashionable.

We have not progressed so far as to live beyond a time of us and them.

A modern America should be a land of ‘we.’ That we have not yet achieved this renders all of our wars and declarations meaningless.

The divisions within our country are apparent. No man could argue that our current society unprejudiced.

We have made no progress in this matter. We, as a nation, are more divided than ever. Much of the good preformed by civil rights leaders has been undone. As a nation, we flirt with civil unrest, we court division, we seduce violence, and we seek hatred. 

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? That every man is created equally? We have already declared it so. God has declared it before man.

How, then, should we look today in the presence of Americans, dividing, and subdividing a people to show that some men belong in a collection entitled something other than man or American?

There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven, that does not know that all men are inherently equal. That our race is one of mankind and not of petty, superficial prejudices.  We must, therefore, acknowledge that the consequence of formulating divisions is the detriment of mankind.

O! had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, today, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.

The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

But a still more inhuman, disgraceful, and scandalous state of things remains to be presented.

Many are the leaders of this nation who preach division.

It is not that pure and undefiled constitution which our fathers put forth and which brave men and women defend. It is a declaration which sets the rich against the poor; which exalts one color above another; which divides mankind into classes, races, creeds, and sexes. It pits us against them. It encourages men to look down on their fellow men.

The American institutions of policy, media, and leadership are guilty, when viewed in connection with what they are doing to uphold this divisiveness; but they are superlatively guilty when viewed in connection with their ability to end it.

The sin of which it is guilty is one of omission as well as of commission.

Let the press, the pulpit, and the politicians of the land array their immense powers against division; and that they do not do this involves them in the most awful responsibility of which the mind can conceive.

My spirit wearies of such blasphemy; and how men can be supported, as “leaders” and “representatives,” is a mystery to which I have no answer.

In speaking of the institution of America, however, let it be distinctly understood that all peoples of this great land share such blame. Just as a Church is made of the congregation and not merely the minister, so too is this land built of men and not politicians.  

These divisions which we create fetter our progress; they are the enemy of improvement, the deadly foe of education; they foster pride; they breed insolence; they promote vice; they shelter crime; they are a curse to the earth that supports them; and yet, we cling to them, as if they were the of all our hopes. 

Remember, Americans, the words of your forefathers—unite or die.

Oh! be warned! be warned! a horrible reptile is coiled up in our nation’s bosom; the venomous creature is nursing at the tender breast of our youthful republic; for the love of God, tear away, and fling from us the hideous monster, and destroy it forever!

Despite this grim picture of our nation, I do not despair for this country. The injustices these players protest, the police shootings we read about, the disparaging comments we hear—all of these problems can be eradicated. Abrasive rhetoric, pious opinions, and division will not help get us there.

There is great hope in this and this only; that we may be the force which must inevitably work to the unification of us and them into we. The destiny of man is to unite.

After all, united we stand and divided we fall.

H/T: Frederick Douglass for the block quotes.