“We must all hang together or surely we will all hang separately.”
This quote may well be apocryphal but the sentiment was true and likely felt by Franklin and all those who declared for independence in 1776, making themselves traitors to the Crown. Part of their staying together, however, was letting slide any action on slavery by the new government of the united colonies. A similar bargain happened again when the Constitution was written, and multiple times thereafter until the Civil War, compromise after compromise to preserve and extend slavery. After the Civil War, the early end to Reconstruction, its work hardly begun let alone finished, led to a century of overt social, political, and economic repression. The modern civil rights movement (1950s-1960s) brought about some political and social change–it did so through protests, legal and illegal, with huge sacrifices, beatings, jailings, lynchings, bombings–but it did little to undo past damage. Other than affirmative action plans, which like Reconstruction had a short life cycle, not much was done to level a steep playing field.
The point being that the “we” in Franklin’s quote and the “we” in the “We the people” was an exclusive we, and is not yet a fully inclusive we. If that is to truly and finally change we need to look at our past fully, all of our past, of all of our people. If we want to move forward together, we can’t protect divisions, inequalities, injustices, and become that more perfect union. We have made progress but it has been too slow, too incomplete, and we’ve tolerated enduring institutional racism and cultural racism and its impacts.
I am speaking for myself here and apologize for all who have endured a really tough weekend of non-stop news. But if that feels too much just think about your Black friends; for them, it has been a lifetime of stress, of grim news, of loss, of obstacle, of resistance. It runs back through generations. It is time to own our past and deal with it. If we do we will find plenty to celebrate in resistance to injustice, as we’ve found cause to celebrate in America’s founding and all our advances to a more a perfect union, and the spirit to do better and move forward together as an inclusive we that includes all Americans.
Read yesterday’s Thought. Thought of the Day (TOD) is selected by Rick Larios, Monday-Friday, minus public holidays and an arbitrarily chosen summer vacation. Saturday and Sunday, Stacey will be selecting TODs from the archives of past postings. Often, but not always, a comment comes with the quote. TOD originates as a personal email list-sharing and is further shared here with permission. A poem appears in full on Fridays; the copyright belongs to the poet and/or publisher. Buy poetry you like. It will be good for you, good for poets, and order from your local community bookstore and it will be good for them too.