The Arc of the Universe by Glenn Schuckers
I have heard some people say America is worse off now than at any time in history. While I admit that a lot of things are going wrong now, a little longer view of history will give a little perspective. Yes, there are shootings on an almost daily basis, and yes, people are saying bad things about each other, and the division in the country is terrible.
But about that division–we have to remember that about 160 years ago Americans were killing each other by the thousands. Ever hear of something called the Civil War? During the four years from 1861 to 1865, 620,000 Americans were killed on battlefields. But we survived as a nation.
Even as we think about all the terrible things that are being said, I found this quote in a book by Jon Meachum about feelings after that war: “ Hurrah! Old Abe Lincoln has been assassinated!” And “Could there have been a fitter death for such a man” (Lincoln). And a Texas newspaper editor wrote, “the assassination. . . (is) righteous retribution which descends direct (sic) from the hand of God.” Doesn’t sound like something folks would say about the sixteenth president.
Think that is just one example of what America has survived? Think back to the late 1960’s. There were race riots so bad that the mayors had to just turn off the lights. I can vividly recall driving into New York in 1968 when all the lights were turned off until I reached midtown.
And there was Vietnam. Students and a lot of adults were so opposed to that war that there was rioting in the streets, and four students were shot and killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University. Young men were moving to Canada to avoid being drafted.
And yet we survived.
A few people are talking about another secession as though “red” and “”blue” states cannot be part of the same nation. Think that’s something new? The first talk about secession was in New England in about 1800 when Jefferson was president. Seems that some people in Boston thought the southerners had too much power and that maybe New England should break away and form its own country.
And right in our own backyard in Pennsylvania when Washington was president a group of farmers did not want to pay a tax imposed by the federal government and it took the army to collect it.
And yet we survived.
We have survived far worse things than we are going through now. As much as it may hurt the egos of some of our self-centered politicians today, they do not even come close to being as popular as some from our past. Even after he was censured by his fellow senators, Joe McCarthy had about a 30% favorability rating. And despite being mocked by a lot of people, Huey Long was immensely popular, as was Charles Lindberg despite his favorable statements about the Nazis and Adolf Hitler.
No, despite what people like to say about how bad the state of affairs is in America today, we have been through much worse. We had tent towns for unemployed Americans called Hoovervilles, (named, obviously, for President Hoover), and we had veterans being attacked by the Army in Washington when they demonstrated to get the bonuses they had been promised.
Is the House and Senate almost hopelessly divided? Without a doubt it is, but the disagreements are nothing like what happened in the Senate leading up to the Civil War. Senator Charles Sumner made a speech in which he openly insulted two men with whom he disagreed. In retaliation, representative Preston Brooks went into the Senate chamber and attacked Sumner with a walking stick to the point where Sumner had to be hospitalized.
Today they only yell insults at each other and maybe yell out during a State of the Union speech.
Are we as a people divided? Nobody can deny that, but in the last presidential election one candidate got some seven million more votes than the other. Seven million does not sound like a really close election to me. If the difference had been two or three million it may have been close, but seven million?
Is there hope for the future? I believe there is. No matter what a small vocal minority wants us to believe, they are a small vocal minority and small vocal minorities do not determine where the country will go. I tend to agree with the leader Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
About one-hundred years passed between the end of the Civil War and passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, and during that time racial segregation persisted and even grew, but after those hundred years the goal of equality, while not fully reached, was closer to being realized. During those hundred years people were beaten and lynched, but ultimately justice won out.
I believe during my lifetime the “arc of the universe” will bend even more closely to justice because the American people do, in the long run, believe in justice, and although there may be detours along the way, we will always get a little closer to the “perfect union” envisioned by our Founders.