90 Miles From Tyranny : America is about so much more than 1619

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

America is about so much more than 1619

The speech of the year in 1984 was an address to Republican Convention. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane J. Kirkpatrick brought the crowd to its feet many times over with her repeated litany that when anything went wrong anywhere in the world or the country, the instinctive response of the American Left, and indeed the Left anywhere, was to "blame America first."

Their aim was not to acknowledge the nation's flaws, but to hold up those flaws as the whole of the matter, as if the flaws had been all that there ever was. Because it was lost, Vietnam was the one war that mattered. Because they were wrong, segregation and slavery were the two things that defined the whole country, and still define it now that they’re gone.

Having failed to prove that the country was sick because the president had sold out to Russia, the New York Times has gone back to that oldest of wells to say that the country is still doomed by segregation and slavery. Neither the Civil War nor the civil rights movement had any effect. America is really all about slavery, and its real founding was not 1787, when delegates signed the Constitution, but 1619, when the first slave ship arrived on the coast of Virginia.

Of course, in 1619, as "the country" consisted of two tiny outposts on the coast. But out of that seed grew the malevolent plant, which would soon threaten everything — the contradiction between Thomas Jefferson’s words that "all men are created equal" and "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," and the harsh fact that he, in his long life, literally owned hundreds of people with no rights at all.

This conflict between Jefferson’s life and his own aspirations would force his country to re-found itself many times over. This included the 1860’s, when it ended slavery, and one hundred years later, when segregation was ended. Each alteration brought the United States closer to his aspirations.

The Times acts as if the ill-fated landing in 1619 was an event that froze everything. In fact, it was only a series of many ongoing adjustments, which may not yet have run out their course.

None of founders who left Philadelphia in 1787, when the Constitutional Convention had ended, had any illusions that their problems were settled. The Times doesn't say that abolitionist movements existed almost as long as did slavery; that Washington said that if the Union broke up over slavery he would leave Virginia and side with the North; that Jefferson called slavery "a fire-bell in the...

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