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Barb Wire

In Baltimore’s Riots is America’s Union Once Again at Issue?


In January, 1987 Clarence Burns became the first black mayor in the history of Baltimore. Since that time the city has had four mayors, all of them Democrats, two of them women, and all but one of them Black. That’s just over 20 years of black leadership over the last 28 years. As for Party, the city hasn’t seen a Republican mayor since Theodore McKeldin in 1963. Yet, as Walter Williams points out in Liberty versus the Tyranny of socialism (p.314) “For many blacks their plight is worse in the very cities where blacks have been mayors, city councilmen, chief of police or superintendent of schools- cities such as Washington, D.C,, Detroit, Newark, and Baltimore.”

All these facts may explain why news reporting about the eruption of violence in Baltimore hasn’t mentioned the race of the police officers whose possible malfeasance resulted in Freddie Gray’s death. However, in order slyly to frame events in racial terms reports never fail to mention that white officers were involved in the death of Michael Brown. I’m sure some would justify that editorial judgment, saying that the color difference only matters when the issue is race. The truth is, however, that in Baltimore color isn’t mentioned because the facts might undermine the whole aim of the media’s propaganda, which is to make race the issue in order to divide and intimidate Americans of good will, who might otherwise react to the core issues of government administration, without regard to race.

Or worse still for the elitist faction propagandists, they might react by raising such issues in racial terms. They might wonder aloud whether it is merely coincidence that, under the leadership of the man elected as “the first Black American President” the nation has declined in economic terms and in terms of social cohesion and international respect.

They might wonder aloud whether it is merely coincidence that episodes of supposedly race-based unrest fit the paradigm of creatively destructive crises celebrated in Obama’s socialist background as ideal opportunities for consolidating dictatorial power.

They might question the wisdom, and suspect the motivation of people who insist on defining issues that involve respect for fundamental and unalienable human rights and dignity in terms that instead offer excuses for replacing state and local self-government with increasingly totalitarian central control.

The question of what happened to Freddie Gray is first and foremost an issue of justice for an individual human being. In addition to legal and political processes and contacts, non-violent public demonstrations may be needed to make sure that issue is addressed. But riotous acts supersede and distract from it. They make it more difficult and unlikely that simple justice will be served. The individual’s death becomes fodder in a struggle for power in which demands for justice are simply ammunition.

This is, of course, exactly how socialist ideologues look upon individual human beings. Socialism is about impersonal “forces of history”, not God-endowed, uniquely created human persons. Individualism dissolves into the wave of history, only taking distinctive shape again in the dictatorial personalities who signify its leading edge.

Would people really concerned about justice for Freddie Gray turn peaceful demonstrations into an excuse to make “free speech” the occasion for acts destructive of their own community? No, they would direct all their energies toward ascertaining and adjudicating the facts; clearly determining and articulating the standards of law and justice that must be applied to those facts, and making sure that those responsible for any wrongdoing are identified, held accountable and punished.

In the meantime, the proper response to people seeking with violence to exploit an individual’s death, and the painful grief of the family and community that mourns it, is to rebuke their callousness and take action to make it clear that perpetrators of destructive violence will be arrested and held for punishment, according to law.

Every year Americans are invited to celebrate the life and influence of Martin Luther King, Jr., as an emblem of respect for the Black community’s historic contribution our nation’s advance toward greater “liberty and justice for all.” King’s greatest achievement in the course of helping to shape that contribution lay not only in his ringing and repeated call for justice and equity, but in the difficult way he chose to carry it out. He took to heart the fact that the wicked thirst for power and control slakes itself by demagogic strategies that turn people united in their passion for justice into combustible fuel primed to explode with violence.

On account of his Christian faith, King had eyes to see the spiritual destruction such demagoguery implies for the very people whose love for justice opens their way to saving grace, for themselves and their community. Therefore, the first sign of courage he asked from them was the discipline to walk humbly, even in the face of depraved violence. The non-violence he instructed was not just a tactic, but a nationally redemptive way of life.

These days depraved elitist faction leaders want us to forget that that preference for non-violence in the pursuit of justice is also the true ideal of the American way. For all the violence of America’s life in the days of its wild frontiers, people always understood and sought after that ideal. Even when they looked back upon the war that led to America’s independence as a nation, what they emphasized was not the violence of battle, but the Declaration of right, rights and a justly delimited government of laws, for the sake of which all the horror of war was endured.

The man Black Americans long revered as the “Great Emancipator” is decried by some, to this day, because he accepted war rather than surrender the premises of equality and right set forth in that Declaration. But he had the wisdom to make clear that the cause of the war was more than the end of slavery. It was to serve and vindicate the truth that the basis of America’s union, its identity as one people, was “firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.”

On this account, the grotesque fields of blood, strewn with death, were lifted into hallowed ground. On this account the suffering of families burdened and broken, and communities divided and destroyed could produce from a holocaust of pain a whole people, no longer falsely divided slave and free, but one nation, under God, undivided in its ultimate commitment to justice for all.

Though many refuse to admit it, the American people are already into the first courses of a new civil war. This time it is not about the wound inflicted by an injustice that defies our ground of unity. It about whether we shall continue to stand upon that ground, which is an understanding of justice that transcends human will and power. In this war, one side calls upon the Creator, God. The other evokes no god but History: i.e., the heartless progression of events determined in the end by raw, material power, where justice is the good of the stronger, and no injustice is acknowledged but in the complaints of those too weak and powerless to impose their will.

Baltimore is ablaze with riotous violence, as it was in early courses of the last Civil War. This time, too, that violence may come, on demand, from those who hate the premises of America’s Declaration of right, rights and justly delimited government. Others will twist Baltimore’s present smoldering this way and that to serve their stupid, selfish ambitions. But the true diagnosis of its plight lies beyond political parties, or factional ambition and racial manipulation.

Baltimore suffers, as it did before, from the breaking heart of our nation. There is no healing for it but to remember that we are supposed to be a nation righteously seeking justice in accord with God-endowed right- and trying, despite all our selfish passions and deficiencies, to do the right thing in the right way. This is our calling when it comes to individuals, made in God’s image, like Freddie Gray. But it is also our calling for the sake of for the whole community, the whole race of human beings. Does that union of humanity still persist, in our heart’s imagination? Does it still shape our good will toward one another, which is to uplift people, as individuals and as a whole, toward the hopeful destiny informed by God’s first intention for us all?


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