Sometimes just when you’re feeling up, tears come and take you by surprise.
As a happy Fourth of July greeting, my wife and I sent friends the link of The Texas Tenors singing “God Bless the USA.”
One friend texted this back:
“I watched it twice and still have tears streaming down my face,” she wrote. “It’s my all time favorite.”
Hers were tears of pride and happiness to be an American, as hearing the Lee Greenwood song always makes her feel, she wrote.
She went on to describe the grandeur of New Mexico’s landscape that she and her husband were enjoying on a road trip.
Then she returned to the subject of the “God Bless the USA” video.
“If enough Americans listen to the words, maybe they will stand up to this insanity of rioting and tearing down statues and bring our nation back,” she wrote.
I texted back: “Same damned thing with me. Tears. Get them hearing, “God Bless America,” “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “America the Beautiful.”
I hit send and put my phone down.
Then I gazed at the family-room fireplace as these thoughts drifted across my frontal lobe. As a kid, later as a grownup and now as a grandfather, I’m moved to tears by almost anything patriotic, if it’s done reasonably well.
I know full-well patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels and that wrapping yourself in the flag was and is the scoundrel politician’s refuge of choice.
My tears, I don’t think, flow from chauvinism, ethnocentrism or ignorance of our republic’s shortcomings, historically and now.
I think it’s a genuine appreciation that as a fortunate accident of birth, I was plopped down in the one land on the planet that is still in the midst of the greatest experiment to date in representative democracy.
The one nation, founded and still functioning on a recognition of the majority’s potential for tyranny over the minority — the filibuster rule in the Senate, the two-thirds vote to override a presidential veto, and the many checks and balances.
Checks on what?
Mainly on the dark but real tendencies in human nature.
Amazingly, none of the founders of our republic would have trusted themselves with absolute power in the new republic or in any government apparatus anywhere.
I’m tempted to write just what you think is traditional and appropriate at this point in a holiday rumination like this. Something like, “Let us resolve to do our part to keep the Republic the founding fathers bequeathed us.”
But if I don’t offer a practicable strategy accompanied by proposals for effective tactics, it’s all words that please the ear but don’t get the job done.
The job is saving America from those who hate what they wrongly construe as America’s core.
America is not systemically racist.
Faster than any other society in history, we went from slavery, the extreme form of legal racial discrimination to affirmative action, a form of reverse discrimination.
A mere 77 years after the ratification of our constitution in 1788, we amended that constitution to ban all slavery everywhere in the Republic. That was in 1865 and at the cost in lives of 360,222 Union soldiers, mostly Caucasian.
In a 99-year span, we traveled the equivalent of 99 light years, as profound changes in nations go.
We started as a Republic half slave, half free, but with the free part often and vilely discriminatory toward people with roots in Africa.
We went from the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865 to passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
The new law banned discrimination in employment and in public places, something the father of a 20-something Antifa, BLM statue destroyer never experienced.
The 1964 act also banned segregation in public schools and other public facilities, something both that same father and son never experienced.
We marched from a nation in which some people owned other people to one outlawing slavery, but allowing separate and unequal treatment.
And we trudged from there to affirmative action (originally to help Americans with African roots achieve equal opportunity).
Too many intended beneficiaries couldn’t measure up to the unrealistic expectations set for then. So we moved to affirmative action to promote the less qualified over the more qualified. We added ethnicity points to test scores. Redesigned tests. Did away with tests.
That tore a gaping hole in our meritocracy, the prized aspect of the founders’ new republic.
Affirmative action as proposed would require businesses and colleges simply to actively recruit young people of African heritage to apply for jobs or admittance.
It would limit acceptance to merit, or so liberal Democratic icon Hubert H. Humphrey promised at the time.
He acknowledged that to do otherwise would be unfair to people of European and Asian origin.
Mr. Humphrey, Lyndon B. Johnson’s vice president, swore his party would not sneak such unfairness into American life once business and higher education embraced affirmative action.
He was wrong and he knew it when he said it, as did practically everyone else in the country.
That’s the do-good-that-does-bad, matter-antimatter, light-dark side of human nature. It’s the first-cause of our present situation.
The whole of sub-Sahara Africa has actually regressed badly when it comes to slavery. In 2018, sub-Sahara Africa had the world’s highest rate of slavery.
Sub-Sahara Africa in its entire history has contributed to humankind almost nothing in the way of science or inventions.
What explains the success of people whose origins were there but who are here, breathing the air of meritocracy?
Americans of African heritage flourish here as scientists, surgeons, entrepreneurs, economists and intellectuals because a system that rewards merit rewards all who have merit, regardless of national origin.
It’s not just how good your brain is; it’s whether the surrounding air allows it to fulfill its potential.
But not every brain, whether of African, European or Asian extraction, is up to astrophysics or biochemistry or rocket science.
As a society, we did not prepare all our members to have realistic expectations. We didn’t even understand the implications of rising expectations.
For whatever reasons — hard data are, well, hard to come by — it seems that a p smaller percentage of Americans of African descent flourish in business, the professions, and sciences than Americans of Asian origin.
And a bigger percentage of those of Asian heritage in turn attain a higher education level and higher representation in the sciences and professions than Americans of European extraction.
Young Caucasians from elite universities do not encourage young Americans of Asian ethnicity to kill people, burn buildings, loot stores and tear down statues.
Americans of Asian origin do not on their own initiative peacefully or violently protest elite universities’ limiting acceptance of applicants of Asian ethnicity. They file lawsuits instead.
It has come to a point that inaction against mobocracy by some of our governors, mayors and city councils is encouraging even more destructive expectations to rise and to do so violently.
Police without guns. Cities without police. Defecation in the streets. Murder and mayhem without punishment. Mob rule.
The tears my friend, my wife and I shed on hearing a rendition of “God Bless the USA” were not only an expression of joy for the land we love.
The tears this 4th of July are out of a fear that unless bold leaders with solid strategies and practicable tactics steps forward, we won’t be able to keep that Republic after all, Mr. Franklin.