I've been reading up on African-American history, which is an unmitigated sense of tragedies and ironies. Don't read up on it if you want to have your spirits uplifted---the story is not a particularly happy one.
Deciding to put my money where my mouth is, I've taken the opportunity to focus on Reconstruction. I have to say that I understand the frustration of those in that time who advanced a Pro-Republican, Pro-African-American perspective. Indeed, white racism contributed the demise of the movement, which had started out with such great promise. However, in saying this, let me also state that there are two sides to every conflict. As C. Vann Woodward noted, there is too much irony mixed in with the tragedy for anyone or any side to take full credit for its existence.
What I faced at a Unitarian Universalist youth conference five years ago was no exact facsimile of what transpired over a hundred years ago in the South. In reality, it was an over-reaching response that was rooted in good intentions. But good intentions are often the means by which the road to hell is paved and in this instance, I saw directly what can happen when militant, radical politics intersect with common sense. To wit, common sense does not always win out.
The impetus for my speaking out this morning was rooted in a desire for us to confront racism, classism, and discrimination directly, instead of resorting to glancing blows. Directly is the only way by which we will set these unfortunate flaws in humanity aside forever.
I experienced firsthand the drawbacks of affirmative action and an entitlement mentality for three days consecutively. Fostered by a group of radicals, I saw many of the fears of conservatives fully realized. But I know now this kind of excess is unlikely to occur in a more moderate setting; it is unlikely to occur being that we have experienced a great amount of pain and upheaval in the 1960s and 1970s over this very conflict. Being there for those stressful three days felt, in retrospect, like a return to the past, as though I was in some bizarre time warp.
We owe it to ourselves to not let our fringes define us. Moderate voices will keep us in power. We cannot begin to reframe the political landscape if we start from a radical approach first. The older I get, the less I see the appeal of radical politics and the more I understand the appeal of more moderate responses to fix our problems.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
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