"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Abraham Lincoln uttered those words at the Republican State Convention in Springfield, Illinois on June 16, 1858. He was accepting the nomination of his party to run for the Senate. It was a radical speech for its time and perhaps led to Lincoln eventually becoming President. Based on Biblical scripture, it was a simple enough idea: dividing the nation over the idea of slavery would destroy both halves. Union, above all else, was paramount.
157 years later and as I read the speech, then look at the horrible deed done by the 21-year-old Charleston Terrorist, I must point out to Mr. Lincoln that, while a fine speech, it was wrong.
While true, that breaking apart the structure of a house causes damage, the damage can be repaired, if attention is put to the details. A home, otherwise wrecked, can be rebuilt stronger and sturdier for having been heinously damaged or even rent asunder. However, it does no good to reconnect a divided structure, where part of said structure festers with rot and decay.
THAT, is the Union we live in now. A "united" nation stitched together by iron and blood one hundred fifty years ago, that is still shot through with the fetid stink of racism and the rotting timbers of "heritage." The forcible re-connection of the Union seemed a good idea at the time, but recent events lead me to believe that reuniting a home so pervasively rotten simply allowed that disease to spread too far.
It was not enough to so vanquish the Confederacy as to make them feel the pain of their stubborn pride rattling deep in their bones. Crushing armies and torching cities could only leave physical scars that would be easily wiped away; those same crushed armies and burnt cities, would leave deep, resonant scars that simply mingled with that wounded pride, to make a people even more resistant to change. There would be no beating down the South. Absorbed back into the Union, the former Confederate States would not so quietly resume their status as Americans.
The Civil War may have reassembled the map of a nation and its political structure, but could not easily erase centuries of racism. Southerners were not predisposed to believe that Blacks were anything other than property, wrested from them by a pitiless, self-indulgent North. They might no longer have them as slaves, but Southerners would not automatically elevate Blacks to the level of persons. They would make their displeasure felt via the Klu Klux Klan, poll taxes, Jim Crow laws, lynching, and the destruction of Black churches. No loss of a war would tarnish the South to a degree that they would simply drop the matter.
So it goes.
In this day, we still live in a nation divided along lines thought erased those one hundred fifty years ago. The South is still a seething cauldron of hate, a spirit broken but unbowed by a "war of Northern Aggression" it still sees as a fundamental violation of the rights of States. No amount of progress in our world has tapped out the rich vein racism in the core of the former Confederacy. That vein continues to be mined, its products disseminated among the impressionable minds that know only poverty and blame their lot, not on a lack of industriousness or investment, but on Blacks - and other minorities - who seem to be "taking" all that is supposed to be theirs. The same self-indulgent ignorance is repeated as law in households far and wide, sowing the seeds of racism in a new generation.
Invariably, this leads to events like the Charleston Terrorist Shooting, where a young White man, inculcated in the ways and means of hate, takes it upon himself to single-handedly launch a new war, hoping to eliminate the Black race and magically restore the honor of the beatified Confederacy. He walks into a storied Black church, observes the love and tolerance shown there, and still allows the darkness of his soul to envelop the lives of nine innocent people.
This pervasive, systemic racism, this dark stain on the American nation is no longer allowable. It is no longer tolerable. It can no longer be allowed to lie furtively, striking at Black Americans with a singular will. Bigotry can no longer be coddled. We have left it to sink into the foundation of our once divided house, and now the whole house threatens to crumble. A house divided against itself cannot stand, but a house left un-maintained will as surely and as easily fall. We have let the maintenance go a hundred and fifty years and can no longer sit idly by and watch it crumble. It is time to pry up and cut away the rot.