Shelly Aldean: ‘Then they came for me’

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(This article was inspired by a recent email exchange with a dear friend of mine)

As we watch violent protests occurring on the streets of major American cities, the legitimate grievances of peaceful protestors are now being overshadowed by an all-out assault on our American values by anarchists determined to overthrow, or seriously injure, our institutions.

When protestors began destroying Confederates statues, there was little resistance because few people respect or idolize the actions of the Confederacy but now their ire is focused on monuments honoring Abraham Lincoln, who emancipated the slaves and was assassinated for his efforts, and Ulysses S. Grant who led the fight against the South (the slave he “owned” was given to his wife by his father-in-law and was set free by Grant shortly thereafter).

On June 24, rioters in Madison, Wisconsin tore down and beheaded a statue of Hans Christian Heg, an immigrant, early prison reformer and a leader of the abolition movement. These are the acts of a mindless mob (many of them white) that is ignorant of history.

In another indiscriminate act of violence, rioters physically assaulted a local state senator who is both a Democrat and gay sending him to the hospital. Is this the America we want to live in?

The complacency being displayed by some Americans about current events is, in some ways, reminiscent of the lax attitude of many Germans when Adolf Hitler first rose to power in the early 1930s. A poem by Martin Niemoller, a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who initially supported Adolf Hitler, is illustrative of the danger of remaining silent.

Niemoller failed to speak up when Hitler began systematically eliminating his political opponents because he was not personally affected. He concluded his poetic “confession” by lamenting that “Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

In 1937, Niemoller was arrested and sent to a concentration camp only to be freed in 1945 by Allied forces. While we need to recognize our failings as a nation and work to correct legitimate injustices, we should not be reluctant to celebrate our strengths, after all, we did help save the world from fascism.

In an interesting Washington Examiner article written by Robert Woodson a black American author, former activist, and the “godfather” of community empowerment programs in African American communities, he recounts the many successes of African Americans in this country despite periods of oppression (e.g. the black entrepreneurial enclave in the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma).

Even during the era of legislative segregation and discrimination, Woodson asserts that “blacks tapped an entrepreneurial legacy to launch thriving enterprises.”

In fact, the black business district of Durham, North Carolina was commonly known as “Black Wall Street.” Woodson concludes that “This spectrum of achievement is a powerful refutation of the claim that the destiny of black Americans is determined by what whites do or what they have done in the past.”

While others are threatening to tear down remembrances of our Founders, Woodson is praising them for their vision.

“Though slavery and discrimination are undeniably a tragic part of our nation’s history, we have made great strides along its long and tortuous journey to realize its promise and abide by its founding principles.”

Shelly Aldean is a Carson City resident.


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