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Don’t Look to Centralized Authority

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It was great that the federal government recognized Juneteenth.  I am empathetic to the debate about too many Federal holidays.  America is not France and we never want to be France.  Maybe we shouldn’t get one of the current days off and just have it recognized.  Perhaps not every recognized day needs a day off.

Juneteenth is an incredible teaching moment.  Why?

First of all, why were there slaves in the first place?  Because someone thought themselves so high and mighty, so much better, so much more intelligent, so more advanced in civilization they felt they had a “right” to forcibly capture someone and enslave them.  The ethos behind the organization of the Holocaust is similar but not exactly the same. We ought to recognize our human humility more.  Juneteenth is a lesson in that.

Can you think of institutions and people like that today?  If not, you should be able to tick off a few pretty quickly.  There is plenty of evidence.

The other thing Juneteenth ought to teach us is never to look for a centralized authority to guarantee our freedom.  The state governments of the South authorized slavery.  Even if they didn’t enshrine it in their governing documents and inherited it, they tolerated it.  They did nothing to stop it.   At the Federal level, there was debate but not the will to ensure the freedom of everyone.  Instead of taking the issue head-on, they tabled the matter for another day.  They made the conscious choice that independence from the King was of more immediate importance than independence for everyone.

Of course, less than 100 years later America fought the bloodiest war in our history to correct the “tabled matter”.  While the scars of that war have healed, the marks remain on America’s body today.

Without knowing the history, you cannot possibly understand the importance of Juneteenth. What happened after the war and the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1864?

President Lincoln, a Republican, moved quickly to re-unify the South to the rest of the United States.  He visited South Carolina and other places in the South.  They were doing a good job of repairing the damage that had been done the prior four years.  He was assassinated on April 14, 1865.  At the time, the North was dominated by Republicans and the South by Democrats.  Isn’t it interesting how it switched today?

His successor, President Andrew Johnson was a Democrat from Tennessee.  Lincoln selected him because he had a tough re-election fight in 1864.  It was politically expedient.  Johnson was a horrible President.  This is where the schism truly began in America that we have spent trillions of dollars to try and repair.

President US Grant succeeded Johnson.  Grant inherited a mess.  Grant was a Republican, and as general of the US Army during the war, integrated the Army and was a vocal advocate for the individual rights of every man.  Grant served two terms, and there were riots and insurrections all over the South.  The massacre in New Orleans is one data point.  Another would be the “Long Guns” prohibiting blacks from voting in the election of 1876.

A compromise was struck between the two warring political parties in 1876.  In return for giving the Presidency to Republican James Garfield, the federal government would remove all federal troops from the South.  The federal government would also let the southern states go their own way.  There were garrisons all over the South to enforce individual liberty so people wouldn’t be enslaved again.

This was the beginning of Jim Crow laws in the South.  Notice, Jim Crow was not an invention of any market-based theory, but a series and set of laws written and enforced by a centralized government.  Jim Crow was a clear and overt violation of the spirit of Juneteenth.

Jim Crow enforced segregation.  Jim Crow said certain people couldn’t own guns.  Jim Crow said that certain people couldn’t engage in certain activities.  Jim Crow said where you would go to school and what sort of education you would get.  Jim Crow said where you could live.  Jim Crow was enforced with tyrannical and violent force by both a centralized government and seemingly independent ad hoc organizations that took their cues from that centralized government.

There wasn’t just Jim Crow in the South.  There was a special kind of Jim Crow in the North too, it was just unspoken and sort of invisible.

Jim Crow existed in one form or another until at least 1964 when Republicans pushed and compromised with Democrats to bring the Civil Rights Act into existence.  Republican Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois was the primary force in the Senate.  We shouldn’t have needed a Civil Rights Act since we had the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.

Fast forward to today.

We see violence in our cities all across America.  We see the rights of individuals being trampled upon by both government and non-government institutions.  Private corporations seek to restrain us even further by limiting our speech and by deliberately biasing the information they spread.  America has become splintered into tribes and the central authorities seek to splinter us further.  Covid only broadened the power the government exerts over individuals.  Freedom is being crushed and restrained.

Of course, all this is being done in the spirit of “making us all equal”.  That was never the spirit of the Civil War or Juneteenth.  Juneteenth is about individual freedom and about having an “equal opportunity to pursue happiness”.  There is a big difference between being “made equal” by a centralized authority and having an “equal opportunity”.  The first can only be enforced at the tip of a spear.

All of a sudden we are being inundated with theories that seek to divide us even further.  Critical Race Theory (CRT) is one example and isn’t about teaching, it’s about vengeance.  Theories, stories, and programming reinforcing the themes of CRT only warp and bastardize the lessons we fought for and learned on Juneteenth.

We very much need to spread the news of Juneteenth and the meaning behind it.

The post Don’t Look to Centralized Authority first appeared on Points and Figures.


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