Frederick Douglass – How to Protest?

by Frank Muller

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This missive has an ambitious goal to encourage us to listen to a 1-hour representation of one of the greatest speeches delivered in American history and there are few imminent scholars that would disagree with that opinion, I think.

In a world where we have turned victimhood into a self-identity, we have stripped away the dignity we should all cling to. The American Revolution and the founding of this great country ushered onto the world stage not a perfect country but a high and wonderful ideal that most around the world still dream of.

The idea of America is not to be polyynic and to dismiss or hide sins, no, the ideal of America is to create a system that can over time through those ideals make progress in that journey. The progress we have indeed made came through those ideals, not in spite of them, even though much more needs (and always will need) to be done.

The great heroes of our Republic like George Washington, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Theodore Roosevelt all sought to speak the Truth of our sins but never in a way that denigrates the idea of America. Today, sadly people dismiss the American ideals because we are not perfect. How sad when t last time, I checked there are no perfect people or countries anywhere.

However, I can think of no country whose ideals exceed that of America’s and the constant desire of hundreds of millions (or perhaps billions) of people who want to be in this great country, and they are attracted to America not because of her sins, but because of her ideals.

For those of us of Faith, we know and acknowledge that both laity and clerical of the Church are flawed and sinful people struggling like us all but the Church herself is pristine and holy because of her Truthful ideals and the Spirit that upholds them. It is those ideals that sustain the faithful for millennia and beyond.

Mr. Douglass, a former slave, makes a powerful and damning argument of the shortcomings of the American Republic in dealing with slavery. He calls out not just the legislature, judiciary and executive branches but he also calls out the Christian leaders of the land – especially Christian leaders he preaches alongside – who worked steadfastly to parse Scripture to support the practice of slavery.

However, Mr. Douglass returns again and again to the ideals of the country that he uses as a light on the hill to guide his listeners towards always working to place those ideals into practice. He does not hate America, nor do he is condemning its’ ideals. He instead has resolute faith that God will work His providence in the minds and the hearts of the people because of those ideals. It is because of our form of government and precisely because there is no other known better form of government on the planet that despite its’ imperfections represents the best great hope of earthly political institutions.

This in my mind is how we should protest! We call Americans to celebrate who we are about as a country and never to condemn any person but rather focus on objective truths in deciding right action. Mr. Douglass seeks peace, not anarchy. He seeks wisdom and does not insult. He seeks truth and not rationalizations and half-truths.

Policy differences are natural and normal, and the appropriate response is to always keep compromising on the small tactics that are headed in the right moral direction. Objective Truth is the direction, policy tactics are the great experimentation in trial and error that best leads to that Truth.

Is slavery a disordering of human affairs? Absolutely. This is an objective Truth. The path to ending any injustice is acknowledging the objective Truth and then through rugged persistence work to eliminate over time that injustice without committing more injustices in the process.

Slavery is an acute wrong and the people and its’ government should seek to end those wrongs in the right way. A country becomes great by governing towards forming people of great virtues, who know the objective moral Truths, understand our civic duties and institutions, and can think clearly and freely about difficult topics and not resort to tribalism and blaming as the method of civil discourse.

That discord of disunity is another objective evil and though used to assuage one form of evil it only creates more forms of evil as it splinters and consumes itself in self-righteous anger and hate. That is what Mr. Douglass understands; he wants slavery to end but to do so in a way that does not later continue to victimize people.

How then to protest? First, agree on what the moral law is. If we need a place to start, go to the Ten Commandments and study and read what they mean and why they are true. For some of the commandments most everyone will simply agree, and it is from there that constructive dialogue can begin on addressing those evils and the causes of those evils applicable to those moral laws people accept as true.

Through natural reasoning and/or divine revelation rational people can agree on many things that are good, moral and to be longed for. Forming people who come to know these laws and inculcate them as their own and in the case of America embed them into our founding documents that our people celebrate and defend, then we can go a long way towards making the world a better and better place in our brief time here as sojourners in a foreign land.

To the undiscovered country we all must travel. May Peace be with us all.

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3 thoughts on “Frederick Douglass – How to Protest?

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