Renewing the American Spirit

Patriot Week begins on 9/11 and ends on 9/17 (the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution (Constitution Day)) and renews America’s spirit by celebrating the First Principles, Founding Fathers and other Patriots, vital documents and speeches, and flags that make America the greatest nation in world history. Many of current holidays have become overly commercialized or have lost their deeper meaning. We need to invigorate our appreciation and understanding of America’s spirit. This blog is dedicated to keeping the spirit of Patriot Week - and America - alive all year long.....

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Content of Our Character - Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is the national holiday commemorating the life and accomplishments of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As one of the great Patriots we celebrate in Patriot Week, it is only fitting we spend a few minutes reflecting on his legacy today.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. The impetus underlying the Civil Rights Movement, like the drive to abolish slavery and enact Reconstruction, was the belief in the First Principle of equality. Dr. King firmly believed in this conviction and used it as his greatest weapon. 
King preached and practiced non-violent opposition in the face of oppression. He established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, and led the struggle for equality during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. 
Writing from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, he explained that the civil rights activists were “standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” 
Thus, it was natural for King, when he addressed over 200,000 supporters who had marched on Washington, D.C., to echo Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Frederick Douglass, in his famous and moving I Have a Dream Speech. The efforts and Dr. King and others in the Civil Rights Movement led to the adoption of several federal civil rights acts and ground-breaking Supreme Court decisions. 
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. His assassination gripped the nation and became a major impetuous for embracing racial equality in America.

For more on King, visit Patriot Week and America's Survival Guide.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sweet Trial - Vindication of Equality Under the Law

Today and I watched my dear friend retired Judge William J. Giovan perform in a riveting play about an amazing piece of all but forgotten history - the Sweet murder trial in Detroit in the 1920s in which the the key First Principle of equality under the law was vindicated.

In 1925, the African American Sweet family moved into an all white neighborhood. All the Sweet family wanted was a quiet life in a nice, safe home. Instead, on September 9, 1925, a huge mob gathered in the street, began throwing rocks at the home, and threatened the lives of the Sweets and their friends.  One of the home's defenders fired on the crowd, slaying a white man.  Soon a trial would occur, resulting in a deadlocked jury.

A second trial, presided over by future United States Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy.  The verdict was the acquittal of Henry Sweet - the only defendant tried at that time. The prosecutor then dismissed the case against the rest of the defendants.

Clarence Darrow, perhaps the most renowned trial attorney of the age, defended the Sweets.  He focused on the unalienable rights to possess and defend a home, including with force of arms, and the right to be treated equally under the law, regardless of race.  His closing argument is still stirring today; its most famous passage is below:

      I am the last one to come here to stir up race hatred, or any other hatred. I do not believe in the law of hate. I may not be true to my ideals always, but I believe in the law of love, and I believe you can do nothing with hatred. I would like to see a time when man loves his fellow man, and forgets his color or his creed. We will never be civilized until that time comes.  
       I know the Negro race has a long road to go. I believe the life of the Negro race has been a life of tragedy, of injustice, of oppression. The law has made him equal, but man has not. And, after all, the last analysis is, what has man done?--and not what has the law done? I know there is a long road ahead of him, before he can take the place which I believe he should take. I know that before him there is suffering, sorrow, tribulation and death among the blacks, and perhaps the whites. I am sorry. I would do what I could to avert it. I would advise patience; I would advise toleration; I would advise understanding; I would advise all of those things which are necessary for men who live together.  
       Gentlemen, what do you think is your duty in this case? I have watched, day after day, these black, tense faces that have crowded this court. These black faces that now are looking to you twelve whites, feeling that the hopes and fears of a race are in your keeping. 
       This case is about to end, gentlemen. To them, it is life. Not one of their color sits on this jury. Their fate is in the hands of twelve whites. Their eyes are fixed on you, their hearts go out to you, and their hopes hang on your verdict. 
       This is all. I ask you, on behalf of this defendant, on behalf of these helpless ones who turn to you, and more than that,--on behalf of this great state, and this great city which must face this problem, and face it fairly,--I ask you, in the name of progress and of the human race, to return a verdict of not guilty in this case!
85 years later, Darrow's words still teach us the need to provide equal justice for all.

For more on these themes, visit Patriot Week and America's Survival Guide.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Stand Tall, Do Not Bow to the Government

"Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us?" William O. Douglass, US Supreme Court Justice

Justice Douglass' words remind us that we are Americans.  Being an American means quite a bit, the most important of which is that we are free men and women - there is no nobility or King here.  Too often our political class acts like its entitled to lord over us.  It is just the opposite - the government is intended to serve the people - the government is the servant of the people, not the other way around.  Be vigilant, stand tall, stand for freedom.

To learn more about freedom, check out Patriot Week and Americas Survival Guide.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Law = Freedom

"Our nation is founded on the principle that observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty and defiance of the law is the surest road to tyranny." John F. Kennedy (1962)

Kennedy's insight is not always apparent.  Many would argue that the ability to flout laws, or to do whatever one wants without constraint, is the definition of liberty.  Superficially such a conception is appealing.  Indeed, it appears entire swaths of our society embrace that hedonistic view of the world.

However, what America has long understood is that it is the law - adopted by the people - that protects our liberties.  The Constitution - the supreme law of the land, protects liberty by dividing power among branches and limiting the authority of the government.  Enforcement of the Bill of Rights is especially important to protecting the unalienable rights of individuals.  Thus, paradoxically, the law is truly the great protector of liberty.

For more on the importance of the rule of law, check out Patriot Week and America's Survival Guide.