Saturday, July 25, 2020

Musings on Rights and Responsibilities

   By Rudy Barnes, Jr.
On July 16 Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the first report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights.  It takes its title from the libertarian ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence, and the report emphasizes the principles of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the UN (UDHR).
In announcing the report Secretary Pompeo went beyond unalienable rights to criticize violent demonstrations and the desecration of monuments as an attack on “what it means to be an American.”  The report of the Commission is a commendable statement on the importance of the principles of the UDHR, but it appears it will likely be used to promote partisan objectives.  

The greatest challenge for America’s democracy is balancing individual rights with the responsibility to provide for the common good.  That balance has long been skewed in favor of individual rights, and there seems little prospect that America’s individualistic, materialistic and hedonistic culture will become more altruistic and responsible to provide for the common good.

American democracy seems to be coming apart at its seams.  The problem is not about protecting our individual rights.  It’s about reconciling the conflicting moral values of Americans on issues of race and religion that have polarized our partisan politics.  Those conflicting values have undermined the common good, and they cannot be resolved by law.

President Trump has exacerbated racial conflict by sending uninvited federal agents to Democratic cities like Portland to quell domestic disturbances sponsored by Black Lives Matter.  It’s now the mantra of protesters for a myriad of controversial racial issues that go beyond police reforms, from supporting protesters who destroy monuments to promoting reparations.

Religion is a factor in America’s polarized politics.  Trump has gained the support of white Christians by opposing abortion and expanding religious freedom to allow discrimination against homosexuals as sinners.  In supporting Trump, white Christians have sacrificed Jesus on the altar of partisan politics and divided the church along party lines defined by race.  

As America approaches its elections in November, the two parties are creating the perfect political storm--one more likely to benefit Trump than Biden.  Trump has proven adept at orchestrating divisive issues to mobilize his constituency.  The resulting political divisions are reminiscent of those that led to the Civil War, when the church was split on the issue of slavery.

The critical issue in American politics is not about protecting the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  It’s about the moral responsibility of Americans to provide for the common good, and that requires promoting a politics of reconciliation.  Americans can assume responsibility for the common good as moral stewards of democracy if they follow the altruistic imperative to love their neighbors of other races and religions as they love themselves.         


The first report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights was issued on July 16 and is at The focus of the report is on human rights in foreign affairs, but the Introduction states: “...We are keenly aware that America can only be an effective advocate for human rights abroad if she demonstrates her commitment to those same rights at home.” (p. 7)   

“Speaking as he unveiled the first report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights, Pompeo said the events roiling the United States are antithetical to the nation’s ideals. ...Pompeo had harsh criticism for the New York Times’s 1619 Project, that’s based on the history of American slavery, saying its underlying message was that “our country was founded for human bondage.”
He also criticized protesters who have yanked down statues across the country, many of them erected in honor of Confederate officers in the Civil War but also enslaving founders of the nation.  “The rioters pulling down statues thus see nothing wrong with desecrating monuments to those who fought for unalienable rights — from our founding to the present day,” he said. “This is a dark vision of America’s birth. I reject it. It is a disturbed reading of history. It is a slander on our great people. Nothing could be further from the truth!”  See

On An Update to the 1619 Project published by the New York Times on March 11, 2020, see

Father Drew Christiansen, S.J., has argued why you shouldn’t dismiss Mike Pompeo’s report of human rightsIt was inevitable that in these contentious times human rights would be drawn into the culture wars. For two generations, at least, opposing camps have posed their contrary visions for social change in the uncompromising terms of absolute human rights. Maximalist claims disallowed any legitimate space for the moral claims of their adversaries. Ethical nuances, juridical distinctions and prudent political compromise fell by the wayside. Moral reasoning gave way to partisan sloganeering.
So, when a year ago Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced he was appointing a commission to rationalize the expanding field of human rights in light of the values on which the United States was founded, there were howls of indignation that the exercise threatened to run roughshod over 200 years of history, returning us to the 18th century. The secretary’s agenda seemed to call for a retrenchment on human rights under the cover of American exceptionalism.
The commissioners, led by Harvard law professor Maryann Glendon, have produced a consensus document, centrist in a sophisticated way seldom found in public documents.  Contrary to the fears of Mr. Pompeo’s critics, the report does a service by synthesizing the founding documents—the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution with its Bill of Rights—with the re-founding texts of Abraham Lincoln and Reconstruction and the global human rights revolution of the 20th century centered on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Throughout it links freedom and equality, refusing to decouple them as many culture warriors do.  The report makes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the point of reference for articulating the place of human rights in U.S. foreign policy. In listing the ways the United States can advance human rights in foreign policy, it relies on soft power, beginning with the modeling of rights at home. In foreign policy, diplomatic measures and open communication, it says, are preferable to coercive methods like economic sanctions. 
But the commissioners fail to address the multitude of rights treaties enacted since 1948, beyond the Universal Declaration. They welcome “the development of a positive law of human rights,” but air the criticism, which Secretary Pompeo seems to have embraced, that the multiplication of rights may reduce the value of any single right. “The surfeit of new treaty obligations in human rights,” the commissioners observe, “does not seem to have increased the effectiveness of human rights law nor stemmed the pervasive violations of very basic human rights around the world, even in many countries that have ratified all of the major treaties.”  American political culture would surely benefit if more religious activists would devote themselves to building up the kind of civic amity the commissioners envisage. The report reminds its readers of the interaction of positive human rights law and nonbinding, often aspirational documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and diplomatic instruments like the Helsinki Accords, which opened the way to human rights monitoring and enforcement. It also repeatedly recalls that the very notion of human rights relies on an appeal to a higher standard of justice beyond the civil law.
As to religious liberty, the report provides instructive service by rooting it in the American political tradition, especially the writings of James Madison. It does allow historical primacy for religious freedom, along with the right to property. That primacy, however, seems to reduce itself to three features of religious liberty: “as an unalienable right, an enduring limit on state power, and a protector of seedbeds of civic virtues.” See

One of the issues in human rights and responsibilities alluded to in the Commission’s report and in Father Christiansen’s assessment of it is the distinction between legally enforceable rights and unenforceable moral responsibilities or principles.  The unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness taken from the Declaration of Independence are moral ideals and not enforceable human rights; and the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are also ideals that are not enforceable; but the U.S. and most Western nations are parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which includes the fundamental human rights and is enforceable.  By way of contrast, the U.S. is not a party to theInternational Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which describes minimum standards of public welfare or the common good as human rights.  The libertarian human rights standards of the ICCPR are enforceable, while the welfare standards of the ICESCR are political aspirations that vary among nations and cannot be enforced as universal human rights.  Likewise  the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors as we love ourselves is a moral imperative essential to providing the common good in a democracy and can be considered a human right, but it cannot be enforced as law.  See Religion, Law and Conflicting Concepts of Legitimacy and end notes 19-23 and 29, at      

Trump has described the civil disturbances in Portland as ”’worse than Afghanistan,’ Trump’s rhetoric escalated tensions with Democratic mayors and governors who have criticized the presence of federal agents on U.S. streets, telling reporters at the White House that he would send forces into jurisdictions with or without the cooperation of their elected leaders.  ‘We’re looking at Chicago, too. We’re looking at New York,” he said. “All run by very liberal Democrats. All run, really, by the radical left.  ...This is worse than anything anyone’s ever seen, Trump continued. ‘And you know what? If Biden got in, that would be true for the country. The whole country would go to hell.’  ...In response to the president calling Portland protesters anarchists and insinuating that local officials were afraid of them, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said, ‘this is a democracy, not a dictatorship. We cannot have secret police abducting people in unmarked vehicles. I can’t believe I have to say that to the President of the United States.’”  See

More than a dozen mayors have joined Portland in asking the Trump administration to withdraw federal forces, calling it and other federal interventions  “an abuse of power.”  See

Black Lives Matter is a grass-roots movement formed in Ferguson Missouri in 2014 after the police killing of Michael Brown.  It began as a movement to end police brutality against blacks, and has expanded to cover a plethora of controversial racial causes, including eliminating racial disparities resulting from institutional or systemic racism and political reforms including “defunding” the police, destroying or removing monuments to those who lived in the Antebellum South, and reparations to blacks whose ancestors were slaves.  Black Lives Matter has an identity problem.  A recent poll indicates that a majority of Americans still support the reform of police policies to restrict the use of force, but that most oppose other racially-charged causes promoted under the banner of Black Lives Matter.  See

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Musings on Atheism and Religion and Living Life to the Full

  By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

Martin Hagglund is an atheist, or non-theist, who rejects religious theism for its emphasis on the afterlife at the expense of how we live in this life.  The Hebrew Bible is the foundational scripture for Jews, Christians and Muslims, and it doesn’t emphasize an afterlife.  Instead, it has God reward and punish Jews in this life based on whether they obey or disobey Mosaic Law.  

Jesus was a maverick Jew who refuted Mosaic Law as God’s standard of righteousness.  Jesus taught love over law, and his teachings are summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, including our neighbors of other races and religions.  It was the church that made life after death in heaven or hell the focus of faith. 

Hagglund stated the obvious.  We can only love others in this life, not in the next.  Loving others is how we love God and help God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.   Jesus taught that eternal life begins in this life and extends into the next; and that we have the free will to accept or reject it.  Atheism doesn’t negate the teachings of Jesus, only those of the church.

The altruistic teachings of Jesus on sacrificial love were never popular, so the church subordinated those teachings to exclusivist beliefs in the divinity of Jesus to achieve popularity and worldly power.  Islam went even further.  It made its holy book, the Qur’an, the immutable word of God/Allah, and it emphasizes that all unbelievers are condemned to eternal damnation.

Hagglund describes faith, love and responsibility as the elements of his secular faith. It's remarkably similar to the altruistic and universal moral teachings of Jesus on altruistic love that have been validated by history as a means of reconciliation and peace, as opposed to exclusivist religious beliefs that have created division, hate and violence.

Hagglund’s atheism doesn’t reject a universal spiritual power, only the God described in religious scriptures.  In  fact, we might even consider Jesus as an atheist Jew since he rejected the legalistic concept of God described in the Hebrew Bible.  Likewise, many thoughtful believers consider Jesus a great prophet of God’s truth, but not as a surrogate Christian God.     

Alan Wolfe is also a self-proclaimed atheist; but unlike Hagglund, Wolfe argues that religions have an important role to play in a secular world, and that secular norms can change religions for the better.  Arnold M. Eisen, an authority on American Judaism, has noted “religions will have to cross boundaries as never before to remain credible and relevant in this new era.”

Hagglund, Wolfe and Eisner all reject religious limits on living life to the full.  We cannot live abundantly without the transforming power of God’s love, and Jesus taught that it must be given in order to be received.  God’s love transcends all religions, and it can reconcile all humanity as brothers and sisters in the universal family of God. 


Believers can find common ground with Hagglund and Wolfe if they consider God as a universal spiritual power of love (see I John 4:16) that can transform us in this life, rather than a supreme being who judges whether we experience eternity in heaven or hell in the afterlife based on our religious beliefs.

The greatest commandment is found at Mark 12:28-33, Matthew 22:34-40 and at Luke 10:25-37, which includes the story of the good Samaritan. The equivalent moral imperative in John’s gospel is the new command at John 13:34. 

God’s love is reciprocal. Jesus said, “Do not condemn and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.  Give and it will be given to you. (Luke 6:17-18).

In John’s Gospel, Jesus spoke as the good shepherd and the word of God (the Logos) when he said: I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

The altruistic teachings of Jesus on salvation were universal and not limited to those of any exclusivist religious beliefs.  He taught that all who did God’s will were his spiritual brothers and sisters in the family of God. (see Mark 3:35)     

James Wood has reviewed Martin Hagglund’s book, This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom (Pantheon Books, New York, 2019) and summarized it as “the idea [that] eternity destroys meaning and value” by “subordinating the finite (the knowledge that life will end) to the eternal (‘the sure and certain hope that we will be released from pain and suffering and mortality into the peace of everlasting life).  Wood notes that Hagglund “is quiet about Judaism, whose practices are sensibly grounded in the here and now, and which lacks the intense emphasis on the afterlife characteristics of Islam and Christianity.”  Hagglund defines religious faith as “any form of belief in an eternal being or an eternity beyond being, either in a timeless repose (such as nirvana) a transcendent God, or an imminent, divine Nature.”  Hagglund explains that “the problem with eternity is not that it doesn’t exist but that it is undesirable and incoherent; it kills meaning and collapses value.”  Wood notes that Hagglund doesn’t try to disprove religion, “so that [his secular faith] incorporates many of the elements traditionally thought of as religious.”  Citing Hegel (as Hagglund reads him), “a religious institution is just a community that has come together to ennoble ‘a governing set of norms--a shared understanding of what counts as good and just.  The object of devotion is just the community itself.  ‘God’ is just the name we give the self-legislated communal norms (the principles to which the congregation holds itself), and ‘Christ’ the name we give to the beloved agent who animates these norms.”  See The Time of Your Life at

Alan Wolfe, like Hagglund, is a self-proclaimed atheist and scholar; but unlike Hagglund Wolfe has acknowledged the relevance of religion to politics and has been optimistic that secular forces of progress and modernity were leading religions toward reconciliation.  “Breathless warnings about rising religious fervor and conflicts to come ignore two basic facts. First, many areas of the world are experiencing a decline in religious belief and practice. Second, where religions are flourishing, they are also generally evolving—very often in ways that allow them to fit more easily into secular societies, and that weaken them as politically disruptive forces. The French philosopher Blaise Pascal once famously showed that it would be irrational to bet against the existence of God. It would be equally foolish, in the long run, to bet against the power of the Enlightenment. The answer to the question of which religion will dominate the future, at least politically, may well be: None of the above.
...Until relatively recently, most social theorists, from Marx to Freud to Weber, believed that as societies became more modern, religion would lose its capacity to inspire. ...However one defined modernity, it always seemed likely to involve societies focused on this world rather than on some other.  But intellectual fashions are fickle, and the idea of inevitable secularization has fallen out of favor with many scholars and journalists. Still, its most basic tenet—that material progress will slowly erode religious fervor—appears unassailable. ...A hundred years ago, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Max Weber quoted the great evangelical John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church: ‘I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.’
...It appears safe to conclude that Americans are not living in the world envisioned by Marx or Freud.  But one shouldn’t go overboard in describing American religiosity. For one thing, it is as shallow as it is broad: Americans know relatively little about the histories, the theological controversies, or even the sacred texts of their chosen faiths. Recent decades have seen the rise of the Christian right in the United States, but they have also witnessed the seemingly inexorable advance of secular ideals, such as personal choice and pluralism, that blossomed in the 1960s. Nonbelief, meanwhile, is increasing: not only are atheist manifestos selling in large numbers, but the percentage of those who express no religious preference to pollsters doubled between 1990 and 2001, to 15 percent.
...Places with a free religious marketplace witness entrepreneurs of the spirit compete to save souls, honing their messages and modulating many of their beliefs so as to appeal to the consumer. With more options to choose from, more consumers find something they like, and the ranks of the religious grow.
The key precondition for the marketplace of religion is the presence of rudimentary secular values. This may sound odd, since the secular has long been thought the opposite of the religious; but secularism is not the opposite of belief; nonbelief is. Indeed, secularism has religious, specifically Christian, roots; it renders unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, while leaving to God what properly belongs in his realm. 
Does the pattern hold outside America? Various versions of the prosperity movement are attracting followers in developing countries, as well as in poorer areas of the United States, precisely because they value success in this world as much as holiness in another. ...Their goal is not to question the modern world’s riches but to bring them within the reach of more people. And once this dynamic is set in motion, it tends to gather momentum. As Eliza Griswold points out, the success of the Pentecostal Gospel of Prosperity in Nigeria has prompted the creation of a new Islamic organization focused on economic empowerment, which already has 1.2 million members in Nigeria alone.
...Those who worry about religious revivals in the world today usually pose an either/or choice between religion and secularism. In reality, the two can work together.
Religious peace will be the single most important consequence of the secular underpinning of today’s religious growth. All religions tend to be protective of their traditions and rituals, but all religions also change depending upon the cultural practices of the societies in which they are based. Protestantism and secularism have always had close ties: as noted, Locke was drawing on a specifically Protestant sensibility when he wrote in defense of secular ideals.”  See 

On Arnold Eisen’s views that God has a lot to answer for the pandemic, see

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Musings on America's Culture War, Racism and Christian Morality in Politics

   By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

July 4, 2020 was like no other Independence Day.  On the day before at Mount Rushmore Donald Trump declared a culture war with a politics of division, and Joe Biden responded with a call for a politics of reconciliation based on the principle of equal justice under law.  Their contrasting visions of America’s future have set the stage for the November election.

American’s standards of political legitimacy are derived from Christian morality and the libertarian values of the Enlightenment, but concepts of freedom in America have been muddled from its birth as a slave-holding nation.  The church was split on slavery before the Civil War, and it remains split on issues of race as we approach the November election.

Issues on race and religion have polarized America’s partisan politics, and Trump has  exploited those issues with his base of white Christians.  They support Trump’s racism and egregious immorality with a reactionary Christianity that has rejected the moral teachings of Jesus.  Joe Biden must placate a Democratic Party that favors black voters and leftist politics.

America is more polarized today than at any time since the Civil War.  More than 82% of white evangelicals support Trump with a religious fervor, along with 60% of the remaining white Christians who don’t openly mix their religion and politics, but who consistently vote for Republicans.  Most black Christians are Democrats, and only 8% support Trump.

Perhaps the most difficult racial issue today is systemic racism.  It’s based on racial disparities that cannot be remedied by civil rights laws that require proof of unlawful racial discrimination.  Racial disparities occur despite racially-neutral standards in employment, education, loans, wealth, criminal justice and health care. Racism persists to plague us.

Racism is pervasive and exists on both sides of the racial divide.  Civil rights laws cannot eliminate racism; it’s a matter of morality ingrained in public perceptions of legitimacy.  Just as the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors as we love ourselves is a moral imperative that cannot be enforced by law, so racism is immoral but it’s not unlawful per se.

Civil rights laws cannot mandate racial harmony or prohibit racism.  The law provides the obligatory standards of equal justice, while the voluntary moral standards of political legitimacy are derived from religion.  Most Americans claim to be Christians, but the church lost its moral compass in 2016 when most white Christians sacrificed Jesus on the altar of partisan politics.

Protests can change civil rights law, but they can also worsen racist attitudes.. Racism is a moral issue with no legal remedy.  The best we can hope for is that the church will rediscover the moral teachings of Jesus and promote God’s will to reconcile and redeem those of all races and religions, and oppose Satan’s will to divide and conquer.


Systemic racism is illustrated by 26 charts that relate to racial disparities in employment, education, loans, wealth, criminal justice and health care.  The key issue is whether the standards that produce racial disparities are racially discriminatory or racially neutral.  If the standards are racially neutral, the problem is not changing the standards but ensuring that they are applied without racial discrimination, which is illegal under civil rights law.  To reduce racial disparities, blacks must take advantage of their educational opportunities to compete for better benefits  In America, there is equality of opportunity but not of economic equality.  Racism continues to be a problem, but there is a growing black middle class that illustrates that blacks can compete if they take advantage of educational opportunities; but the statistics don’t show a breakdown of middle class blacks and those in the black subculture.  See
Related commentary on religion, race and politics:
(7/5/15): Reconciliation as a Remedy for Racism and Religious Exclusivism
(7/12/15): Reconciliation in Race and Religion: The Need for Compatibility, not Conformity
(7/19/15): Religion, Heritage and the Confederate Flag
(3/12/16): Religion, Race and the Deterioration of Democracy in America
(3/26/16): Religion, Democracy, Diversity and Demagoguery
(7/9/16): Back to the Future: Race, Religion, Rights and a Politics of Reconciliation
(7/16/16): The Elusive Ideal of Political Reconciliation
(10/22/16): The Need for a Politics of Reconciliation in a Polarized Democracy
(11/19/16): Religion and a Politics of Reconciliation Based on Shared Values
(11/26/16): Irreconcilable Differences and the Demise of Democracy
(2/18/17): Gerrymandering, Race and Polarized Partisan Politics
(8/19/17): Hate, History and the Need for a Politics of Reconciliation
(11/11/17): A Politics of Reconciliation that Should Begin in the Church
(12/9/17): Religion, Race and Identity Politics         
(1/6/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Diversity in Democracy
(10/20/18): Lamentations of an Old White Male Maverick Methodist in a Tribal Culture
(12/29/18): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Justice in Religion and Politics
(3/9/19): Musings on the Degradation of Democracy in a Post-Christian America
(7/6/19): Musings on Democrats, Busing and Racism: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again
(7/13/19): Musings on Sovereignty and Conflicting Loyalties to God and Country 
(7/20/19): Musings on Diversity in Democracy: Who Are Our Neighbors? 
(9/21/19): An Afterword on Religion, Legitimacy and Politics from 2014-2019
#258 (11/2/19): Musings of a Maverick Methodist on Polarization and Reconciliation
(2/1/20): Musings on the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Altar of Partisan Politics
(2/22/20): Musings on Why All Politics and Religion Are Local (and not Universal)

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Musings on How Destroying Monuments to the Past Can Threaten Our Future

    By Rudy Barnes, Jr.

It’s the Fourth of July, and America is celebrating Independence Day, while protestors are tearing down historic monuments and maligning America’s Founding Fathers as slaveholders to conform history to their modern ideals.  History contains the good, bad and ugly; and we need to remember the bad and ugly events of the past so that we won’t repeat them.

The legal and moral standards of legitimacy (what is right and wrong) are relative to time and place, and have changed dramatically over time.  Slavery was legal at the birth of our nation and at the beginning of the Civil War.  Even the church was split on the moral issue.  The legitimacy of our past leaders should be considered in the context of their time, not ours.

Abraham Lincoln exemplified the complexity of the issue of slavery.  His objective was to preserve the Union by either fighting to prevent secession or accepting slavery.  Fighting secession conflicted with the American precedent of self-determination when it seceded from the British Empire.  Great Britain abolished slavery in 1833, and we’ll never know what may have happened if Lincoln had put the abolition of slavery ahead of preserving the Union.

In 1876 Frederick Douglas questioned whether Lincoln was the Great Emancipator, but he didn’t urge the removal of the Lincoln memorial.   Such monuments remind us of the lessons of history taught by imperfect leaders who lived in earlier eras, and we should learn from their lives--the good, bad and the ugly--as we shape our future.   

The civil disobedience campaign of MLK protesting the separate but equal laws in the South reminded us that changing immoral standards of legitimacy can be a long and painful process, but it produced the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Our historic monuments remind us of an imperfect past, and destroying them as painful lessons of legitimacy can threaten our future.

Protests against injustice are protected by the First Amendment and are important in changing immoral standards of legitimacy, but the right to protest doesn’t extend to mob action destroying property.  Law and order are essential to provide equal justice under law and cannot be sacrificed to mob rule.  That can only lead to anarchy and the end of democracy.

Black Lives Matter protests began with a legitimate demand to end police brutality, and racial issues are embedded in police reform; but the protests have taken racial issues far beyond the objective of police reform and have made its politics more problematic.  Police reform requires a politics of racial reconciliation, not a politics of racial division.

The angry protests and destruction of monuments to the Civil War era evoke echoes from 1860, and raise the specter of racial hatred that could once again destroy the fabric of America’s democracy.  Attributing today’s racial issues to slavery threatens our future by further polarizing America's racial divisions rather than seeking to reconcile them.


The 1876 address of Frederick Douglass at the Emancipation Memorial sheds light on the complex politics that had Lincoln sacrifice the abolition of slavery to preserving the Union.  See

Great Britain’s Slavery Abolition Abolition Act of 1833 abolished slavery in most of its colonies.  See Wikipedia at   It’s interesting to speculate on what kind of strategic alliance Lincoln might have put together with Great Britain if he had put the abolition of slavery ahead of preserving a Union with slaveholding states.     
David Von Dredle has described what tearing down statues reveals about revol;utionary movements.  “The impulse to destroy monuments feels radical to each new wave of revolutionaries. In fact, iconoclasm — the tearing down of icons — is as deeply ingrained in human nature as monument-making itself. Moses learned that his people had made a golden calf in his absence; he threw the statue into a fire and unleashed an orgy of violence that left 3,000 Israelites dead.
What all these stories have in common is that they are stories I can tell years, even centuries — even millennia — after the fact to readers who have some sense of the scenes and characters involved. The Golden Calf, the Emperor Domitian, the Catholic saints, the king of France and “Uncle Joe” Stalin weren’t erased from history when their statues toppled. Quite the opposite.
A leading scholar of the Roman damnatio memoriae, Charles W. Hedrick, remarks on what might be called the iconoclast’s dilemma: Those who destroy monuments create “significant omissions, gaps and erasures” that “call attention to what they conceal, and thus undermine their own express purpose.”
Protesters may find that ripping down statues creates a desire to know why those statues were raised in the first place. This exploration naturally leads to an assessment of the radicals themselves. The process can be historically clarifying, as in the case of Confederate monuments. Americans are asking whether the rebels’ effort to break up the United States to create a new nation more explicitly dedicated to white supremacy is one we wish to honor. By a wide majority, the answer is no — and the statues are coming down.
But then statues of Washington and Jefferson are ripped down, too, and many Americans begin to feel that something very complicated — the moral failures of otherwise consequential figures — is being reduced to absolutes. Or consider a different variety of complication: The statue of Andrew Jackson in Washington’s Lafayette Square is, quite apart from any merits of Jackson himself, an artistic masterpiece. Its future should be decided through reasoned discussion, not by ropes and sledgehammers.
Most people are leery of absolutists. And they are downright repulsed by vandals. The ruin of Heg’s statue burnished, rather than effaced, the memory of an immigrant volunteer who died in the fight for emancipation. ​But such a senseless act blemishes the protests.
This continuum, from peaceful protests to wanton destruction, is an arc traveled by iconoclasts through the ages. And it may illuminate the frequent failures of revolutionary movements. Destruction is easy, persuasion is difficult. The ground has shifted; the country can be persuaded to look at its past anew. Vandalism, however, will lose the argument.”