Good leaders lead in spite of the odds stacked against them. They seldom make excuses about what other leaders did or left undone. People worth following inspire others to follow them no matter how bleak or intimidating the road ahead. I have been inspired in the last few weeks in reading about the stalwart leadership and unflinching resolve of two gentlemen. These men are Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
These two men loomed large in an era that arguably was the toughest that our nation has ever faced. In doing so, they distinguished themselves as men who were able to stand against popular opinion, as men who were able to set aside personal prejudice and fear and change a nation. The United States were a veritable timber box that would explode into the bloodiest chapter of American history, the Civil War. Brother was pitted against American brother in a battle over the nation’s soul. Would America be a free or a slave country? These accounts were even more poignant to me as I considered the civil war of ideology that our country is entangled in today.
In spite of her history good and bad, Lincoln and Douglass sought to keep America intact. America was and is still the best hope for mankind. Lincoln once said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.“ When I juxtapose these words against these words from Frederick Douglass’ speech, What the Black Man Wants, an inescapable parallel is drawn between this fateful time and our present day.
“…What shall we do with the Negro? I have had one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by natures plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall also. All I ask is give him a chance to stand on his own legs! ... If you will only untie his hands, and give him a chance, I think he will live. He will work as readily for himself as the white man” ~Frederick Douglass
We have taken liberty for granted for so long that we scarcely recognize it. Too many Americans are wholly in fear of liberty. I have to confess a certain level of comfort in the various trappings and safety nets of our society. At the same time I am becoming increasingly aware of the follies of ceding liberty for comfort. We stand at the precipice—or as stated before perhaps we have already entered into a civil war of ideology. There are forces that in their seeming benevolence would help Americans even if it means controlling them to some extent. There are others that would gladly stay on Frederick Douglass’ apple tree or even fall off if it meant that they “held strong to the tree” or fell within the blessings of liberty.
What’s worse is we have leaders that seem content to stoke the flames of class warfare and jealousy in order to try and achieve the fool’s gold of cosmic justice even at the expense of the very liberty that many of us still cherish. These men will pit the apples that may be “worm eaten at the core” and the ones who may be “early ripe and disposed to fall” against those who just might be able to “remain on the tree of their own strength.” They would have Americans be equally bound to the tree to keep us all equally safe from calamity. Those of us who love liberty more than safety are incensed by this. Those who want safety and an alleged notion of equality more than liberty encourage this. Our house is divided.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well in new—North as well as South” ~Abraham Lincoln
I hesitate… a little-- to draw this comparison, but slavery has new advocates today and they are cleverly shrouded in feigned egalitarianism and benevolence. They approach stealthily with entitlements, benefits, money, security, equality promised prosperity in one hand and shackles and whips in the other. Their aim is to convince Americans that they cannot succeed without being under the purview of their watchful and expert eye. They think that Negroes then… or todays“everyday” Americans now are incapable of self governance and sustenance. According to these people, Conservatives, Republicans, Tea Party Members etc. are the equivalent of radical abolitionists bent on upsetting their vision of the perfect societal order in which a governing elite class tends to the affairs of the proletarian masses keeping them safe from harm, well fed and dependent.
By God’s grace and His sovereignty, our house will not fall a moment before it suits His purposes. I pray that Americans will think long and hard about the direction in which we want this country to travel. Our travel has not been without blemish but liberty has been the lifeblood of our nation. In the war between liberty and security I pray that we will always choose liberty. I pray that we will always fight bravely and selflessly for liberty as Douglass and Lincoln did. If we relinquish our lifeblood of liberty, we will destroy ourselves just as Abraham Lincoln predicted.