by Mike Pyatt
The clash in Charlottesville this past week’s a reminder that unbridled hatred has consequences. This wasn’t a protest. It was a war zone. Some may recall the Kent State University “Massacre.” On May 4, 1970, students protesting the Vietnam War, clashed with Ohio National Guardsmen on the Kent State campus. The prior evening several incidents occurred, including rocks and bottles hurled at the local police, and lighting bonfires. Eventually, students, other activists, and common criminals, began to break windows, and loot stores. The Mayor of Kent declared a state of emergency. The governor sent nearly one-thousand Ohio National Guardsmen, on May 2nd, to “maintain order.” On May 4, a Monday, anti-war protestors scheduled a rally for noon on campus. University officials attempted to ban the gathering, but were unsuccessful. Firing tear gas, due to the wind, proved ineffective. Few predicted the deadly outcome.
Eventually seventy-seven guardsman advanced on the protestors, armed with rifles and bayonets. It was reported that many of the guardsman “feared for their lives,” and opened fire. The gunfire was reported to have lasted thirteen seconds. Some witnesses claimed it was more than one minute. Seventy-two rounds were fired. When the shooting ended, nine students lay dead. Two of those, had reportedly not participated in the protests. Does this sound eerily like Berkeley and Charlottesville? Their was no shortage of blame to go around afterward. Some blamed Governor Rhodes for escalating the rhetoric, calling the protestors “unpatriotic.” However, in this case, the guardsman weren’t told to “stand down.” Whether it’s Ferguson, Berkeley or Charlottesville, the consequences are the same. Lawlessness prevailed. It was planned chaos. Was it preventable?
Regardless of President Trump’s words, one should anticipate more of the same. White Nationalist, Neo-Nazis, and Alt-Right planned to wreak havoc that day. And the Left participated. It had nothing to do with the Confederacy. That was a pretext. The opposition didn’t bring an olive branch either. The driver of the car that mowed down the crowd had a malevolent mission. The 32 year old woman who, unfortunately, lost her life, is no hero, despite the hue and cry otherwise. What did she anticipate that day? A S’mores roast and kumbaya? There were villains on both sides of the altercation. The Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove the statue of Confederate General, Robert E. Lee, has been applauded and denounced simultaneously. Both slave holders, are George Washington and Thomas Jefferson monuments next?
Condoleezza Rice, the 66th Secretary of State, declared that removing Confederate monuments is scrubbing history from the country’s fabric, and would be a mistake, Rice claimed Monday, on Fox and Friends, “When you start wiping out history, sanitizing your history to make you feel better, it’s a bad thing.” She waxed eloquent on the “long road to freedom,” through a sometimes violent past. She acknowledge that, “The Constitution originally counted my ancestors as three-fifths of a man,” adding, “In 1952, my father had trouble registering to vote in Birmingham, Alabama.” But she recounted the fact that in 2005, “I stood in the Benjamin Franklin Room…I took an oath of office to that same Constitution, and it was administered by a Jewish woman Supreme Court Justice. That’s the story of America.” Strides in race relations are remarkable. What still drives the division? Is it a “Right and Left” issue? Black and White? Lawlessness and anarchists appear to have gained the upper hand.
The moral landscape of this country has been drastically altered, to the extent that it bears little resemblance to its former self, especially to one who grew up during the 1950’s. It wasn’t a perfect time. However, it was a time of a consensus on moral absolutes, fostering an assurance that there was a “Guiding Hand” on our existence. It pervaded most institutions, serving as a cohesive factor in the American experience, unlike the divisive culture that reigns today. Students of history understand the1960’s ushered in a spirit of unrest that has festered, and grown to unimaginable proportions. The knee jerk reaction to “throw up one’s hands” and surrender, isn’t a viable option. One must be willing to act decisively, timely, and justly engage our culture.
As ordinary citizens, we’re obligated to be “cultural physicians,” diagnosing our Republic. We find ourselves combating the symptoms, but we rarely get at the underlying root causes. In the public square of ideas, a unholy moral virus spreads like a tinder box fire. We’re like Cervantes’ chivalrous hero, Don Quixote, “merely tilting at windmills.” Almost featureless at that time, there have been at least four watershed events that thrust Americans into our current fog of moral relativism with predictable and catastrophic results. In retrospect, the slide was slow and precipitous. Too many missed or ignored them.
First, the major tenet of John Dewey’s progressive education; that society and education needed “reconstruction,” were incalculable back then. However, its pernicious philosophy had begun to take hold of American life as it infiltrated institutions of higher learning, specifically those responsible for training educators and social researchers. From across the Pond, C.S. Lewis lampooned progressive education in his fictional school called Experiment House, in England, which had become a Mecca for progressivism since the early 1930’s. Books like Why Johnny Can’t Read, in 1955; and later, former University of Wyoming professor, Arthur Bestor’s Educational Wastelands pilloried both its dangerous and feckless outcomes. Progressive education has little to show for the trillions of dollars outlay over the past fifty years.
Second, reasoning capacity declined dramatically over the past three generations. For centuries inductive and deductive reasoning permitted one to think logically and critically. It lead to something. Our culture is now dominated by seductive reasoning, or an allurement to cliché’s with little meaning, and leads to decline. It’s a short leap to the loss of the ability of abstract reasoning. Reasoning with one reared solely in the electronic medium-total visual stimulation-is an exercise in futility. Conclusions based solely on images. Morality is grounded in the latest movie or sitcom. “Right and wrong” exists fleetingly in the medium of choice. Monogamous marriage or serial affairs are equal. Such reasoning is prefaced by “I feel.” Strong desire trumps reason. Cupidity reigns in their hermetically sealed world.
Third, our rapid moral slide has been further lubricated by a loss of cultural memory. Rarely considered today, those time-tested values and principles of yesteryear are generally not even a thought with recent generations. One can’t recall what one doesn’t know. It has virtually been eradicated from the American consciousness. Unless it is inculcated by families for generations, it is lost. References to a chaste, self-effacing, disciplined existence is scoffed at as old-fashioned, puritanical, mere vestiges of another era alien to this generation. Co-habitation is preferable to marriage; homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle. Pet parents outrank having children. Same sex marriage is fully embraced, and the term “Pro-life” is expunged from their lexicon.
Lastly, this upheaval wasn’t happenstance as some have assigned to this unraveling. Although the assault started eons ago, a more recent frontal attack was launched in the United States, namely under the Human Manifesto, in 1933, that described itself as a “progressive philosophy of life, absent the supernatural, emphasizing ethical lives, personal fulfillment that aspire to a greater good for humanity.” Since then it has taken on many forms. Most are hostile to “revelation from God” or any form of “religious salvation,” but rather emphasize man’s ability to transcend the need for divinity. Man’s autonomous, and, left unredeemed, is infinitely dangerous to himself and others. The “green movement” is humanism cloaked in flora and fauna, and confusingly religious.
Many are convinced that North Korea’s external threat isn’t as dire as our internal one. Consider there are generations of youth, with self-inflicted bondage to social media, a Facebook existence of mediocrity, numbed conscience, confused about their own biological gender, who know more about the spirit of narcissism, than the Holy Spirit, yet are besieged by loss of hope, whose parents spend more on pet health than their offsprings mental health. The chance of decay from within is more likely than any nuclear disaster. Sadly, the shift from worshipping the Creator to worshipping the creation, has ultimately seduced generations into the lowest form of worship-self-worship. For that, there’s only one cure. Until that changes, lawlessness, hatred, division and conflict on the street, campus, household, institutions, and legislatures, is the new norm, and will predictably escalate. Baltimore, Berkeley, Charlottesville, and Watts are symptomatic. Cajoling, soaring rhetoric, and more laws won’t extricate us from this cul-de-sac. Evangelicals understand the disastrous outcome when the righteous and co-belligerents remain silent. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org