To the Editor:
I couldn’t help seeing the ongoing discussion concerning the Civil War monument next to Ocean Park. I find it very peculiar that in these latter days so much attention would be given to such things when we should be so well-educated and wise to understand where racism truly originates. I want to be respectful to my fellow Americans who find a part of the statue to be an affront to their conscience.
My focus is not on who dedicated it, Civil War political theories, or the rampant historical revisionism of our time. My point is to look at the overarching thoughts, the “why” of this whole situation, and whether or not there is any ground to be gained from a simple removal or relocation of a piece of stone.
A question everyone should be asking is, “Is a human being intrinsically bound to his or her circumstances?” or in other words, “Does what happens to us make us who we are?” There are many cases where this may be true. To the man raised in the violent home, he will more than likely without a conscious effort to correct his inherited habits be a violent man himself. The woman who has been belittled and abused seems to always look for someone or something that affirms that influence, unless she or someone intervenes. Although we have seen or may be one of these people — I myself was — we also have life experiences of the opposite outcome, someone overcoming these influences and breaking the seemingly endless chain of destruction from life to life.
I disagree entirely with the notion that we are only our environments, chained to our circumstances. However, racism or in its broader sense, hatred, does not have its roots in outward influence. There may be situations that cultivate it or instill it deeply into a person, but if we are honest with ourselves, we have all felt hatred for another human being and not just a righteous hatred for evil actions, but less warranted hatred for someone or some group of people that we find very inconvenient to our life. “Those [expletive] Republicans!” “Those [deleted] Democrats!” Whether it be up, right, left, neo-this, liberal-that, those who do this, or those who adhere to that, we have all been found guilty.
This leads me to the final point. The issue at hand isn’t a simple inconvenient historical reminder in the form of a flag or statue, which are mere objects. The harder reality is that prejudices of all stripes are inextricably bound to the human experience. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a time when some man or woman didn’t look down upon another man or woman for whatever reason, and felt better for doing so. Hatred has its root and its being within the human heart, and no destruction of any or every single statue in all the world that could be vaguely associated with an act of hatred will eradicate that fact.
In closing, as I said before, I do not for one second believe we are doomed to this fate, and many would agree. However, the solution cannot come from us who are the problem. It would take a force greater than any that could be possessed on earth, and at the same time something that would be accessible to any and all. I said before, I was someone who was bound to my circumstances, almost reliving the mistakes imposed upon my life as if reading it from a script. The answer is old and familiar, and yet is our eternal contemporary which continues to change lives from now until the end of time. That answer is only to be found in the person and relationship of Jesus Christ, whose life and indwelt power have been the source of every major push against hatred from pagan Rome to 18th century England to mid-19th century America.
His solution has changed the hearts of men and women, which is the only cure for every form of hate. Without that living cure, we will be left to the shallow tearing down of stone and tearing up of pages in desperation to cure the symptoms, while never once touching the source of the problem — the human heart.