Even as we fight a war against terrorism, deal with the reality of electing an African American as our President for the first time and deal with the other significant issues of the day, the need to confront our racial past, and our racial present, and to understand the history of African people in this country, endures. One cannot truly understand America without understanding the historical experience of black people in this nation. Simply put, to get to the heart of this country one must examine its racial soul. Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.
Today the Attorney General looked into American history, and saw cowards. He saw Americans all-to-ready to abandon the hard work of learning the lessons of history, and correctly asserted the great importance of understanding the past in order to improve the present, and future.
I agree with him, and commend his courage. It can’t be easy to make such a bold public statement while still learning where the office bathrooms and water fountains are located. Even more, Holder’s is an especially brazen statement given that his boss, the President, seems to have a different opinion about the importance of history. When questioned about high crimes and felonies alleged against various and sundry departed government officials of the previous administration, the President has recommended–several times–that we should forget the past. Looking back at such matters hinders progress and delays healing. He is all about the future. The past should remain buried.
So it seems that Mr. Holder may have a bit of a dillema. Is history important, as he claims–or should it be ignored, as his boss seems to prefer?
The answer is monumentally important not only for Mr. Holder’s brand new gig as defender of the constitution, but for the country. If history is truly important to Mr. Holder, he’ll probably remember the lessons of Watergate, Iran/Contra, and the importance of the rule of law. He’ll recall 800 years of habeas, signed treaties banning torture, the Fourth Amendment, and the Church Committee. He’ll pursue investigation of the worst sorts of high-government felons no matter what pressure is brought to bear on him.
But what will happen if Holder reverses himself, surrendering to the President’s view that this history stuff is really not all it’s cracked up to be? In that event, we’ll probably see Mr. Holder and his staff cutting back on all this history-talk. Instead, he and his staff will likely be joining the rest of his hope-soaked and strictly-forward-looking fellow citizens.
You know–the history-avoiding, cowardly ones.