Jun 19 2022

Juneteenth

by at 6:08 pm under Uncategorized

I write today’s blog on Juneteenth. On this long weekend I have had time to think about something other than work. So, I will dispense with work-related news quickly.

So far this month, I have submitted a new R01 and have nearly finished preparing two DOD pre-applications. All that’s left is to polish the pre-applications and do my SITEL modules (required yearly training for physicians at MedStar Health). Then it is on to reviewing CCSG write-ups and thinking about how I will modify my Director’s Overview to reflect the many wonderful developments we’ve had at the cancer center over the past eight months or so. Our EAC will be meeting after the summer, and we have to gear up for our May 2023 competitive renewal application.

Juneteenth honors emancipation and the end of slavery in this country, only 159 years ago. Think of this, if you will. Peter Mills, born a slave in 1861 in Prince George’s County, died in 1972, the last surviving American born into involuntary human bondage — only 50 years ago. How can that be? How could so many in this country have embraced such a barbaric practice so recently, defended it in the bloodiest war in our country’s history, and then continued to celebrate so many of the customs and beliefs associated with what is essentially a crime against humanity? Can anybody with a heart and a head truly believe that slavery is a good idea, or that other, less extreme yet still abhorrent forms of human subjugation are somehow acceptable?

Today’s blog by Heather Cox Richardson (“Letters from an American”) shared the following tidbit that delegates to a convention of the Texas Republican Party approved platform planks that reflect the extraordinarily Luddite perspectives of a Republican Party that would be unrecognizable to Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower and George Bush, let alone Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. The platform includes protecting Confederate monuments, withdrawing from the United Nations and the World Health Organization, and — wait for it — “calling for a vote for the people of Texas to determine whether or not the State of Texas should reassert its status as an independent nation.” In other words, the Republican Party of Texas would like to consider secession from the United States. Everything old is new again. I doubt this craziness will gain real traction, and actually wonder if such an act would trigger another Civil War or a collective shrug of the shoulders.

Of course, the real question is why this madness resonates with so many people. I have no special insights, but it seems to me that this is more than the expression of frustration over a lack of full control by previously advantaged people in the economic and cultural life of our society. I heard an analysis the other day that makes sense. As our communities have lost their gravitational force, with an accompanying decline in attendance in religious worship services, Americans, both on the left and the right, have turned to political identification as a ferocious surrogate. Religious fervor accepts no compromise, and in its extremes, prizes identification and conformity — sometimes with disastrous consequences. Good people get led astray. I doubt that people will turn back to organized religion in droves, but perhaps can be persuaded somehow to readopt the secular religion of belief in a common vision for the United States that is reinforced by our mainstream religions.

Maybe I am right; maybe not. I certainly have no easy solutions. But, this I know: Human enslavement is abhorrent and immoral, as are all the trappings that surround it and celebrate the society that created and sustained it. Juneteenth reminds us of that, and should be a call to action for all of us. Today, we remember all those who suffered and died, and those whose lives continue to be affected by the echoes of enslavement.

It’s easy to mouth the words “never again,” but this can only come to pass if we make it so, working together to create a better future for all. In these times, that seems like a tall order, and I don’t know how we might heal. But we can and must do it.

Stay safe, be well, and be the change.

Lou

 


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