Terre Haute Tribune-Star. July 3, 2022.
Editorial: Freedom — and its many contradictions
“When in the course of human events...”
Those seven words form the opening sentence of the most consequential document in human history. Written during late spring and early summer of 1776 by founding father Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence would be the guiding light for the 13 British colonies to become the first 13 “united states” of America.
After establishing the reasons for the declaration in a brief opening paragraph, what follows in the Declaration is perhaps the most profound — and most quoted — political statement ever written.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
While today we marvel at the clarity of philosophy and intensity of purpose present in Jefferson’s narrative, the Declaration was not an easy sell. In fact, it almost failed to pass the Second Continental Congress. The most contentious issue was the institution of slavery, the forced servitude of Africans kidnapped from their home continent and sold as property to traders and landowners across the colonies but primarily in America’s southern regions. Early drafts contained a passionate condemnation of slavery. But as debate ensued, it became clear that a Declaration of Independence would not be adopted that contained such language. The anti-slavery passage was deleted.
It was a glaring intellectual contradiction that a document stating that “all men are created equal” didn’t address the issue of slavery. Indeed, Jefferson himself was a slave owner. The inspiring rhetoric of the Declaration did not always match the reality of America’s founding.
Still, the Declaration propelled the new country into a revolution that created the United States of America. The country thrived, yet it would take more than 80 years and a Civil War for slavery to finally be abolished.
Since the adoption of the Declaration, the ideal of a free America for all has been a work in progress. As we observe today the 246th anniversary of the signing of that history-altering document, more work remains to be done.
A number of issues through the decades have posed challenges to our government. While based on democratic principles, our various systems of self-governance have proved to be imperfect. Most recently, stark divisions have emerged in our vast political landscape. The institutions that we once depended on to provide stability have themselves come under attack.
Today gives us an opportunity to recalibrate our ideals and reset our national purpose. Freedom for all, with all its conflicts and contradictions, is worth pursuing.
Happy birthday to America. And happy birthday to us as Americans. While our nation is restless and unsettled, Jefferson understood that the future requires us to find common ground. The closing words of the Declaration clearly expressed his view that we’re all in this together.
“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
Anderson Herald Bulletin. June 29, 2022.
Editorial: Honor befits Black actor who protested stereotypes
There are rewarding and heartfelt moments in Harper Lee’s stirring novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” from 1960.
In one scene, Southern lawyer Atticus Finch has just delivered a courtroom summation in hopes of exonerating a Black man falsely accused of rape. The jury is all white; the main floor of the courtroom is for whites only. Blacks must sit in a balcony.
Among those in the balcony is Rev. Sykes, who is sitting next to Finch’s daughter, Jean Louise, who is also known as Scout.
In one sentence, Sykes teaches the young white girl a lesson in respecting and honoring one’s parents as Atticus walks from the courtroom. “Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”
In the film version, the line is delivered with solemnity and purpose by actor William “Bill” Walker.
The line had such impact that today it punctuates the acting career of Pendleton native William Franklin “Bill” Walker. But it doesn’t define him.
Walker, who died in 1992 at the age of 95, appeared in nearly 100 motion pictures with roles ranging from “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” to the Abbott and Costello comedy, “Africa Screams.” Many of his roles, reaching from 1946 to the 1970s, were Black stereotypes: a train porter, a bartender, a prisoner.
Walker once said he tried throughout his career to defy racial stereotypes in his work.
“I had a lot of arguments with directors. Most of them knew nothing about how a Negro feels, how he lives, what he thinks.”
Walker’s grandfather, a former slave who had served in an all-Black brigade of the Union Army during the Civil War, came to the Madison County area from North Carolina in the 19th century.
All that history makes even more stunning when all his years as an actor and African American addressing race in the South came to bear: “Stand up. Your father’s passin’.”
When Gregory Peck accepted the Oscar for his role as Atticus Finch, he noted Walker’s contribution to the classic.
On June 24, Walker was memorialized in his hometown with a marker sponsored by the Indiana Historical Bureau.
The marker notes Walkers’ 1915 graduation from Pendleton High School and his service in the all-Black 92nd Army Division in World War I.
His is now one of more than 700 markers honoring Hoosiers throughout the state. It is the sixth historical marker in Madison County and the third in five years. The marker stands in front of the Pendleton Historical Museum. It is a fitting tribute to a man who deserves the accolade.
Jeffersonville News and Tribune. June 28, 2022.
Editorial: Morales’ election comments are concerning
Former Mike Pence aide Diego Morales is seeking to hold a position as Indiana’s top election official after agreeing with a lie that led to threats against his former boss.
Morales was selected this month by Republican delegates as the party’s secretary of state nominee. The most important facets of a secretary of state’s job are to ensure the integrity of elections and to protect voter access. Based on Morales’ comments, we should question whether he’s qualified to do either.
According to an Associated Press story, Morales called the 2020 election a “scam” and has attempted to woo Donald Trump supporters by agreeing with the former president’s false claims about President Joe Biden’s victory.
Columnist Brian Howey wrote in a June 23 piece that Morales’ camp had tried to walk back that stance in a text message, but Howey also reported that the Republican had called the 2020 election “flawed” and its outcome “questionable” in a March 8 article on the website Hoosier State Today.
So what’s a Hoosier to believe about the man who could be in charge of the state’s 2024 election? We can start with what we know.
We know that shortly after Trump’s speech on Jan. 6, 2021, an angry mob chanted “Hang Mike Pence” while overrunning the Capitol. We know that no credible evidence that the 2020 election was stolen has been presented. We know that despite the attack, Pence stayed the course and certified the election results.
You can do your own research to verify those facts. There’s ample video evidence of what occurred on that terrible day, and even election audits conducted by Trump supporters showed the results were accurate. In fact, an audit by Arizona Republicans revealed only that Biden received more votes than initially reported.
So what does it say when a candidate, in spite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, still agrees with a lie? Can such a candidate be trusted to guarantee the rightful winners of Indiana elections are confirmed? This isn’t just a concern for Democrats, as it’s highly unlikely Indiana will turn Blue in the 2024 election. With division in their own ranks, Republicans should be mindful of who is given election authority.
After winning his party’s nomination on June 18, Morales told reporters he wants to cut the number of early voting days in half to save taxpayer money. His suggestion would come in stark contrast to the 2020 election when more than 1.7 million Hoosiers voted early.
Election officials should seek ways to encourage more voting, not take away opportunities to cast ballots. Crowding polling sites by reducing early voting days would discourage voting, and it would further stress election officials.
In attempting to win an election, candidates sometimes say some strange things. Hopefully, Morales’ comments were simply voter courtship, as, unfortunately, many still cling to Trump’s discredited assertions.
To protect democracy, we must have strong officials who stand for truth. Pence was ousted as vice president because of the 2020 election, yet he didn’t succumb to threats and pressure to attempt to stop Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris from taking office. Can we trust that Morales, if elected in November, will have the same fortitude as his former boss?