The Sins Of Our Forefathers

Published on

Over four centuries, Americans have been cursed by the centuries-old sins of our forefathers. And yet, they were all great men. They bequeathed to us the priceless gift of democracy.

Of course, the cynics among us – myself included – helpfully point out that many of these guys were virulent racists and sexists. As are so many Americans today. Oh well, nobody’s perfect!

Today, while we proudly proclaim ourselves the world’s oldest democracy, we are in imminent danger becoming just one more fascist dictatorship. But we could still proudly proclaim ourselves a white Christian nation.

The Establishment Of Slavery

What were the sins of our forefathers? The most obvious, of course, was our original sin – the establishment of slavery. It began in 1619 when a ship-load of West Africans shackled in chains arrived in Charleston, South Carolina. Within six or seven decades, millions of black slaves were providing the lion’s share of agricultural labor throughout the South coastal colonies.

It wasn’t until we fought an extremely bloody Civil War that slavery was finally abolished in the United States. But it was until a hundred years later that Black Americans were finally allowed to vote, go to integrated schools, and partake of all the basic accommodations that had previously been reserved for whites only.

And yet, to this day, a very high proportion of our Black citizens continue being treated like second class citizens. Employment discrimination, housing segregation, and a virulently racial criminal justice system keep the Blacks “in their place.”

Treatment Of Native Americans

As badly as our ancestors treated Blacks, they treated Native Americans even worse, especially throughout the nineteenth century. Blacks, who arrived in chains, were considered valuable commodities rather than human beings, so their owners had a strong financial incentive to keep them alive.

But the vast majority of Native Americans were force-marched west, resulting in hundreds of  thousands of deaths. It was necessary to move them, because white Americans wanted to steal their lands. In fairness, before they were forced to leave their homes, many were given the chance to be slaves.

Regretfully, that didn’t work out, so the U.S. Cavalry had to be called in to march whole tribes hundreds – or even thousands – of miles to desolate reservations. Just imagine making people of all ages walk from, say, South Florida to Oklahoma. Was this any way for a government “of the people, by the people for the people” to behave?

Women’s Rights

Moving right along, we’ve come to the third sin of our nation’s forefathers. Would you believe that way back in 1776, the great men who produced our Declaration of Independence could not have been described as women’s libbers? Surely not after they wrote these stirring words: “All men are created equal.”

So who might have been thrilled to hear stirring words? Adolph Hitler? Joseph Stalin? Donald Trump? Perhaps they might have been somewhat troubled that might they be just a bit sexist.

Today, most Americans would might be more comfortable with “All men and women are created equal.” Indeed, back in 1919, when the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution was passed, it finally granted women the right to vote.

Can you believe it? Until that year, even in the world’s greatest democracy, only half its adult citizens had the right to vote? Our Declaration of Independence should have read, “By half the people, of half the people, and for half the people.”

But even after granting the women the right to vote, just of tiny fraction of the people elected to political office were women. And virtually no women held executive positions in any of our ten thousand largest corporations. Medical schools, law schools, and other professional schools admitted more than perhaps a handful of women.

Decades ago, The New York Times and other leading newspapers maintained two separate help-wanted listings of job openings – Male and Female. Is there a male way of practicing law, medicine, accounting, a banking, or engineering? And how come nearly all the jobs women were allowed to do were much lower-paying than those allocated to males? Just asking.

So yeah, it is highly conceivable that if Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis were to attain the presidency in 2024, either one may well succeed in destroying our democracy. But we need to remember that our democracy is imperfect. And whom do we have to thank for that?

You know the answer: The same guys who gifted us with democracy. Meanwhile, we’re still paying for their sins.