Editor, Gazette:

Everyone knows by now that though the Declaration proclaimed “all men are created equal,” Thomas Jefferson was a slaveholder who fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings, and our Revolutionary ideals have fallen short of fulfillment.

Some believe we have to either idolize the Founders and deny the facts of slavery and racism, or deny the point and force of our aspirational ideals and see only oppression and hypocrisy.

But “my country right or wrong” never meant we must choose either always right or always wrong. We all know that each person is a mix of strength and weakness, good and bad qualities. Why is it often so difficult to acknowledge the same applies to our community and nation?

As a scholar of fascism, you know, Mr. Whisker, that the rhetoric you used in your letter has been used often to incite fear, hatred and violence. Is there reason to hope that a calmer, more rational examination of the Black Lives Matter protest movement might be fruitful, instead of relying on the hackneyed cliché of barbarians vs civilization? To dismiss efforts to come to terms with slavery and racism as caving in to mob rule is less than honest or fair. Surely you know that along with protests, many respected institutions, communities, universities, and museums have discussed the nature and role of memorials and other sites, and tried to develop criteria for deciding which ones contribute to society and which do not. Not a simple matter, to be sure!

But, is it really surprising that Roger Taney’s statue at the Museum of Natural History should get the attention of activists and official alike?: this Chief Justice who wrote for the majority in the Dred Scott case of 1857 that blacks were mere “merchandise,” and that authors of the Declaration of Independence believed "the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration…. [The Framers] perfectly understood the meaning of the language they used, and how it would be understood by others; and they knew that it would not in any part of the civilized world be supposed to embrace the negro race, which by common consent, had been excluded from civilized Governments and the family of nations, and doomed to slavery."

Bill Fine

New Paris

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