Heroes and Hypocrites

Juneteenth, June 19, 1865. President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation finally became a reality when the last slaves were set free in Texas. It’s not surprising that the annual celebration of “Juneteenth” began there, or that it eventually bloomed into a national holiday–at least for black people.

But now that’s changing as Americans of all colors are beginning to acknowledge and celebrate June 19th. And well we should. Just as all Germans should celebrate April 11th, the day Buchenwald, the largest Nazi concentration camp, was opened and its last surviving victims were set free. No matter how some may feel about it.

June 19th is our holiday. No matter how some of us may feel about it. Or rather, because of how we feel about it. Yes, it feels different to those whose ancestors were slaves than those whose ancestors owned slaves. Just as April 11th feels different to those whose parents were concentration camp victims than those whose parents were Nazis—or who simply closed their eyes to the atrocities being committed by their nation.

Our history is cratered with hypocrisy. All nations’ histories are cratered with hypocrisy. And any history lesson that fails to acknowledge that—including all of its ramifications—is a lie. Yes, courageous Europeans settled this “new world.” But they also trampled on the rights of people who’d already been here for millennia, unintentionally (and intentionally) wiping out the vast majority of them. Later, descendants of the same Europeans founded a model of democracy admired and emulated throughout the world. Yet many of those same founders owned slaves, and didn’t fully grasp (or chose not to) their own hypocrisies.

On July 4th, Americans will celebrate Independence Day. It’s a holiday that belongs to all of us. No matter how some of us may feel about it. Yesterday, statues of Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence but also owned slaves, and George Washington, who was our nation’s first president but also owned slaves, were torn down.

Yes, they were hypocrites. But we don’t celebrate what they did wrong; we celebrate what they did right. Should we tear down the statues of those whose primary achievement was promoting slavery? Yes! But not those who laid the groundwork for the end of slavery (even if they didn’t enact it) with their proclamation that “all men are created equal.”

All of our heroes are hypocrites, because all humans are hypocrites. So the only way to move forward is to confess our wrongdoings, while soberly learning from them, and to celebrate our right-doings, acknowledging all of our beauty and all of our scars…

Together.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
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37 Responses to Heroes and Hypocrites

  1. Well said, Mitch! 👍🏻

    Liked by 2 people

  2. John Adams was ardently opposed to slavery. However, putting his view into context, he knew there could be no united 13 states if that was a hill he would die on. Let us remember that fourscore and seven years later many of the Union’s heroes were drafted soldiers. The worst riot in US history was a New York riot over the draft. Yes, American history is complicated. By the grace of God may Americans learn MORE about LOVING one another, soon to celebrate our 250th birthday. It is a time to see more hearts change deeply.

    Liked by 10 people

  3. backuphill says:

    Sanitizing history because of offense, doesn’t change history. It only hides it. Hidden history educates no one, leading some to repeat it.

    As you pointed out very well, all humans are fallible. America’s history has some great moments (a beacon of hope) and some awful moments (a national black eye, so to speak), so celebrating the great doesn’t diminish the need to acknowledge when we have failed. Many rational people can do just that. However, we also can’t keep bringing up the past and living it. That doesn’t move people forward, nor does it acknowledge the progress that has been made.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Right on, Mitch. Humans have come a long way, but have so much further to go.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. revruss1220 says:

    You make an important and oft-overlooked point. And yet we see to have a continuing urge to idealize people and put them (literally) onto pedestals. You have prodded me to wonder what is behind that human urge…

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Mark Johnson says:

    Beautifully stated, Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. landl30 says:

    Thank you for this Mitch. One of the things often lost in our theology is Original Sin.. the reality that all have fallen short of the glory of God… so we need to give each other a little grace. Not to excuse, but to acknowledge that our faith is not in ourselves, but in God to save and guide us.
    Reading through the Old Testament I’m often struck with how unethical and even murderous our biblical ancestors are…. and that’s appropriate, because the biblical story is not about wonderful ancestors, but about God’s redeeming them, and working through even their very mixed stories, to move things forward.
    Best and Blessings,
    Len

    Liked by 7 people

  8. Very well put, everyone is a hypocrite, but like you said we are all only human 👏

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Great post. I wish more people could see our history in this perspective. I hope we can celebrate the good in America this July 4th ❤🤍💙

    Liked by 2 people

  10. When preaching I often say, “Sometimes people say that the church is full of hypocrites. I tell them, ‘The church isn’t full of hypocrites–we’ve got room for more!'”

    Liked by 2 people

  11. John Purvis says:

    Very well written post, Mitch! Once again, you make your point with facts and not emotion. You’ve made me think and I appreciate that. Thank You!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I appreciate this honest and level-headed commentary.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Bill Sweeney says:

    This is right on, Mitch. There is so much self-righteousness on display. We have to view history through the context of the times. All transformational figures were controversial. Jesus is the only one that wasn’t a hypocrite.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Pam Webb says:

    Isn’t stated by Mark Antony in Julius Caesar that the good deeds of men are not as remembered as the bad? A rational balance needs to be established. Redemption and grace are benchmarks of a functioning society.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Actually, this is a republic, not a democracy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. We shouldn’t judge men of the past if they didn’t fully live up to the values of our age, but rather if they made positive steps forward in their time. One hundred years from now, I wonder how history will judge the radical pro-abortion politicians of 2020. Will future humanity value the unborn?

    Liked by 3 people

  17. K.L. Hale says:

    Wow. So beautifully stated. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Tausha J. says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this, Mitch and I appreciate you sharing your view. I wish all of us could be open-minded enough listen to one another and acknowledge a valid point when we read/hear one. Blessings to you.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Well said. The reality that we ALL flawed is the very reason we need a Savior in the Person of Jesus Christ. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  20. alsavignano says:

    June 19, 1865 is certainly an important date in the history of abolition, but so is December 6, 1865. That’s the day the 13th Amendment was ratified. One great leader, a leader who cannot reasonably be construed as hypocritical, deserves credit for both events: Abraham Lincoln.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      I agree, Al, but I think most people feel Lincoln already gets a pretty high amount of recognition. June 19 is the date that African Americans have chosen because, I suspect, its more about them than Congress or Lincoln, so I’m all in favor of honoring that celebration.

      Like

  21. Ann Coleman says:

    Well, said Mitch! No one is perfect, what we need to do when honoring leaders of the past is look at the big picture. I mean, if we could only honor those without sin, there would be no humans honored at all. (And I’m sorry I’ve been absent here….even though I’m following your blog and have it marked to receive new posts in my email, that stopped happening a few days ago, with your blog and several others. Maybe Word press is trying to punish me for not using the block editor?)

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Naveen Tariq says:

    Reblogged this on Intellect | Adventure | Nobility.

    Like

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