This is a very personal post, offering some perspectives to those who have been watching both political conventions, and who are led to worry that we live in an extraordinarily tough time.
I attended the 1968 DNC in Chicago as a young, disenfranchised Challenge Delegate from Georgia, where the government was really only the Democratic Party, which, by the way, systematically disenfranchised Blacks all across the South and our state, while the Governor sold ax handles at his restaurant to better attack Civil Rights demonstrators. The Democrats at that time were the party of the South, Jim Crow and segregation.
In that 1968 round, Gene McCarthy was the national Bernie Sanders, Julian Bond was our local Bernie, and the Vietnam War was our Rigged System. Hubert Humphrey was Hillary, and his people constantly lied to us and about us.
When we compare the two years, recall that 1968 saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and of Bobby Kennedy, violent riots and cities burning across the country, the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact, and at the DNC the Chicago police chased and mercilessly beat hundreds of young people. And the primary issue of the Vietnam War, passionately motivating us, was literally killing our friends. So, yes, this is a tough time today, but that was also a tough time.
My point is that we’ve come through tough times before, and I think that they have actually made us stronger, so long as we keep talking.
Here are five other personal takeaways from comparing the events of the two summers:
- We have come a long way in this country in race relations, which we should celebrate regularly, while also working to heal more. Shared faith is a great leveler in this area, because Christ teaches that we are all equally created in the image of God—all races and both genders. And we would have already healed more if families and communities had been uplifted more than government programs and the right to ever increasing entitlements.
- Thankfully, people can genuinely change their beliefs, interests and focus. Unlike in 1968, I am now a Christian conservative/libertarian, and my views continue to evolve as I seek God’s truth. I know that when I gave up trying to run my own life, God transformed what I was interested in for the better. My personality is largely the same—He made it and can now use whatever talents I have for His work. My point is that we should always do our best to persuade and to move people to the truth, whether it is the truth about race, faith, taxes, programs, family, policies, threats, etc., etc. Never give up on anyone, never demonize anyone–challenge policies, not people, and keep talking
- Powerful elites give up power only in extraordinary circumstances, usually after a confrontation with the truth, as mentioned above. Hubert Humphrey’s strategists hated that we showed up from Georgia with a challenge, but they could not deny the rotten truth of the Georgia party when it was exposed to the light. Today’s Sanders supporters probably see little difference between Lester Maddox appointing all the delegates in 1968 and the party’s super delegates in 2016—the goal in both cases is to maintain the elite’s power and the status quo.
- That is one reason why having a genuinely independent media, not in the pocket of any group, is so important in a democracy. In other countries the elites tend to default to violence to stay in power, under various political, religious or tribal guises. Here, other than the KKK, gangs and some local fiefdoms, we have avoided that tendency. That’s part of what we mean when we say that America is an idea more than a place. But we have to be on guard at all times against, say, using the IRS or a prosecutor to silence others with whom those in power do not agree. That is a terrible first step toward anarchy or dictatorship, and must always be rebuked, publicly. And only a free and vibrantly independent press has the power to push back when needed.
- Most importantly, everyone needs a Savior, whether he or she is a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, woman, man, straight, gay, etc. Everyone. And our primary focus as followers of Christ is not to “save the country”, but to tell people about the Savior and his transforming power in our lives. Yes, politics and government are important—they clearly impact important subjects, from abortion to declaring war. We should bring His Truth to bear on these issues, as He leads us. But our first focus should be on telling our fellow Americans about the love of Christ and his plan for our lives, and if, in that process, we also happen to save our country, then that is the Lord at work through us.