As we were preparing the house for our Thanksgiving guests yesterday, I finally put away the walker and wheelchair I’ve had since I came home from the rehabilitation center on August 13th. It was a reminder of how far I’ve come, and how thankful I am to be on the road to recovery. But I’m not just thankful for the healing; I’m also thankful for the injury itself. Let me explain.
Note: This article is based on a lecture I gave on Thursday, August 8, 2013, to the Public Policy Lawyering class (LAW 760) at the Liberty University School of Law.
Ken Blackwell, a prominent practitioner and opinion-shaper in politics and policy, visiting professor of law at Liberty University, and one of the few men I’ve met who, in my opinion, is deserving of the label “statesman”, speaks of politics as the art of “controlling the narrative”.
One of the most persistent, compelling and controversial narratives of modern American politics, specifically among the liberal orthodoxy, is that, despite the gains of the civil rights era, America is still an inherently racist nation.
While I was healing from shoulder surgery, it seemed as if the rest of the country was ripping open its wounds and pouring caustic liquid into them to inflict as much pain as possible. I don’t understand it, it breaks my heart, and I don’t see any way to bring us back to a place of reason and grace. Honestly, I didn’t even want to address this issue, because it brings out the ugliness in a lot of people that I care about, and I had no desire to see it.
That said, I’m letting my guard down a bit, and I’m going to be as personal and honest as I can be about race in America, at least how I see it. I’ve addressed some of this in my book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch, which first came out in 2010, yet it really bothers me that the hope reflected in the last chapter seems further away today than it was three years ago.
Let me start with this: everyone profiles, and those who say they don’t aren’t being honest.
One of the benefits of convalescing after surgery is that you have a lot of time to think. Those of you who have followed me for any length of time know that I’ve had more surgeries in the past two years than the average person probably has in a lifetime, so I’ve had ample time for reflection and self-examination.
I am genetically predisposed to reflection before reaction in any case, which should be apparent in my writing. If you’re looking for an immediate reaction to current events, I’m afraid I’m not your man. In fact, the more contentious the issue, the more time I’m likely to spend mulling it over before I write about it.
Therefore, I assure you that what I’m about to say is something to which I’ve given a great deal of thought over the past two years, and it’s something I’ve hinted at in several columns over that time frame.
I’m done with politics. Specifically, I’m done with politics as it’s practiced in modern-day America. It is shallow, divisive, destructive, utilitarian, insulting and incapable of solving the critical problems we face today.
I thank God that I am an American. Even though America has stepped on the accelerator in its rush to escape from God, I still love my country, and I honor its 237 years of existence.
In practical terms, I know that my lifestyle is measurably better than it would be anywhere else in the world. In a nation created from an ideal rather than shared language, culture, race, ethnicity, faith or geography, we are unbound from traditional labels which in other nations determine who we are and how far we will go in life. That is why more people immigrate to America than any other nation despite its flaws. As I wrote in my book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Tom’s Porch:
…[M]y ascension as a black man in America isn’t based on being in the right tribe, having the right bloodline or being in the majority or the faction with the most guns. I succeed in America because I matter as an individual and I am empowered to chart my own direction. As long as I play by the rules,there are thousands of fellow Americans, some I’ve not even met yet, who stand ready to help me and cheer me on.
It was America, not the supposedly more enlightened European or Asian nations, which elected a person of color to lead the most powerful, most prosperous, most in?uential nation that has ever existed on the planet. Am I better off in America than in any other country in the world, even as a black man? To quote a certain former governor of Alaska, “You betcha!”
Some Christians are uncomfortable with such expressions of patriotism, because God loves all people, not just Americans, and the fate of all nations rests in His hands. “He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them” (Job 12:23, New International Version).
Just as God creates and destroys nations, however, He places us in nations with a plan and a purpose. Even Peter, the most impetuous of Jesus’ disciples, declares:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority,or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
Honoring America, therefore, is an act of obedience toward those “who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”
What happens, however, when the nations in which we are placed reject and violate God’s law? What if the nations punish those who do right and commend those who do wrong? What if the nations oppress the people of God?
Most of you know that I spend some time thinking about current events before commenting on them, unless I have absolute clarity about them in my mind and heart.
The news of state senator Elbert Guillory switching political parties is something I would have highlighted without hesitation in times past. I would have viewed his decision as a validation of my own path, and I would have taken pleasure in his repudiation of the condescension of the Democratic Party and the progressive movement it represents.
I’m not the same person I was a few years ago, however, and so I’ve been processing the news much more deliberately than I might have in the past.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:4-7, ESV).
Many of my Christian friends ask me what they should do in a nation that increasingly rejects God as either a) non-existent or b) on the wrong side of history – an ironic concept given He is the maker of history, but I digress.
The instructions the Lord gave Jeremiah to pass on to the Israelites as they were dragged into exile in Babylon tell us what we must do. Rather than hunkering down in our enclaves out of fear or despair, waiting for the Lord to return and take us from this world, we are called to live our lives fully and “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you…”
I’ve not commented on NSA’s PRISM program up to this point because, as a former intelligence officer and senior IT professional, I recognize there are many layers to it, and I wanted to address them as cogently and accurately as possible.
Most Americans understand and accept that the interception and analysis of foreign communications is essential to developing effective intelligence. This is an historical and necessary function in the intelligence cycle.
The prevalence of the Internet, however, is a game changer, because most communications, even from other countries, travel through U.S.-based servers.
Intelligence agencies, therefore, require permission from the U.S. owners of these assets to monitor them. Intelligence agencies have to demonstrate that a particular thread of communications from a foreign source warrants attention, and so they make their case to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, mirroring the act of domestic law enforcement agencies securing a search warrant. Once they have this warrant, the companies are lawfully obligated to provide them access.
There are three key points I want to leave with you as takeaways.
“O brave new world, That has such people in’t!” ~ Miranda, Act 5, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
I made a comment recently on Twitter that, lately, I feel like an alien observing a strange world not of my previous acquaintance, and I cited Philippians 3:20 which reads, in part, “But our citizenship is in heaven…”
I know I’m not alone in that disquieting observation, as the world seems hell-bent on discarding every restraint and celebrating a rampant libertinism in some areas of their lives, while embracing the paternalism of the state in others. That this is all happening as an expression of the people’s will makes it all the more baffling, especially for a culture such as ours, built uniquely from its first days on a foundation of ordered liberty.
That said, however, I couldn’t help but think I’d “seen” this before.
As I sit here in the quiet of the evening, with nothing but my keyboard and a blank page on my computer monitor, I’m reflecting on what has been one of the most tumultuous weeks in recent American history, and what I’m thinking about is pretty sobering.
Witnessing how we as Americans responded to the terrorist bombing in Boston and the manhunt which successfully concluded Friday night, and the failure of the president’s gun control agenda in the Senate, I’m reminded of several points I’ve made in the past, and nothing this week has changed my mind about them. If anything, they were reinforced.