Charlottesville: “Better Angels” or “A House Divided”?

If Martin Luther King, Jr. were alive today he would surely have something to say to America about the violence and tragedy that have unfolded in Charlottesville, Virginia.  He might have quoted himself and said,

 “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Thomas Jefferson, the storied patriot who loved Charlottesville, would also have something to say.  He might quote himself and say, 

“Born in the same land, we ought to live as brothers, doing to each other all the good we can, and not listening to wicked men, who may endeavor to make us enemies. By living in peace, we can help and prosper one another; by waging war, we can kill and destroy many on both sides; but those who survive will not be the happier for that.”

And if Abraham Lincoln were alive today, the leader who faced the unspeakable horrors of the Civil War, he too would have something to say to Charlottesville.  He might quote his First Inaugural Address and assert, 

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched … by the better angels of our nature.”

One of the battle cries of America’s Founding Patriots was, “United We Stand.  Divided We Fall”.  Lincoln once gave a famous speech wherein he declared, “A House Divided against Itself Cannot Stand”.  But both patriots and the future President were actually quoting a far more famous and wise leader.  It was Jesus Christ who first declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

When Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, America’s Founders and the Lord Jesus Christ all agree, we probably ought to listen.  They not only speak to Charlottesville.  They address America.  

But who are Americans listening to these days?  

Way back in 1848 Karl Marx, political philosopher and founder of the communist political ideology,  concluded, “… there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror.”

Marx called for a revolution at the end of The Communist Manifesto:

“The Communists openly declare that their ends can only be attained by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

Vladimir Lenin declared,

“The supersession of the bourgeoisie state by the proletariat state is impossible without violent revolution”.

In his essay, The State and Revolution, Lenin argued that violent revolution is the only means by which the bourgeois state can be overthrown.  He asserted that there was an irreconcilable split in society that necessitated violence as a way of abolishing oppression. Lenin observed that the leaders in most societies possess control of “a standing army and police, which are the chief instruments of force of the state power” and thus the only way to deprive the “exploiting class” of control is to confront it with violence.

Americans are confronted with a remarkable anomaly.  They can choose either to listen to Lincoln and Jesus, or Marx and Lenin and yet hear the same thing—“a house divided against itself cannot stand.”  But the difference is that that is exactly what Marx, Lenin and their followers are after and what Jesus, Lincoln, King and Jefferson are seeking to avoid.

Charlottesville will either be the prelude to a revolutionary symphony of violence, or, the prologue to “The mystic chords of memory” that may “yet swell the chorus of … Union, when again touched … by the better angels of our nature.”  America, the choice is yours.

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