The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Gary Grossman

April 27, 2014

Thirsty boots, no more

— Generally, business people steer clear of the big divide, which is race. The same is true of gender, age, religion, political preference and sexual orientation.

If there is a sure lose-lose proposition for making a buck in America, it is a headlong dive into our national neuroses. We all realize the “one nation, indivisible” is more of a prayer than an oath and always has been.

Part of our charm among the tribes of this earth, however, is the way Americans aspire to some lofty goodness that we frequently recognize and rarely attain, but sometimes do.

So when Leonard Pitts, Jr. took on George Will and Britt Hume on last Sunday’s editorial page over how they dismissed complaints of racism toward Barack Obama and Eric Holder, it seemed possible that some useful insight would emerge.

Pitts, Will and Charles Krauthammer are on our editorial pages because they are all very smart, excellent writers who try to sort our historic character flaws more deftly than the likes of racist rancher Cliven Bundy and his wretched media provocateurs.

Pitts is appreciated here because he once spoke at Bucknell University and made a courtesy call at our little newspaper where he spoke generously with our news staff about the experience of being a nationally syndicated columnist.

Pitts brings a perspective to the editorial page that does not surface naturally in this region of Pennsylvania. Will and Krauthammer project more commonly accepted ideas, but, again, with greater skill and accessibility than the ill-considered utterances purchased to enliven the airwaves of local talk radio.

I hope you saw Leonard Pitts, Jr.’s column last Sunday and maybe read Charles Krauthammer yesterday. As eloquently as Pitts wrote about race, Krauthammer wrote just as forcefully about equality under the law. They are available in our online e-editions, where, I am told, they will reside until infinity and beyond.

There is no denying that savagery still stalks the fringes of civilization. Slavery, genocide, terror, discrimination and subjugation all shame our past, threaten our future and can be found full force in small pockets of the present.

It seems fair to say that the prevailing traditions of our region mean that we embrace the evolution of social and civil norms more gradually than some other communities and that our state is a trailing participant for sweeping and uncertain change.

It is not fair to say that we are less decent or compassionate than our fellow Americans.

Like it or not, our greatest national upheaval, the war that ended slavery, was fought mainly among people in little danger of being enslaved, including Pennsylvanians by the tens of thousands who were on the side of righteousness and perished in great numbers.

Not all white people are bigots, not all males are sexist, not all Christians are anti-Semitic, not all Muslims are jihadists, not all heterosexuals are homophobes and so forth.

That is little comfort to those who must make the long march to equality under the law. Having been wronged in the first place, the once-discriminated are rarely grateful to liberators and allies for rights that should never have been denied in the first place.

Even so, sustained indignation toward someone who has put themselves at risk or given his or her life for your freedom wears thin over time.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once demonstrated this when he was being heckled by a French anti-war protester.

Rumsfeld turned to the Frenchmen and said, “Excuse me, do you speak German?”

“No,” replied the Frenchman.

Rumsfeld looked him in the eyes and said, “You’re welcome.”

There is a difference between saying thank you for not being a jerk and saying thank you for siding with me against that jerk.

While neither fully experienced the great and actual tragedy, the descendants of abolitionists are no happier being excoriated for lingering effects of racism than the descendants of slaves are about the effects of segregation, discrimination and denial of basic rights.

The Supreme Court backed the nation out of affirmative action last week. That was the sound of the clock running out on collective historic guilt. For many, even some who marched, it was about time.

Gary Grossman is the publisher of The Daily Item and The Danville News.

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Gary Grossman
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  • Thirsty boots, no more

    Generally, business people steer clear of the big divide, which is race. The same is true of gender, age, religion, political preference and sexual orientation.
    If there is a sure lose-lose proposition for making a buck in America, it is a headlong dive into our national neuroses. We all realize the “one nation, indivisible” is more of a prayer than an oath and always has been.

    April 27, 2014