Thursday, March 20, 2008

America's "Original Sin"??????????

The point that jumped out at me from Barack Obama’s speech was his opening comment about “…this nation’s original sin of slavery…” That sounds like an attempt to induce white guilt, not a transcendence of our racial differences to me. The concept of Original Sin derives from the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve hade been commanded not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But Eve succumbed to the temptation of the serpent and ate of the forbidden fruit. Adam then followed her example and both then knew the difference between right and wrong. They felt shame for doing wrong and covered themselves with fig leaves. The serpent was condemned by the Lord to slither on its belly eating the dust of the Earth forever. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden. Ever since, mankind has been burdened with the knowledge of right and wrong. It is an eternal burden. But slavery (as distinct from racism) is not an eternal sin. Indeed, in a world where slavery in various forms had existed throughout recorded history, the United States (and Great Britain) would play leading roles in the abolition of slavery. This process had begun by the time of the ratification of the United States Constitution.I have ancestors who came with John Winthrop to America to build what he described as “a city on a hill”. It is that vision which has inspired generations of Americans. Down through nearly four centuries in America, I cannot identify any ancestor who was a slave owner. How am I to be burdened with Obama’s vision of my “original sin”? While slavery was legalized in Massachusetts in the 1600’s, by the time of the founding of our nation there were no slaves. Here is a link to the 1790 census . Skip forward to page 6 and you’ll see the tabulation of the population by state. It shows that out of a total population of 3,893,635 people, Massachusetts had 378,787 people and no slaves, while its Eastern Territories (present day Maine) had 96,540 people and no slaves. It is also useful to note that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a state religion, Congregational, up until 1780 . The United Church of Christ, to which Mr. Obama’s church belongs, was created in 1957 by the merging of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Churches . It is the direct lineal descendant from the Pilgrims and Puritans of colonial America. At the time it was founded, it was a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant church. By the time when our constitution was ratified, in Massachusetts and Maine at least, slavery had ended. At the behest of Northern states, the Constitution included a negotiated compromise to end the importation of slaves at a future date, with the intent to end slavery nationwide. And when the intent of that compromise failed to come to fruition, the people supported the Civil War during which the Emancipation Proclamation freed all the slaves. As a measure of the sacrifice by those WASPs from Maine to the abolitionist cause, consider the exploits of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment which played such a pivotal role in the Union victory at Gettysburg on Little Round Top. Without that victory, there might be slavery in the South to this day.So where is my ancestor’s “original sin“ Mr. Obama? I'd say that his plan of government succor to the black population is very much at odds with the independence and Protestant Work Ethic of those who long ago began the process to abolish slavery and who thereby effected real CHANGE.