The Civil Rights Movement that culminated in the 1960’s was an important movement towards the advancement of equality for all Americans. While artificial and fundamental hatreds will likely always exist between disparate people groups, the relative harmony that has been experienced in this country over the last forty years is likely unprecedented in the history of the world. To create equality of opportunity for all of a society’s individuals and to simultaneously provide an environment free of the expression of abusive power of one group of people over another is a seldom seen accomplishment. America has been a place where these goals are thought by many to actually be within reach.
Last week, the former President, Bill Clinton, made comments linking the Tea Party Movement to the worst act of domestic terror that has ever been experienced in our country’s history. The Oklahoma City bombing was a tragedy of massive proportion. Apparently, Mr. Clinton believes that the same ideological forces that motivated the bombers of the Federal Building are those that now motivate those that gather under the Tea Party banner. To consider this comment reckless and irresponsible is to understate its vitriolic intent. It is almost impossible to adequately underscore the complete disconnect between the former President’s “I feel your pain” tone with his real message. Farcical messages delivered with a level of alleged caring are amongst the most dangerous. It is reminiscent of the initial tempting of mankind in the Garden of Eden.
The reason the Civil Rights Movement emerged was that a people group was being treated unfairly and were being oppressed by a system that stood for a higher principle than was being observed. And there were those who at the time “stood up” and said that what was happening was both immoral and evil. Most people of conscious knew that this situation needed to be fixed, with the only differences of opinion coming in terms of the appropriate means to that agreed-upon end. We humans are endowed with a sense of justice that transcends both our group distinctions and our distorted modern media coverage. We know injustice when we see it. The only question is whether we “stand up” and voice our disaffection. Mr. Clinton must certainly understand this attribute of a liberal democracy such as ours, as he was a societal product of the 1960s.
The only difference between the Tea Party Movement and the Civil Rights Movement is the nature of the oppressor. The driving force behind each of the movements is the same. In both cases a minority group is passionately expressing a very heartfelt concern that their individual liberties are being violated and that their freedoms are being abused by a tyrannical oppressor. In the 1960s the oppressor was a racial group. In 2010 the oppressor is the Federal Government and the Obama Administration. Both movements were asking for something quite simple: just treat us with fairness. To believe that one of the movements was racial and the other ideological, and that they are therefore different, is to miss the obvious common factor. It is a distinction without a difference.
Can the evils of an oppressive system cause certain rogue individuals to take actions that are legally inappropriate and even reprehensible? The answer is obviously yes. But that is not the point, and the former President knows it. The Civil Rights Movement created some very ugly scenes. For purposes of this discussion, let’s remember the situation in Detroit in the summer of 1967. Would Mr. Clinton ever think to link Civil Rights and Detroit? No. He does not cast himself in the role of oppressor in either situation. He rather sees himself as a liberator. And in his self-analysis is his error. Until the liberal left comes to see themselves as the real oppressors, we will continue to hear the same insulting and condescending rhetoric. Funny thing: Vladimir Lenin didn’t see himself as an oppressor either…he saw himself as a liberator.