Art's Column 6.30.21.jpg

Pictured in front of the Washington Monument in 1948, from left, my father’s father, Alfred, brother, Dan, Art, and my father, Milton. 

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Is there anything to praise? 

Well, let me tell you my story. In the above picture stands my grandfather on the left who was born in Switzerland and came to America with empty pockets as a baker. He married my grandmother, a German immigrant, and they settled in Scranton, Pa., where they bought their own home and raised my father and their other children. My father became a missile engineer with NASA. I saved my money and owned various small businesses. In the 1970s I bought the Herald, and my wife, Patricia, and I raised our children here in Cape May County, living the American dream of immigrant success. 

To the above, some will say, that is all well and good, but you are White, and that makes you privileged. What about the non-Whites? There is certainly a basis for asking that question. I had a friend in New Mexico of Mexican descent. He volunteered with the Boy Scouts for years and dreamed of spending his life in scouting. When he graduated from college, he applied for an opening. His application was summarily rejected and was told, “We don’t hire Mexicans.” One evening when he and I were drinking beer on the banks of the Rio Grande, he tearfully let all of his disappointment and frustrations out, asking me, “Why is it, that as a White person, you can get any job in this country that you want, but because I’m a Mexican, I won’t even be considered? (He was an American citizen, but not White.) 

And then there is Conley (I don’t know if that was his first or last name, everybody just called him Conley). He was the only Black boy in our junior high school. After PE classes, we would all go to the communal shower room. Conley would be told to stand in the middle, and the boys would pee on him. Everybody would laugh, including Conley, but you know, inside, Conley was not laughing; no one laughs inwardly when being humiliated.  

And there is the incident told to me by a policeman in Zwolle, La., where Patricia and I owned a wholesale bait and tackle business in the early 1970s. The policeman told me that the Blacks were not allowed in the White part of town. I asked him, “What keeps them from going there?” He answered, “I saw a Black man there one time and asked him what he was doing there, where he did not belong, and then told him to run. The Black man replied, ‘No sir, no sir, no sir, please, please, please.’ Then as he turned and started running, I shot him in the leg, and told him not to come back there.” 

The restaurant in Zwolle had a door on the side of the building into the kitchen, and there were a couple of tables there. The Black people ate there. 

Zwolle had a service station owned by J.O., and they bought bait from us. J.O. had a little Black boy who worked for him. When J.O. wanted anything, he’d say to the boy, “Nigger, get me this,” or “Nigger, go do that.” 

As a young child, I rode the train with my mother and siblings to Texas to visit her parents. The railroad car had a divider in the back with the sign “Negros” on it. I asked her what it was for, and she said, “That is where the negros have to sit.” 

Sitting down to write these things, I have to tell you, they are hard to write, but they are true, and we must deal with truth. The best way to deal with truth is to acknowledge and work to do better. In fact, that is the story of our nation from the beginning. In our Declaration of Independence, signed July 4th, 1776, states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  That is an aspirational document; it is what we aspire to; it is what we are working toward. It certainly was not an accomplished fact when it was written. The Blacks were still slaves many years later – but we got there over time. 

In my lifetime, the things I saw in my early life are far less prevalent today. In my early life, it would have been unthinkable to have Kay Coles James as president of The Heritage Foundation, Ben Carson as a cabinet head, Barack Obama as U.S. President, or Tim Scott as a U.S. senator, from South Carolina, of all states. For those who believe that White people all stick together to suppress the minorities, those people would have a hard time explaining how White people en masse discriminate today.  

Yes, we have a long way to go, but our history since July 4, 1776, shows that we aspire to the right goals, and are making notable progress. To the progressives who question our “progress,” please remove your blinders, which prevent you from seeing the progress notes above, or prevent you from seeing that the American Dream has attracted people from around the world for over two centuries, and continues to do so unabated today. 

Back to my original question, should we still “celebrate America? Is there anything to praise?” My answer is a resounding yes. The world, which includes America, is full of imperfect people, but there has never been an experiment which comes anywhere close to what the American people have achieved.  

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Christ’s words, from the Bible: This is my commandment, that you love one another,  as I have loved you. John 15:12 

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