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This week we recognize three more events in our history. And, in my opinion, they are connected even though they will fall on different ends of the historical records. Monday we celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day and General Robert E. Lee’s birthday. Yesterday, we recognized the one year anniversary of the Biden administration.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert E. Lee have more in common than most people would think. They both stood up in the face of the federal government’s failure to recognize the rights of our citizens. Dr. King fought for the right of all Americans to vote and enjoy the freedoms provided in our Constitution. Gen. Lee stood up to protect the states rights also provided in our Constitution.
While the culture of slavery was an issue in the reason for secession, the economy and states’ rights were also issues. Cotton, tobacco, rice, and indigo were huge crops produced in the southern states because of the soil, climate and expansive land. These goods were traded in the other states, but also sold to foreign countries, and the federal government was raising the tariffs.
The entire economy of the South was agriculture, and they relied on foreign sales for those crops. Industry was becoming the leader in the North using free labor, and their politicians wanted to protect their businesses by raising the tariff (taxes) on foreign commerce. The northern states and southern states could not reach common ground on the issue, and the southern states decided to secede because they felt the federal government was overstepping the bounds established in the U.S. Constitution.
Which brings us to Gen. Lee. He graduated from West Point and served in the U.S. Army – plus, he was offered the command of the U.S. Army when the Civil War broke out. At that time in history, less than 100 years after our Declaration of Independence, people considered themselves citizens of their states first and the United States second.
He was faced with a choice to defend the state’s rights of his Virginia home or take up arms against her. He chose to resign from the U.S. Army and lead the Confederate Army. This was a major stand against the country he also had fought for.
Now, to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even though the 14th Amendment granted citizenship and equal civil and legal rights to ALL people born or naturalized in the United States, that amendment also placed restrictions on each state to not restrict any privileges or legal protection for any citizen. However, states could still deny rights because of their state constitutions and other restrictions. The 15th Amendment also extended rights but – and I’m just going to say this – states’ rights were recognized at that time, and they were not forced to follow these rules.
A war was fought because the federal government was stepping on states’ rights, but that same government gave in to states’ rights to govern their own citizens. Talk about double standards.
With the help of Frederick Douglass, women finally gained the right to vote in 1920. The Civil Rights acts of 1957 and 1960 signed by President Dwight Eisenhower set the stage for the next changes that came. Black citizens in the south still had less freedom to vote than those in the north, and the Civil Rights Movement with MLK and others took over in the 1960s. Like the Civil War, there were several years of violence and death that led up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that finalized voting protections nationwide.
Dr. King promoted a non-violent atmosphere for the marches and rallies, but opponents to the cause did not hold the same view. King had the courage to stand up in the face of massive discrimination at the state levels to force the federal government to enforce the laws they had passed. The dilemma unfortunately was another blow to states’ rights even though it was the right thing to do.
So the question is, do we really have states’ rights or not? Sometimes it seems we do, and sometimes it seems we don’t. And that, finally, brings me to the past year under the Joe Biden administration. Again, states’ rights are being upheld in some cases and not upheld in other cases.
States like California, New York, Oregon, Illinois, and Michigan are allowed to run their states anyway they want to. They ignore laws and allow criminals to rule the streets. Their law enforcement is virtually non-existent. But, states like Florida, Texas, Virginia, and Arizona are prevented from protecting their citizens from illegal immigrants, over-reaching mask and testing mandates, and attacks on their education systems.
And, to top all of that off, President Biden now wants to pass another Voting Rights Act that will give voting rights to illegal immigrants and remove any requirement to verify the identity of voters. The bottom line to me is that the votes of American citizens will be diluted by non-citizens who do not have the right to vote – and many don’t even speak or read English. What does that do to the hard fights we had in the not-so-distant past for OUR rights to vote. The governance of elections is another constitutional power of the states, NOT the federal government. While the promotion of this law sounds good, the devil is in the details. I feel that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and General Robert E. Lee are both rolling over in their graves with the destruction going on in our great nation.
I would gladly trade Joe Biden for someone with the integrity and courage of Martin Luther King or Robert E. Lee any day!