Allan C. Brownfeld
Allan C. Brownfeld is the author of five books, the latest of which is The Revolution Lobby (Council for Inter-American Security). He has been a staff aide to a U.S. vice president, members of Congress, and the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. He is associate editor of The Lincoln Review, and a contributing editor to Human Events, The St. Croix Review, and The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
The 2016 Election Campaign Shows the Dramatic Decline in American Politics
The 2016 presidential campaign looms large, and there are no positive things to be said about it. The two candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, are viewed in negative terms by the majority of voters. They are viewed as not being trustworthy, a strange characteristic for presidential candidates.
In preparation for a trip to visit my four grandchildren, I went through old copies of Cobblestone, a children’s history magazine. I asked my oldest grandson, who will soon be ten, which issues I should bring with me. These were magazines his father read, together with his aunt and uncle. He selected those that featured Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin.
This immediately brought to mind the contrast between the men who involved themselves in public life in the colonial era and those who are offering themselves as leaders at the present time. Washington, Jefferson, Madison and others, in revolting against the most powerful empire in the world, risked everything they had, including their lives. If they did not succeed, which seemed likely, their families would have been left destitute. Contrast that with Hillary Clinton, who has spent her career in public life, and made millions of dollars as a result. The product she sold was influence. The Clinton Foundation, now known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, accepted millions of dollars from at least seven foreign governments while Mrs. Clinton served as Secretary of State. The Foundation has admitted that a $500,000 donation it received from Algeria violated a 2008 ethics agreement between the foundation and the Obama administration. Or Donald Trump, whose business career is littered with bankruptcies, lawsuits, and charges of fraud, and whose campaign has insulted his opponents, made fun of those with disabilities, and flirted with racism. His experience in government is non-existent and his understanding of international affairs seems limited, at best. He has suggested that NATO is irrelevant, seems prepared to have Japan and South Korea pursue nuclear weapons, and seems sympathetic to Vladimir Putin. He has endorsed torture and the murder of innocent relatives of those involved in terrorism.
The authors of the Constitution carefully studied the history of Athens and the Roman Republic and created a system of limited government and checks and balances that they hoped would prevent a descent into tyranny, which ended these early democracies in the ancient world. The system they established is now the oldest existing form of government in the world, which tells us a great deal about the difficulty men and women have had in establishing governmental systems which provide for free speech, free elections, and individual rights. In the lifetime of many of us, countries that are now functioning democracies — Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Hungary and many others — were totalitarian states. Democracy is a difficult and easily threatened way to organize a society. When economies fail and times become difficult, demagogues are waiting in the wings. Hitler and Mussolini are the best-known examples, but there are many others. In history, tyranny is, sadly, not an exception. It has been the rule. Our own Constitutional system is a rare exception. But, as any human enterprise, it is fragile. Many predicted that it would not survive in the long run.
In On Power, the French political philosopher Bertrand De Jouvenel points out that we frequently say, “Liberty is the most precious of all goods” without noticing what this concept implies. He writes:
“A good thing which is of great price is not one of the primary necessities. Water costs nothing at all, and bread very little. What costs much is something like a Rembrandt, which though its price is above rubies, is wanted by very few people and by none who have not, as it happens, a sufficiency of bread and water. Precious things, therefore, are really desired by but few human beings and not even by them until their primary needs have been amply provided. It is from this point of view that Liberty needs to be looked at — the will to be free is in time of danger extinguished and revives again when once the need of security has received satisfaction. Liberty is in fact only a secondary need, the primary need is security.”
From the beginning of history, the great philosophers predicted that democratic government would produce this result. Plato, Aristotle, and more recently, De Tocqueville, Lord Bryce and Macaulay, predicted that people would give away their freedom voluntarily for what they perceived as greater security. De Jouvenel concludes:
“The state when once it is made the giver of protection and security, has but to urge the necessities of its protectorate and overlordship to justify its encroachments.”
In a similar vein, Thomas Babington Macaulay, the British historian, lamented in 1857 in a letter to Henry Randall, an American, that:
“I have long been convinced that institutions purely democratic must, sooner or later, destroy liberty or civilization or both. In Europe, where the population is dense, the effect of such institutions would be almost instantaneous. . . . Either the poor would plunder the rich, and civilization would perish; or order and prosperity would be saved by a strong military government and liberty would perish.”
Macaulay, looking to America, declared that:
“Either some Caesar or Napoleon will seize the reigns of government with a strong hand; or your republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the 20th century as the Roman Empire was in the Fifth — with this difference — that your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country by your institutions.”
Nearly 200 years ago, the British historian Alexander Fraser Tytler, declared that:
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury — with the result that democracy collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship.”
In the colonial era, the best men in the American society were engaged in public life. They had little to gain personally for their efforts, and much to lose. It has been said that the American society is rare in history, for its Golden Age was at the beginning. Our system has evolved to become one in which to engage in political life means to be on an endless quest for funds from special interest groups which, in turn, determine policy. Politicians argue that taking millions of dollars from Wall Street has nothing whatever to do with bailing out failing banks with taxpayer funds. Does anyone really believe this? Would Jefferson or Washington or Adams have entered public life if it involved endless fund-raising and subservience to those who contribute?
John Adams observed that: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy that did not commit suicide.” As he left the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what form of government had been created. He replied, “A republic if you can keep it.”
The Founding Fathers would be disappointed in the dramatic decline in American politics, but they would not be surprised. They feared it would happen. It is now time for America’s elder statesmen — of both parties — to speak up and decry any politics that divides the American people on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, or gender. As the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) used to say, “We came over on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” And that boat is now in increasingly troubled waters.
Growth of Executive Power Has Exploded Under President Obama — Altering Our System of Checks and Balances
Most Americans learned in government and civics classes that we live under a constitutional system of checks and balances. The elected representatives of the people in Congress pass the laws and the executive carries them out. This has not been our reality for some time, and both parties are responsible for the growth of executive power and the decline of the Congress. President Obama, The New York Times notes, “has been one of the most prolific authors of major regulations in presidential history.”
In its first seven years, the Obama administration finalized 500 major regulations — which were never passed by Congress. These were classified by the Congressional Budget Office as having particularly significant economic or social impacts. That was nearly 50 percent more than the George W. Bush administration during the comparable period, according to data kept by the regulatory studies center at George Washington University.
In recent years, whichever party has been in power, the power of the president and his willingness to issue executive orders rather than going to Congress for legislation has grown. Under President George W. Bush, what some called a new “Imperial Presidency” was said to have emerged. In The Cult of the Presidency, the Cato Institute’s Gene Healy noted that the administration’s broad assertion of executive power included:
“. . . the power to launch wars at will, to tap phones and read e-mail without a warrant, and to seize American citizens, and hold them for the duration of the war on terror — in other words perhaps forever.”
Healy points out that:
“Neither Left nor Right sees the president as the Framers saw him: a constitutionally constrained chief executive with an important, but limited job: to defend the country when attacked, check Congress when it violates the Constitution, enforce the law — and little else. Today, for conservatives as well as liberals, it is the president’s job to protect us from harm, to “grow the economy,” to spread democracy and American ideals abroad, and even to heal spiritual malaise.”
In 2014, President Obama vowed,
“I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone — and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative action that move the ball forward.”
This notion of executive power has little to do with the Constitution. It is a formula for the rule of one individual, and has had appeal to those in the White House, of both parties.
In one celebrated case, President Obama issued an executive order that would have allowed millions of undocumented immigrants to remain in the country and work legally. This was challenged in the courts by 26 states, which said the president did not have the authority to issue an order determining how the immigration laws should be enforced in the case of millions of people, saying the issue should be left to Congress. The lower courts agreed. The Supreme Court, in the case of United States v. Texas, split 4-4 on the question. As a result, the lower court ruling blocking the president’s executive order was upheld. This, of course, was very rare. Most executive orders are quietly implemented with little discussion or debate.
The decline of the Congress and the growth of executive power is clear to all when it comes to the war-making power. The war in Iraq was not declared by Congress, nor was that in Korea or Vietnam, Panama, Haiti, Grenada or Somalia. In recent years, Congress has relinquished more authority than ever before over the nation’s foreign policy.
The Constitution reserves to Congress alone the power to declare war, despite its naming the president as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. In Federalist No. 69, Alexander Hamilton notes that the president’s authority:
“. . . would be nominally the same with that of the King of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. . . . While that of the British King extends to the declaring of war and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies, all of which, by the Constitution under consideration appertain to the legislature.”
According to the decision in the case of Perkins v. Rogers, the Supreme Court declared:
“The war making power is, by the Constitution, vested in Congress and . . . the President has no power to declare war or conclude peace except as he may be empowered by Congress.”
In Presidential War Power, Louis Fisher, a senior specialist in separation of powers at the Library of Congress, states:
“From 1789 to 1950, Congress either declared or authorized all major wars. Members of Congress understood that the Constitution vests in Congress, not the president, the decision to take the country from a state of peace to a state of war. The last half-century has witnessed presidential wars, including President Truman going to war against North Korea and President Clinton using military force against Yugoslavia, with neither president seeking authority from Congress.”
Indeed, in more than 200 years and more than 100 U.S. military engagements, Congress has formally declared only five wars — the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War (1846), the Spanish American War (1898), World War I (1917) and World War II (1941).
The office of president that we now observe is far different from what the Framers of the Constitution had in mind. According to the Cato Institute:
“The constitutional presidency, as the Framers conceived it, was designed to stand against the popular will as often as not, with the president wielding the veto power to restrain Congress when it transgressed its constitutional bounds. In contrast the modern president considers himself a tribune of the people, promising transformative action and demanding the power to carry it out.”
The result is what political scientist Theodore J. Lowi has called:
“. . . the plebiscitary presidency . . . an office of tremendous personal power drawn from the people. . . and based on the New Democratic theory that the presidency with all powers is the necessary condition for governing a large democratic nation.”
The growth of executive power is a real threat to the system of government established by the Constitution. Both parties are co-conspirators in expanding the power of the president. Even at the beginning of the Republic, perceptive observers such as John Calhoun, in his Disquisition on Government, predicted that the powers of government would inevitably grow, that those in power would always advocate a “broad” use of power, and those out of power would always argue for a “narrow” use of power, and that no one would ever turn back governmental authority that had once been assumed.
The scope of federal regulation has continued to grow and there is little reason to believe that this trend will not continue. Presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, have asserted greater power in recent decades to dictate the shape of regulations while Congress has become less specific in its instructions, in effect, abdicating its own authority. When she was a Harvard law professor, Elena Kagan, now a Supreme Court justice, said, “We live in an era of presidential administration.” Professor Robert Hahn of Oxford says:
“The big issue that I grapple with is that the regulatory state keeps growing. And as it keeps growing, when does it become too much?”
Whether our new president is Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, major opposition to their campaign promises will be found in Congress. To bypass Congress, they now have the legacy of presidents such as George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who believe that issuing executive orders is an easy way to avoid the legislative process. This is not the system our Constitution established, but it is the one we seem to have now. This is not good news for those who believe in the system of checks and balances and division of powers that the Constitution established.
Looking at Race Relations Beyond the Overheated Rhetoric in the Political Arena
In the wake of police shootings in Baton Rouge and St. Paul and the murder of five police officers in Dallas by a shooter who said his goal was killing white policemen, there has been increasing focus upon and discussion of race relations. The overheated rhetoric in the political arena, on all sides, obscures a more complex reality.
According to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in July, 69 percent of Americans say race relations are generally bad. Six in ten Americans say race relations are growing worse, up from 38 percent a year ago. Relations between black Americans and the police have become so brittle that more than half of black people say they were not surprised by the attack that killed five police officers and wounded nine others in Dallas. Nearly half of white Americans say that they, too, were unsurprised by the episode.
While the particulars of recent killings of black men by white police officers are subject to differing analyses — in a number of cases police officers have been found innocent by federal and state authorities of any wrongdoing — there can be no doubt that a real problem exists. Recent events caused Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), a conservative black Republican, to tell his own story.
The first black senator elected in the South since Reconstruction, Scott reports many run-ins with police officers over the course of his life. He recalls drawing the suspicion of a Capitol Police Officer last year who insisted on seeing identification even though he was wearing the distinctive lapel pin worn by senators. “The officer looked at me, full of attitude, and said, ‘The pin I know, you I don’t. Show me your ID,’ he said.” “I was thinking to myself, either he thinks I’m committing a crime — impersonating a member of Congress — or what?”
Sen. Scott states:
“While I thank God I have not endured bodily harm, I have, however, felt the pressure applied by the scales of justice when they are slanted. I have felt the anger, the frustration, the sadness and the humiliation that comes with feeling like you are being targeted for nothing more than being yourself. . . . The vast majority of time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood, or some reason just as trivial. Imagine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of a loss of dignity that accompanies each of those stops.”
When it comes to the question of the use of lethal force by police, the claim that blacks are more often victims has been widely claimed. Here, the rhetoric and reality seem at odds. A new study confirms that black men and women are treated differently in the hands of law enforcement. They are more likely to be touched, handcuffed, pushed to the ground or pepper-sprayed by a police officer even after accounting for how, where, and when they encounter the police. But when it comes to the most lethal force — police shootings — the study finds no racial bias.
“It is the most surprising result of my career,” said Roland G. Fryer, Jr., the author of the study, and a professor of economics at Harvard. The study examined more than 1,000 shootings in 10 major police departments in Texas, Florida, and California.
The results of this study by Dr. Fryer, who is black, contradicts the image of police shootings that many Americans hold. He said that anger after the deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and others drove him to study the issue. “You know, protesting is not my thing, but data is my thing,” he said.
“So I decided that I was going to collect a bunch of data and try to understand what really is going on when it comes to racial differences in police use of force.”
The idea that race relations are approaching the divisiveness of the 1960s is hard to justify. President Obama states that:
“When we start suggesting that somehow there is this enormous polarization and we’re back to the situation in the 1960s — that’s just not true. You’re not seeing riots, and you’re not seeing police going after people who are protesting peacefully.”
The progress made by black Americans since the years of segregation is impressive. In 1950, only 13.7 percent of adult black Americans (25 and older) had completed high school or more; by 2014, this was 66.7 percent, according to the Department of Education. Over the same period, the number of African Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher went from 2.2 percent to 22.8 percent. The black upper-middle class — defined as households with incomes of at least $100,000 — has grown from 2.8 percent of households in 1967 to 13 percent in 2014.
In every area of American life, blacks have been advancing dramatically. Black elected officials have made huge gains, reports the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. When the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, five African Americans served in the House and Senate; now there are 44 House members and two senators. Over a similar period, the number of black state legislators grew from about 200 to 700. We have, of course, elected our first black president — and then re-elected him.
Attitudes toward racial intermarriage have changed dramatically. NORC, an academic polling organization at the University of Chicago, periodically explores intermarriage in its surveys. One question asks whites and blacks whether they would favor or oppose a marriage of “a close relative” to a person of the other race. In 1990, only 5 percent of whites favored interracial marriage; 30 percent were neutral, and 65 percent opposed. By 2014, only 16 percent opposed. Blacks have been even more open to interracial marriage; since 2000, roughly 90 percent have either approved or not objected.
According to a recent study by the U.S. Census, residential segregation has been dramatically curtailed. The study of census results from thousands of neighborhoods by the Manhattan Institute found that the nation’s cities are more economically integrated than at any time since 1910. It was found that all-white enclaves “are effectively extinct.” Prof. Reynolds Farley of the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center, says that:
“There is now much more black-white neighborhood integration than 40 years ago. Those of us who worked on segregation in the 1960s never anticipated such decline.”
The fact that major disparities exist between black and white Americans is true. Yet, to argue that “white racism” is the cause of all such disparities is to overlook a larger reality. The fact that 70 percent of black births involve unmarried mothers has serious consequences. As Child Trends, a research group, puts it, “These children tend to face unstable living arrangements, life in poverty and . . . have low educational achievement.” When it comes to the large number of young black men killed in shootings, Wall Street Journal columnist Jason Riley, who is black, notes that:
“More than 95 percent of black shooting deaths don’t involve the police. . . . Sadly, rates of murder, rape, robbery, assault and other violent crimes are 7 to 10 times higher among blacks than among whites.”
It is such high rates of crime, in Riley’s view, “that obviously underlie tensions between poor minority communities and cops.”
Those of us old enough to have lived through the years of segregation remember an era of segregated schools, segregated bus and train stations, “white” and “black” restrooms (visit the Pentagon and see the proliferation of rest rooms which were constructed in the years when it was illegal in Virginia for men and women of different races to use the same facilities), with water fountains reserved for “white” and “colored.” In many parts of the country blacks could not vote or sit on juries. Black travelers never knew when they would be able to stop for a meal. There was no pretense that racial equality of any kind existed.
Today, we live in an imperfect society, but one in which all citizens, regardless of race, have equal rights. It is against the law to discriminate on the basis of race. Men and women can go as far as their individual abilities can take them. Black Americans hold every conceivable position in our society — from CEO of major corporations, to chief of police in major cities (such as Dallas), to university president, to governor, to attorney general, to President of the United States.
No one should pretend that problems of race do not exist. Compared to the distance we have come, however, these problems should be put in perspective. “The sky is falling” is not an appropriate posture for those on the left or the right, although in this political season, speaking before thinking is increasingly becoming the norm. Our reality is far more positive and hopeful than the political debate we are forced to endure would indicate.
Kaepernick’s Protest: A Look Back at the Patriotism of Black Americans in Difficult Times
Controversy is now swirling around the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick not to stand with his teammates during the national anthem. He has been condemned by some and hailed by others for this action, which he said was to protest racism in the American society.
Whatever one thinks of Kaepernick, the controversy it has provoked provides us with an opportunity to review the long history of patriotism on the part of black Americans, even in the years when they faced severe discrimination. Many Americans, of all backgrounds, are largely unaware of this history.
Few understand the complex history blacks have played in the history of the United States. The first blood shed in the struggle for American independence was shed by the leader of the group that precipitated the “Boston Massacre,” a black man named Crispus Attucks. The first electric streetlights in a metropolitan area of New York City were installed under the supervision of a black man, Lewis H. Latimer, assistant and associate of Thomas A. Edison. The U.S. Flag was first placed at the North Pole by a black explorer, Mathew A. Henson. The list goes on and on.
Black Americans, although they suffered the indignity of slavery and, after slavery, the legal barriers of segregation, have been committed patriots. In his important book, The Negro in the Making of America, Professor Benjamin Quarles, a distinguished black historian, points out that from the beginning, black Americans made one important decision: they would remain in America. From the time of the Revolutionary War, blacks had been advised — by many, black as well as white — to return to Africa. Instead, the decision to remain in America and be free was pervasive. (The book, The Negro in the Making of America was, published in 1964, at which time the term “Negro” was in common usage.)
At a black church meeting in Rochester, New York, in 1853, whose chairman was the noted orator Frederick Douglass, a statement was adopted which declared: “We ask that in our native land we shall not be treated as strangers, and worse than strangers.” The delegates officially rejected any move to abandon the United States and supported, instead, a proposal to establish a manual labor school that would teach the skilled trades.
Many efforts have been made by the enemies of the United States to enlist the support of black Americans, a group they viewed as likely to endorse their calls for revolution because of the legitimate grievances they felt.
To the Communist Party in the 1920s and 1930s, the black American was viewed as the prototype of the oppressed, exploited worker. During a 1925 meeting in Moscow, Joseph Stalin asked why blacks were not better represented in the U.S. Communist Party. To improve their standing with blacks, the Communists adopted a policy calling for self-determination for those areas of the American South where blacks lived in large numbers. Blacks were called an “oppressed nation” who had the right to separation from the United States.
The response to this effort to attract black membership was a dismal failure. Blacks wanted to be free and equal within America, not separate from it. Dr. Quarles writes:
“Negroes simply did not seem to be attuned to the Communist message, for reasons that are not hard to fathom. Typically American, the Negro was individualistic, not likely to submerge his personality in conformity to a party line from which there could be no deviation. . . . The Negro, again like other Americans of his day, was not class-conscious — the vocabulary of the Communists struck him as foreign. Basically, too, the Negro was a man of conservative mold.”
Because black Americans protested against segregation, some thought blacks were radical. Instead, they sought only the opportunity to enter the American society as free and equal citizens, to be able to go as far as their individual abilities would take them, to share in a common color-blind citizenship.
Some black Americans who briefly entered the Communist Party were repelled by it, discovering that the very freedom they sought was rejected within the party itself. Thus, the respected author Richard Wright recalled his experience as a young party member in Chicago in the 1930s:
“I found myself arguing alone against the majority opinion, and then I made still another amazing discovery, I saw that even those who agreed with me would not support me. At that meeting I learned that when a man was informed of the wish of the party he submitted, even though he knew with all the strength of his brain that the wish was not a wise one, was one that would ultimately hurt the party interests. . . . It was not courage that made me oppose the party. I simply did not know any better. It was inconceivable to me, tough-bred in the lap of Southern hate, that a man could not have his say. I had spent a third of my life traveling from the place of my birth to the North just to talk freely, to escape the pressure of fear. And now I was facing fear again.”
Discussing the meaning of black history that is often overlooked, J. A. Parker, one of the early black conservatives and president of the Lincoln Institute, noted that:
“In reviewing the history of black Americans, we should focus upon those who vigorously opposed the efforts of extremists to turn them against America, to isolate them from others in society and to cause them to abandon their goal of a free society in which men and women were to be judged as individuals, not as members of one racial or ethnic or religious group or another. We should focus upon individuals such as Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James, authors Max Yergan and George Schuyler, and composer William Grant Still, to name only several whose proper place in black history often seems to be overlooked. These men were outstanding in their individual careers and never ceased to fight for the day when race would be incidental in determining the place of any man or woman in the American society. They understood that America was the last, best hope of the world to achieve a truly free and just society.”
Benjamin Quarles was correct when he wrote that:
“To most Negroes . . . the vision of the founders of this republic was still a vital force. Americans to the core, they believe that freedom and equality for all could be achieved in their native land. . . . The belief has been one of their significant contributions in the making of America. In enlarging the meaning of freedom and in giving it new expressions, the Negro has played a major role. He has been a watchman on the wall. More fully than other Americans, he knew that freedom was hard-won and could be preserved only by continuous effort. The faith and works of the Negro over the years has made it possible for the American creed to retain so much of its appeal, so much of its moving power.”
America has been a unique and ethnically diverse society from the beginning. By the time of the first census in 1790, people of English origin were actually already a slight minority. Enslaved Africans and their American-born descendants made up 20 percent of the population, and there were large clusters of Scotch-Irish, German, Scottish and Dutch settlers, and smaller numbers of Swedes, Finns, Huguenots and Sephardic Jews.
America has always been something unique, not simply another country. In the 1840s, Herman Melville wrote: “We are the heirs of all time and with all the nations we divide our inheritance. If you kill an American, you shed the blood of the whole world.” Visiting New Amsterdam in 1643, French Jesuit missionary Isaac Jogues was surprised to discover that 18 languages were spoken in this town of 8,000 people. In his Letters from an American Farmer, J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur wrote in 1782: “Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labor and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world.”
Mario Puzo, the author of The Godfather, wrote that:
“What has happened here has never happened in any other country in any other time. The poor who had been poor for centuries, whose children had inherited their poverty, their illiteracy, their hopelessness, achieved some economic dignity and freedom. You didn’t get it for nothing, you had to pay a price in tears, in suffering, why not? And some even became artists.”
As a young man, growing up in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Puzo was asked by his mother, an Italian immigrant, what he wanted to be when he grew up. When he said he wanted to be a writer, she responded that, “For a thousand years in Italy, no one in our family was even able to read.” But in America everything was possible — in a single generation.
Ours is a complex society of more than 300 million people of every race, religion, and ethnic background. Inevitably, such a society will have problems and difficulties. These we must confront and resolve. To see only the problems and overlook the larger American story is to misunderstand reality. It would be good for Colin Kaepernick to review this history. In our free society, he has a right not to stand for the national anthem. Perhaps upon further consideration and a review of the dramatic progress our society has made, and continues to make, he will make a different decision in the future. *