Thursday, June 06, 2019

It’s Time For a Change

I submitted the following Letter to the Editor in response to the article in The Daily Progress on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, “City considers nixing Jefferson’s birthday observation.”

I want to thank Mayor Walker for proposing that we stop celebrating Thomas Jefferson's birthday in April, but, instead, make a holiday of Liberation and Freedom Day in March.  Undeniably Jefferson played a pivotal role in the founding of the United States.  His words about equality are the basis of the "promissory note" Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. declared had “come due” in his famous address in front of the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963.  For the past 8 years I have served a congregation named as a memorial to the third President, specifically because of his championing of religious freedom.  And yet he also believed it was right for him to “own” roughly 600 women, children, and men, and we know that he raped at least one of these women, and was responsible for the separation of families, and the brutal treatment and deaths of the others.

I don’t believe that we should ignore his accomplishments and contributions to this country; I do not believe that we should forget or ignore history.  Yet that means the entirety of our history — including the ugliest and most traumatic parts.  As the more complete picture is more widely known it makes sense to think about what parts of history should be not only remembered but celebrated.

So ask yourself:  should we be celebrating the birthday of a slave owning rapist and murderer, (which is a true description of him regardless of all the good and great he did), or is it more appropriate to celebrate the day on which freedom was finally given to those whom that man held as property, as well as all the others enslaved in Charlottesville and Albemarle?   I don’t see how the answer is not obvious.

There is a saying  “If you can’t change your mind, how do you know you still have one?”  As individuals, as a community, and as a nation we should be able to change our minds as our knowledge and understanding evolves.  Thomas Jefferson did many things worthy of celebrating.  The man himself, though?    The time has come for a change.

Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for this truthful and thoughtful letter, Rev. Wik.