Torching Abraham Lincoln

By Edward Achorn

In recent days, numerous friends have sent me pictures of a charred bust of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago. I (and perhaps they) erroneously believed that the torching occurred during this spring’s riots, but in fact the statue was vandalized three years ago.

The mistake may be understandable, because the cultural war on statues and America’s past is definitely heating up.

My friends know I admire Lincoln and that my book, Every Drop of Blood, about his extraordinary call for charity and mercy after four years of harrowing war, has just been published.

“What an absolute disgraceful act of vandalism,” Alderman Ray Lopez wrote on Facebook in 2017, posting the picture.

“This bust of Abraham Lincoln, erected by Phil Bloomquist on August 31, 1926, was damaged and burned,” he added.

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MLK preached love, not violence

By Edward Achorn

The most popular quote of Martin Luther King Jr. these days is one that seems to extol violence: “a riot is the language of the unheard.”

But, of course, the people pushing that quote leave out the rest: “I would hope that we can avoid riots because riots are self-defeating and socially destructive.”

And the cherry-picked statement absolutely obscures the reason many Americans revere the slain civil-rights leader — his courageous opposition to hatred and violence, and his belief in the transforming power of love.

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Black lives really should matter

By Edward Achorn

Black lives matter, virtually every American believes. Unfortunately, some of the people carrying that banner seem to be advocating policies that have the opposite effect of protecting black lives.

Vast majorities of Americans, thank God, still believe in equal justice under the law, which is the American ideal. Virtually no one wants police officers to bully and kill minorities (or even whites). The outpouring of grief and outrage by Americans across the political spectrum after the death of George Floyd argued that point. They care and want things to be better.

But making the latest act of police brutality emblematic of the American people is not only a gross distortion of reality but a prescription for disaster, including for black Americans.

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China, censorship and Twitter

By Edward Achorn

There are good reasons for Americans to be concerned about the increasing efforts of social media giants to censor or curate political speech.

Along with the First Amendment implications, there is this big concern: These global companies, quite naturally, have financial interests. Those interests do not necessarily coincide with the safety and security of America and its people.

Notably, these corporations have a stake in the massive, expanding market of China. They could conceivably have powerful financial motivations to please that regime.

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Riots and the danger to America

By Edward Achorn

A 28-year-old country lawyer made a prescient observation in an 1837 address in Springfield, Illinois. He argued that, given its strengths, free America could only be destroyed from within.

“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!—All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years,” the young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, asserted.

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

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A blast of greatness

By Edward Achorn

I needed that: A blast of fresh air, relief from our incessant focus on sickness and ugliness — the coronavirus and the mob violence following an act of police brutality.

I loved this reminder of the greatness that is at the heart of America, and of our profound good fortune to be living here and now.

In an extraordinary private-public partnership, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Saturday launched NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into space on board the Dragon spacecraft. They are now on board the International Space Station.

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Police brutality and accountability

By Edward Achorn

One of the reasons American history is critically important is that it teaches us how rare and precious civil liberties are.

Many Americans want to dispense with them. They want voices they disagree with to be silenced or constrained. They want government to exercise extra-constitutional powers for months on end to keep us all “safe.” They don’t care when one party uses the powerful apparatus of our nation’s intelligence agencies to spy on the campaign of another party.

But the horrible sight of a white police officer’s knee on the neck of a black man who was restrained and offering no resistance should remind us all of the importance of civil liberties.

It is hard to imagine a more potent symbol of the state’s unjust use of power against the individual.

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Trump, tweets and the truth

By Edward Achorn

President Trump is crude and obnoxious, especially on the Twitter platform. Like many politicians, he says many things that are patently untrue. His propensity for bullying and insulting others disgusts many decent Americans.

But his enemies have turned off people, too.

Their actions have caused Mr. Trump’s base to rally around him, arguably strengthening him politically rather than weakening him. I have often thought Democrats would have been much better off just letting him hang himself.

Now these adversaries are seeking to blunt one of his political weapons, his Twitter account, which has 80.4 million followers.

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Coronavirus facts argue against fears

By Edward Achorn

We are learning that COVID-19, while deadly, is much less deadly than originally feared. Moreover, it cruelly targets the elderly and those with serious health conditions, while tending to leave the young and healthy alone.

Whether the public knows that is another matter.

Rhode Island internist and epidemiologist Andrew Bostom, using the federal Centers for Disease Control’s “most likely case scenario” data  (published on May 21), has calculated that the infection fatality ratio of COVID-19 is 0.20% to 0.27%. The ratio for the 1957-1958 Asian flu was a comparable 0.26%, but nobody dreamed of shutting down the American economy back then.

Citing a British statistical analysis, Dr. Bostom also argues that a child under 15 in the United Kingdom is four times more likely to die from a lightning strike than from COVID-19.

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The lessons of Memorial Day 2020

By Edward Achorn

The coronavirus crisis has had many depressing effects. One is that it has underscored that many Americans do not seem to understand their basic rights, the nature of their Constitution and how their government works.

Unless Americans reconnect with how this country is supposed to work, and why it remains a beacon of hope to oppressed people around the world, it is hard to see how our freedoms will survive.

An understanding of history is a crucial part of that, because it informs us of the nature of most human societies, and how rare and magnificent our blessings are.

History also acquaints us with the cruel cost of protecting these freedoms. This weekend we mark Memorial Day. Barbecues and sunshine are part of the celebration, even in this grim year, but the day is really about those who laid down their lives to preserve this country.

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