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Whitlock: Memorial Day expresses gratitude while Juneteenth promotes entitlement

Op-ed
Jamie Squire / Staff | Getty Images

One hundred, fifty-seven years ago, freed American black people inspired the Memorial Day celebration.

At a park in Charleston, South Carolina, approximately 10,000 Americans – led by black schoolchildren and church leaders – gathered to honor the sacrifice of 251 Union soldiers buried at the site of an outdoor Confederate prison camp.

It was May 1, 1865, just three weeks after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox and three months after Charles Macbeth, the mayor of Charleston, surrendered his city to Union forces.

A spirit of gratitude triggered the outpouring of remembrance and desire to give Union soldiers a proper burial.

Three years later, John Logan, the commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternity of Union soldiers, proclaimed May 30 as Decoration Day. A hundred years later, Congress renamed it Memorial Day.

The origin of Memorial Day is more important today than perhaps at any time in America’s history. It highlights a sad and tragic pivot in American culture. It speaks to black Americans’ unique and powerful influence on the zeitgeist.

America’s shift from a culture of gratitude to entitlement can be analyzed and explained by study of the attitude of black people. The Marxist forces seeking to topple American exceptionalism perverted the history, identity, and minds of black Americans.

They turned this country’s strength – black Americans’ faith-based journey toward freedom – into a weakness. They turned the African-American journey into a narrative arc that damned this country and its founding principles rather than one that celebrated America and the brilliance of the founding documents.

Black Americans’ pursuit of freedom caused this country to live up to its highest ideals and Christian values. Black men of faith – from Richard Allen, the founder of the African Methodist Episocal Church, to Frederick Douglass, the slave turned abolitionist, to Booker T. Washington, the educator and entrepreneur, to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. – stood as this nation’s moral compass.

The left undermined the black man, eviscerating his authority in the home with government assistance and financially rewarding him for betraying any allegiance to morality.

The history of black people has been redefined as a retelling of tragedy, oppression, and white supremacy victimization. This new narrative is focused on creating a sense of entitlement and inspiring other Americans to follow suit.

It’s worked beautifully. We’ve seen the formula work across popular culture. Nike rose to dominance selling Air Jordans to black inner-city drug dealers. The prevailing sentiment in fashion is to win the wallets of black consumers and white consumers will follow.

Black people made gratitude cool in 1865 the same way we’ve made entitlement cool in 2022.

Everybody is in constant search of victimhood. It’s the easiest path to power. It explains why Rachel Dolezal and Shaun King renounced their whiteness to identify as black. I’ve seen it happen within my own peer group. A former white friend of mine took on his mother’s maiden name so that he could benefit from being mixed-race. He spent his first 35 years on earth content as a white man. Now he’s not. He’s part of an oppressed minority group, which makes him more valuable in the workplace.

A couple of weeks ago, the comedian Bill Maher wondered why so many American young people are identifying as gay or trans. It beats being white. It qualifies you for entitlement.

Americans are in a race for privilege. We used to race toward freedom, and we were extremely thankful for the men who protected it. Now we’re locked in a death race for the undeserved privilege we think someone else benefited from, a privilege we pretend we despise.

We don’t despise privilege. We covet it. Worse, we don’t recognize or honor the privilege of being born American.

Instead of falling to our knees to thank God for raising ancestors who sacrificed everything for our freedom, we waste our time on social media trying to analogize our oppression to people who actually suffered injustice. That’s how a millionaire major league baseball player feels racially insulted when an opponent calls him Jackie Robinson.

The desire for entitlement and privilege is yet another sign of our cultural decay, our secular pivot. We’ve abandoned our biblical values and principles of gratitude and forgiveness and adopted entitlement and privilege.

Memorial Day has far less meaning. Many Americans don’t even know its purpose: the celebration of servicemen lost in battle.

Another leftist comedian, Jon Stewart, complained this weekend about our lack of reverence for Memorial Day.

“It’s hard not to be here today and not get frustrated again, because as I look out in the crowd, I see the same thing I always see – veterans and their families and caregivers,” he said. “But where are the American people? This is Memorial Day weekend.”

The American people are preparing for “Juneteenth,” the national holiday in remembrance of the George Floyd riots. Actually Juneteenth is a remembrance that black slaves in Texas were the last to be freed by Union soldiers. It became a national holiday two years ago in the aftermath of George Floyd.

Juneteenth is a celebration of oppression. Memorial Day is a celebration of sacrifice and an expression of gratitude toward those who made that sacrifice.

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