My Turn – America continues its struggle to realize its founding principles

Submitted by Sam Williams

I’m sure any television viewer will agree — in the past couple of weeks news coverage has shifted from all COVID-19 all the time to all George Floyd all the time. I pray the looting, burning and violent confrontations will subside.

Let me share a little of my perspective with you. As a child of the 1960s, I am intimately familiar with the antiwar protests back in the day, although I never participated in any illegal acts other than sitting with hundreds of other students in the middle of Shaw Avenue and blocking traffic near Fresno State College one sleepy lunch hour. No, I did not burn the ROTC building down, and when the cops threatened us with arrest, we simply rose en masse and stumbled back to class.

Now here’s something every experienced protestor knows — troublemakers will always take advantage of any political crowd. “Outside agitators” were present at nearly every protest I participated in. One spring day several thousand kids marched from Fresno State to the courthouse in downtown Fresno. At the event’s planned conclusion, some attendees, later suspected to be from the Students For A Democratic Society, mingled among us and suggested we cross under Van Ness Avenue and continue the protest march on the Fulton Mall, two blocks away. Most of us agreed and went along willingly.

When we got to the mall — a six-block section of Fulton Street that had been converted into an outdoor pedestrian mall in 1964 — these folks started pulling bricks out of their backpacks, encouraging us to break windows and turn the peace march into a riot. Thankfully, the Fresno kids refused to participate, and the agitators apparently were too cowardly to set the thing in motion themselves.

I even personally thanked and praised a Fresno police officer for keeping his cool. He stopped the marchers from crossing Fresno Street against the traffic light and then just stared straight ahead through his facemask and didn’t raise his baton an inch despite a profanity-laden attempt by one agitator to ignite a physical confrontation. A shout out I’m sure he never expected to hear from a long-haired protestor kid.

I was one of an estimated 100,000 marchers of every conceivable ilk at the famous Moratorium at the Polo Grounds in Golden Gate Park in November 1969. That event fizzled when members of several political factions took over the stage to fight over the microphone and wail about their particular grievances.

All this brings me to the great and wonderful truth about America, with my heartfelt apologies to my originalist friends, bless their hearts.

When the Founding Fathers set this experiment with freedom in motion, they soberly recognized some things such as slavery would have to wait to be resolved by another generation in another time. You see America, from its very start, has been a work in progress, not some inflexible, set-in-stone, already achieved reality.

Despite this obvious to them defect, the Founders laid the groundwork and pinpointed the highest vision when they rightly professed that all men are created equal with the God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Although they lit that bright star over our heads and breathed life into this great American Dream, they also regrettably knew the realization of these ideals would come later, completed by those who came after them when they were ready to finally resolve the conflict between these pure ideals and the tangled and tarnished real world. Sadly, we share that unfulfilled expectation with them today.

It’s so frustrating for true patriots. Sometimes it seems as if we move two steps forward only to fall one step back as we try to achieve these lofty ideals expressed by our Founding Fathers, moving step by clumsy step toward the inevitable, more equitable society they envisioned.

And that’s the good news — if we remain vigilant, if we keep striving, as we surely will, one day we may actually achieve that glorious righteousness the Founders envisioned for all its people when they created this great nation. You never know, we might even make it this time. It’s up to us.

If we fail again, may God forgive our many shortcomings and bless our nation as we continue to struggle to find a way to live up to our sacred founding principles.