Residents of Durham Showed Us What Patriotism Looks Like

Last weekend we got a terrible reminder of the racism and hatred that has been present in this country since our founding. Some of us went into a moment of mourning when our current president spoke words in defense of the people perpetuating that hatred.

But there has always been another strain that permeated our history. That one showed up recently in Durham, North Carolina. On Monday, protesters tore down a Confederate statue in that city. It was one dedicated to the unknown soldiers who fought to defend slavery and “features a seal engraved with ‘The Confederate States of America’ and also displays the words, ‘In memory of the boys who wore gray,’ in reference to Confederate soldiers’ uniforms during the Civil War.”

We might call that an act of civil disobedience because those who tore down the statue broke the law. Authorities in Durham set out to find and arrest them. As Martin Luther King, Jr. explained in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail“, that is to be expected when protesters engage in acts of non-violent civil disobedience.

This morning, something really beautiful happened in Durham.

Here’s video that captured the moment:

This, too, is America. I am reminded of something President Obama said during his speech to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma. It all comes down to the single most powerful word in our democracy.

Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.  Because the single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” “We The People.” “We Shall Overcome.” “Yes We Can.” That word is owned by no one.  It belongs to everyone.  Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.

In these dark days, we should never forget that this is what patriotism looks like.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.