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Ben Carson: What are the people toppling statues of abolitionists and freedom fighters thinking?

NBC News logo NBC News 7/2/2020 Dr. Benjamin S. Carson Sr.
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Throughout our history, Independence Day has been an important occasion of remembrance for Americans. We reflect on the founding principles of our great nation, we celebrate those who helped fight for the freedoms we defend today, and we honor the heroic sacrifice it took to launch the greatest experiment the world has ever seen.

Sadly, the present day feels different. The news is regularly filled with stories of anarchists and angry mobs showing blatant disregard for America's artifacts and historical sites, desecrating these tributes to our long journey toward liberty and justice for all.

In Portland, Oregon, we saw a statue of George Washington torn down. In Washington, D.C., we saw the World War II Memorial vandalized. In Madison, Wisconsin, protestors pulled down a statue of Hans Christian Heg, a fierce abolitionist and someone who made the ultimate sacrifice to free slaves.

This raises the question: What are these people fighting for? Or better yet, what are they fighting against?

Each of these monuments represents a moment in time, an important place or an influential figure who sacrificed for the good of their country. How have we reached a point in our nation's history in which these figures are not celebrated, but villainized and shamed?

America continues to hold certain truths — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — to be self-evident, and we should work each and every day democratically, as our Founding Fathers intended, to improve and ensure these rights for all.

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To do so, mayors and governors must immediately condemn the vandalization of statues and dismantle autonomous zones. Destroying our history, wrecking our communities and inhibiting our law enforcement officers will only result in more tyranny, not more freedom. In fact, what we have seen these past few weeks is chaos, lawlessness, even murder.

It is up to leaders in this country to emulate our Founding Fathers and stand up to this retraction from law and order, which in no way reflects our morals, let alone our democratic values.

It is also up to us as American citizens to recognize hatred and stand up for freedom. We can celebrate Black lives and speak out against mob rule, censorship and anarchy at the same time. Shaming our neighbors into conforming with movements like "defund the police" and insinuating that if you are not for these movements you are not standing up for Black lives is nonsensical and irresponsible.

I am not denying that racism is real. It is, but I do not think it is widely espoused. In fact, I believe opposition to racism is a more commonly held belief, as we have seen in the thousands of people marching for equality and justice nationwide. Racism does not define us as a country; our commitment to freedom does.

Hate and guilt-shaming are not helpful for society to improve and move forward. Instead, we should embrace the central American value of freedom. The freedom to worship the religion of your choice. The freedom to hold differing political ideologies. The freedom to choose your occupation and your own path in life. The freedom to peaceably protest your government.

We are beyond blessed to call the Land of the Free our home. Only in America can I be born a poor Black boy raised in poverty by a single mother and climb the ladder of opportunity to become a brain surgeon and then a member of the president's Cabinet. These dreams would not be possible in socialist Venezuela, communist China or authoritarian North Korea.

But these dreams are possible here — in America. Thanks to our Founding Fathers who learned from history and revered it, to those civil rights heroes who dared to dream and to our men and women in uniform who chose to defend a free land for all. I honor them this week, and I pray that more of us bravely attempt to emulate them today rather than tear down homages to their memory.

America will continue to be the beacon of hope and freedom to the world if we remember and rededicate ourselves to our defining principles: All men are created equal and are endowed with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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