I hate the cancel culture

BY AL EARLEY

Sun Columnist

The cancel culture is the modern term The Cambridge Dictionary defines as “a way of behaving in a society or group, especially on social media, in which it is common to completely reject and stop supporting someone because they have said or done something that offends you.”

It has been used effectively by both sides of the political spectrum to ruin reputations and destroy lives. It shuts down debate. It opens doors for censorship of the worst kind. Somewhere between 50 and 60% of Americans agree that it is a bad thing for our culture.

Just post your opinion on Facebook whether this past election was stolen or not and you will receive a deluge of venom, hatred and scorn, all designed to shut you up, permanently if possible. The cancel culture!

King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” So, I want to look back in time to try to help get some perspective on our current struggle as a country.

Conflict was dividing our government following the Civil War. President Andrew Johnson was determined to follow Lincoln’s policy of reconciliation toward the defeated South. Others in Congress wanted to rule the Confederate states with an iron hand.

A new senator, Edmund Ross from Kansas, had just been sworn in when the Senate introduced impeachment proceedings against the President. Thirty-six votes were needed and it was calculated Senator Ross would surely cast the 36th vote.

Senator Ross’ words indicated he was uncertain. The word immediately went out that his vote was “shaky.” Ross received an avalanche of anti-Johnson telegrams from every section of the country and other senators.

The day of the vote arrived. The courtroom galleries were packed. Tickets for admission were at an enormous premium. All votes for impeachment were being cast as expected. The chief justice called for Senator Ross’ vote. He would write in his memoir, “At that moment, I looked into my open grave. Friendships, position, fortune and everything that makes life desirable to an ambitions man were about to be swept away by the breath of my mouth, perhaps forever.”

Then, his answer came, “Not guilty!” With that, the trial was over.

The cancel culture of 1866 wielded its ugly head. A high public official from Kansas wired Ross to say, “Kansas repudiates you as she does all perjurers and skunks.” The “open grave” vision would become a reality in many different ways. Ross’ political career was in ruins. Extreme ostracism and even physical attack awaited his family upon their return home.

One gloomy day, Ross turned to his faithful wife and said, “Millions cursing me today will bless me tomorrow … though not but God can know the struggle it has cost me.”

Historians have debated whether Senator Ross’ vote was one of moral courage or not. History has shown his vote was critical for our country at a time when we were a fragile nation at a crossroads in our history.

Twenty years later, Congress and the Supreme Court verified the wisdom of his position by changing the laws related to impeachment. Senator Ross was appointed Territorial Governor of New Mexico. Then, just prior to his death, he was awarded a special pension by Congress. The press and country took this opportunity to honor his courage which, they finally concluded, had saved our country from crisis and division (Jon Johnston, Courage – You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, 1990, SP Publications, pp. 56-58).

What I hope you take from this story is not to laud Senator Ross, but to treasure free speech and fight against all forms of censorship. One thing I have learned in my years is that what appears to be true today may prove to be wrong tomorrow.

When Senator Ross voted, the popular culture believed President Johnson needed to be impeached. They were wrong as time would reveal. The same can be said for all the things popular culture seems to think today.

Our country can survive wrong ideas. We have done that more times than any of us can imagine.  But if we cherish liberty and freedom then we cannot survive the censorship of the cancel culture.  In invite you to stand up for someone’s right to speak their mind that you disagree with. That is an important way we can stand up for freedom and liberty.

To find out more about Al Earley or read previous columns, see www.lagrangepres.org.