Real Patriotism Means ‘All Men Are Created Equal’

Americans buy at least $20 billion worth of counterfeit goods annually. Unless you’re an unusually suspicious shopper, chances are that you, too, have at one time or another purchased an item that was really a shoddy — maybe unsafe — copy of what you meant to buy.

Fast-buck rip-off artists have been netting ever-bigger sums peddling counterfeit watches, jeans, tennis shirts, handbags, oil filters, toys, CD/DVD’s, computers and software, perfumes and even medications. “The problem is growing almost geometrically,” says Jack Fox, one time head of the Commercial Counterfeiting Control, a California company. Counterfeit sales in America have quadrupled in the last four years, he says.

Consumers aren’t the only victims. Counterfeiting cuts into company profits, reduces federal and state tax takes and eliminates jobs. Companies are spending millions of dollars a year to stop the culprits, either in civil actions or under a 1984 federal law that makes the manufacturing or sale of counterfeit goods a criminal offense. Rolex spends over $1 million a year to battle counterfeit versions of its expensive watches.

It has often been said that the best way to spot a counterfeit is to know the genuine article. When I worked for the Federal Reserve Bank as an auditor, they trained us how to spot counterfeits by studying the real McCoys. If you know the truth, you’re not likely to be deceived by some smooth-talking, look-alike deceiver.

I believe the events that happened in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend were a form of counterfeit patriotism. The events would turn out to be a catalyst for dramatic events that would tell us how far we have come or not as a country concerning racism.

It is where protesters and counterprotesters would meet and not settle anything, but pull back the curtain and reveal the political mindset of some who, I pray, are in the minority with their hate group. It would give cause for some to say they “think there is blame on both sides.” It is true that things should have been or could have been handled differently. It is also true that only one participant on the anti-hate side died and two officers who were trying to monitor the event died in a helicopter giving their lives for their country.

In my opinion that doesn’t sound two-sided, that sounds like death on one side. In my thinking process, it’s like blaming the bank because a robber came in to steal money. If the bank didn’t have any money then nobody would break in to steal it.

It is interesting to note that Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who was the victim of this violence when a protester got in his car and drove into the crowd and took her life, posted something prior on her Facebook. Ms. Heyer is reported to have once posted an anonymous quote that speaks volumes about how she died. This quote is also what her mother used at her daughter’s memorial service to be a call to action for the rest of the nation. Here is the anonymous quote: “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”

I wonder what Dr. King would say about this past weekend’s events. Here is a paragraph of what he said in a Letter from a Birmingham jail dated April 16, 1963: “Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience. We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’ It was ‘illegal’ to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.” He went on to say, “Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

This month is the 54th Anniversary of the March on Washington held Aug. 28, 1963. This event has special meaning to me. Maybe it’s because my father did march with Dr. King, during the Civil Rights Movement.

I still remember as a young man meeting Dr. Martin L. King Sr.; it was my father who introduced him to me. I was so young I don’t think I appreciated the fact that this was Dr. King’s father talking to me. My mother-in-law at the time worked for Ms. Coretta Scott King. I was once blessed to go to their house in Atlanta, Ga., years ago, although I never went in the house, because we talked with the portion of the family that was there on the steps.

When I was in school in Atlanta, Ga., we got to go to Ebenezer Baptist Church, and once spoke from behind the pulpit that I was told was the same as the one the father and son had spoken from. I have gone to the house that Dr. King was born in, and to the hotel that he died in. I still have the actual paper that I delivered on the day of his assassination, April 4, 1968, from my paper route. I was blessed to meet and eat with one of Dr. King’s right-hand men in his hotel room, Dr. Ralph David Abernathy. I have read several of his books, as well as read books about him. Like thousands of others, I have gone to the Dr. Martin L. King Center, and his memorial tomb.

I understand all that and 50 cents is not enough to get me a cup of coffee. But maybe it shows why it is personal to me.

The southern states were known for their in-your-face racism, but the northern states were always racist behind your back, but smiled in your face. It makes you wonder about who is really for you, versus someone just pretending. I guess you find out who your real friends are when you are in trouble. Sometimes you hope you never have to find out, because you don’t want that trouble.

All the signs are down now, all over the U.S.A., but racism is still alive and well.

Let me leave you with a portion of his speech on that day during the March on Washington. We believe this portion of his speech espoused what true patriotism is all about. Dr. King said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'”

Guest columnist Cummings is pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Temple in Weirton.