Thursday, April 8, 2021

Chauvin Trial Revives Societal Wounds

The ongoing trial of police officer Derek Chauvin has laid bare the raw, throbbing seam between the left and right wings in this country.  The conservatives see Chauvin as a dedicated policeman, who, threatened by a mob, acted responsibly to subdue a suspect who was under the influence of drugs and unfortunately died.  Progressives see an overzealous policeman who violated department policy and unnecessarily restrained a minority suspect and deliberately killed him. The two views are irreconcilable.

A jury will decide Chauvin’s fate.  However, regardless of the verdict, progressives will win.  They have always won since this country was founded.

Progressives wrote the Declaration of Independence and led the battle to throw off English rule.  Conservatives, then called Tories, opposed them.  Gen. George Washington’s troops did not freeze at Valley Forge just because of the weather.  They were denied supplies by Tories in Philadelphia who wined and dined English officers instead.  Eventually, Tories either reluctantly became Americans or fled to Canada.

Progressives wrote the Constitution, eventually adding the Bill of Rights, which are the most radical statement of human rights ever committed to paper.  They include the one amendment beloved by conservatives: the right to bear arms.

 Since then, progressives ended slavery, child labor and monopolies.  They set working hours, demanded and obtained safety regulations, created Social Security and a host of other laws designed to improving working and living conditions.  Many of these ideas were initiated by the Socialist Party and then adopted by progressives, initially in the Republican Party and promoted by such political leaders as Theodore Roosevelt.

 They were continually opposed to conservatives, who objected to almost any advance as being un-American and contrary to natural order.  Conservatives opposed radio, insisting the sets gave off rays that would hurt listeners.  They objected to movies, imposing censorship.  They objected to television, reviving old complaints about radio.  They tried to impose morality through Prohibition, voted against giving women the right to vote, imposed quota systems to limit immigration and maintained laws to block racial equality  Conservatives opposed the League of Nations, helping precipitate World War II.  They fought American entry into the war.  Had they succeeded in blocking our participation, half the world today would be under Nazi control.  

 It should be no surprise that the conservative icon Donald Trump was the first American president endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and the Taliban.

 Today, conservatives are busily trying to restrict voting rights.

 Again, eventually, they will lose.  Americans, like all people, opt for increased rights and opportunities.  The most common motif in movies, our most-invasive and pervasive medium, reflects that.  Constantly, heroes fight against the rich and powerful.  The list is endless.  To name just a few: Roadhouse, Pale Rider, Bond movies after communism faded and so many more.  The American Dream contains at its heart the ideal vision of living in a home, unbothered by civil authorities with freedom to live unfettered by restrictive rules and regulations.

That seems ideal, but the end of liberalism is anarchy, which is why conservatives are so focused on law and order.  On the other hand, the final stop on the conservative spectrum is oligarchy, where the few rich and powerful control everything.  It’s no wonder Putin, Kim and other dictators serves as the models for conservatives. And why the FBI has identified white supremacists militia as the big threats to American security.   Progressives didn’t attack the Capitol; conservatives did.  Progressive tend to shun armament; conservatives embrace them.

In the end, we will continue to move along the progressive road.  All societies do and have done so historically.  Eventually, the overriding Catholic Church fell beneath the wheels of the Enlightenment; Communist Russia collapsed; China has liberalized its policies; and Saudi Arabia is easing up its constraint on women. 

It's inevitable.

The battles between left and right wings won’t cease anytime soon.  Sometimes, they will collide such as is happening in Minnesota with the Chauvin trial.  Sometimes, they were cross swords over the ballot box.  Regardless, if history is a guide, eventually the center will continue to slide toward the left, dragging the right with it like an anchor.



Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history with an occasional foray into American culture.  He holds an ABD in American Studies from Case Western Reserve (OH) University and an M.A. in journalism from Kent State (OH) University.   A resident of Ormond Beach, Fla., he also speaks at various religious organizations throughout the state.  You can reach him at or through his website He is the author of the several novels Revelation! (Southern Owl Press) and The Great Seer Nostradamus Tells All (Bold Venture Press) as well as a variety of nonfiction books, including Messiah: A History of One of the World’s Most Enduring Ideas (Bold Venture) ;  and Comparative Religion for Dummies (Wiley Press).  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.