Our world has turned topsy-turvy. NATO and President Clinton, the No.
1 draft dodger, are threatening to send U.S. troops into the quagmire of
Yugoslavia and Kosovo, while the morale of the U.S. armed forces keeps
dropping. Since Clinton has been president, retention among the more
elite segments of the armed forces has been dropping: U.S. Navy Seal
retention used to be 90 percent; now it is close to 30 percent, and the
retention rate of naval aviators is equally dismal.
So what has the U.S. Navy done to stem the tide? They hired a new
spokesman, Spike Lee. Yes, that’s the same Spike Lee who last week
advocated shooting the president of the NRA, Charlton Heston. Oh, I
forgot, he later said it was only “a joke.” Mr. Heston, always the
gentleman, took it in stride, and said, “He gave me a big laugh.”
But where was the outrage? Why didn’t we hear from the New York
Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, countless other newspapers,
and the electronic media, all who delight in pointing out politically
incorrect outrageous statements by those they love to hate? I remember
when NRA used the term “jack booted thugs” to describe those law
enforcement personnel who break down doors and violate the civil rights
of law-abiding gun owners. The editorial outrage from the media flew off
the Richter scale. Now when one Hollywood celebrity suggests that a
Hollywood icon should be “shot” there are no editorials, no gnashing of
teeth, just deafeningly cold silence.
Has Spike Lee forgotten his civil rights history? As president of the
Screen Actor’s Guild, Charlton Heston led the Hollywood contingent of no
more than 30 (including those that came from New York) to the now famous
1963 March on Washington. Remember most “parlor liberals” didn’t
participate in “the March.” If Spike Lee knew anything about Charlton
Heston he would have read his book, “In the Arena,” and know it ends
with an excerpt from Dr. King’s famous speech.
But America’s civil rights history also has its birthplace in the
struggle to own firearms. Abolitionist leader John Brown attacked
Harper’s Ferry in 1859 because it was a town where firearms were
manufactured for the Federal Army and the armory held 6,000 rifles. It
was Brown’s plan to arm the slaves with the guns that he liberated from
Harper’s Ferry. After all, it was illegal for slaves to own firearms.
A little more than half a century later a graduate from Howard
University Medical School, Dr. Ossian Sweet, moved his family into a
two-story home on Detroit’s East Side. Upon his arrival in the
working-class neighborhood, Dr. Sweet was greeted by The Waterworks Park
Improvement Association, a group that had recently driven another black
doctor from his Detroit home. The Waterworks Park Improvement
Association was responsible for the ugly mob, which gathered outside Dr.
Sweet’s home. The neighborhood became a no man’s land with the Detroit
police stationing themselves between Dr. Sweet’s home and the unruly
Unfortunately, the police did nothing to remove the mob. One day as
Dr. Sweet’s brother, Henry, drove up to the house the crowd became
uglier. A rock was thrown, Henry’s car window was broken and then a shot
After the smoke and tumult cleared one person was dead in the street
and another injured. The police, who had been powerless to prevent the
tragedy, then barged into the Sweet home. They not only arrested
everyone; they charged them all with murder.
After a trial that ended in a hung jury, the Detroit prosecutors
settled on just retrying Henry Sweet, who had originally admitted to
firing his gun. Clarence Darrow was Henry’s lawyer. His defense of Henry
was elegant. His argument was that although Henry may have fired the
fatal shot, the firing was justified because it was in self-defense. The
all white jury found Henry “not guilty” after only three hours
But, there is the rest of the story. Because of this “racial
incident” the Ku Klux Klan in 1927 lobbied for the passage of Michigan’s
first gun control law, which required citizens to acquire purchase
permits after mandatory inspections prior to acquiring a gun. Guess who
this law was aimed at?
In Monroe, N.C., some thirty years later, the Ku Klux Klan was still
practicing intimidation. As the members of the Monroe chapter of the
NAACP exercised their civil liberties — their voting rights, the right
to peaceably assemble, and the right to associate with one another —
the Klan drove through the black neighborhoods firing guns at the homes,
especially the home of the chapter vice president.
In self-defense the Monroe chapter of the NAACP decided to exercise
their right to keep and bear arms. In 1957, 60 members of the Monroe
chapter of the NAACP affiliated with the National Rifle Association of
America. They received firearms training. And, when the Klan motored in
for another night of tyranny, they came face to face with the Second
Amendment. The terrorists failed that night because one right prevailed.
You see, Spike Lee, the Second Amendment is colorblind. You may think
it funny to suggest that someone who has been and remains in the
forefront of our civil rights struggles should be shot. But I don’t. I
didn’t think it was funny when Ice-T and Time Warner recorded a song
called “Cop Killer,” and neither did Charlton Heston. He stood before
the Time Warner Board of Directors at their annual meeting and read to
them the disgusting lyrics that advocated killing cops. You may not
agree with Charlton Heston, but you know where he stands: fighting for
It takes a real role model to fight for freedom. In America today we
desperately need real role models. Perhaps the U.S. Navy should seek a
new role model and spokesman. One can’t be a role model and expect our
school children to be held to stricter standards. One can’t be a
military spokesman, yet require our service men and women to uphold
higher standards. We need role models who don’t glorify or joke about
violence against their fellow man. Wanted: a few good role models to
turn our world right side up again.