Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., believes that the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case reveals American immaturity on the issue of race, which he tried to ameliorate by pointing out that Plymouth Rock is “not what made this country great.”
“It’s also our inability, our lack of maturity, to deal with the race and color question in this country,” Rangel said, after decrying the number of guns in the United States, during a conversation with MSNBC’s Martin Bashir on Monday.
“It’s not all about Plymouth Rock,” he said moments later. “That is not what made this country great. And the ability of some people to forget how they got here and start looking for for others who they believe are less worthy — as a country, for us to maintain our competition, we’re going to have to change.”
Revolutionary Americans regarded Plymouth Rock, which marks the spot where — tradition holds — the Mayflower Pilgrims from England landed in 1620, as an important symbol.
“The inhabitants of the town [Plymouth], animated by the glorious spirit of liberty which pervaded the Province [in 1774], and mindful of the precious relic of our forefathers, resolved to consecrate the rock on which they landed to the shrine of liberty,” James Thacher wrote in his 1835 History of the Town of Plymouth.
The rock split when they tried to move it. “The upper portion, weighing many tons, was conveyed to the liberty pole square, front of the meeting-house, where, we believe, waved over it a flag with the far-famed motto, ‘Liberty or death.’ This part of the rock was, on the 4th of July, 1834, removed to Pilgrim Hall, and placed in front of that edifice under the charge of the Pilgrim Society.”
Daniel Webster, the Massachusetts senator who tried to negotiate compromises on the issue of slavery that might avoid the Civil War, also attested to the significance of the rock.
“We have come to this Rock, to record here our homage for our Pilgrim Fathers; our sympathy in their sufferings; our gratitude for their labours; our admiration of their virtues; our veneration for their piety; and our attachment to those principles of civil and religious liberty, which they encountered the dangers of the ocean, the storms of heaven, the violence of savages, disease, exile, and famine, to enjoy and establish,” Webster said in 1820, per the Pilgrim Hall Museum.
“And we would leave here, also, for the generations which are rising up rapidly to fill our places, some proof, that we have endeavored to transmit the great inheritance unimpaired; that in our estimate of public principles, and private virtue; in our veneration of religion and piety; in our devotion to civil and religious liberty; in our regard to whatever advances human knowledge, or improves human happiness, we are not altogether unworthy of our origin,” he said.
Rangel also noted that “God has made it so easy for us to appreciate the different contributions people make to this world.” The Washington Examiner‘s Philip Klein recently recalled the contributions made to this country by Frederick Douglass, the self-educated man who escaped slavery to deliver some of the most powerful arguments for abolition during lecture tours of the North.
“Liberty,” Klein quotes Douglass as saying, “is not a device or an experiment, but a law of nature dating back to man’s creation.”