Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, after Democrat Doug Jones’ victory in the Alabama senate special election, wrote via Twitter: “Decency wins.”
But it was more than decency that won. Freedom, dignity and humanity won because Roy Moore, the Republican nominee to fill a seat in the U.S. Senate, represented for many the vestiges of a sordid past that this nation should not be proud of in 2017.
This contest in a state that was a cradle of segregation and a central battleground for the civil rights movement, was more than partisan politics. It was beyond electing a Democrat or Republican. It was a battle for the soul of America.
It was a test to see whether the people of Alabama were ready to elect a man in Roy Moore, who said America was great during slavery and who has doubts about Muslims serving in Congress.
“I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another. Our families were strong, our country had a direction,” Moore said in a Los Angeles Times report when asked about the last time America was great.
Slavery is a crime against humanity and to this day has remained America’s original sin.
For a U.S. Senate candidate to express views that appear to condone the evils of slavery or attempt to render slavery as a harmless institution is not only insensitive, but an insult to the memory of the millions who perished during that human carnage.
To the descendants of slaves in Alabama — the black men and women who turned out in a revolt to vote against Moore — his comments represented a travesty of history and justice.
Moore’s past statements questioning the legitimacy of Muslims to serve in Congress are also as bigoted as one can get. Muslims, like other groups, are part of the greater American experience, which gives this nation it’s fitting mosaic identity.
Coupled with the molestation allegations, it was evident that Moore was not only unfit to serve in the world’s most powerful legislative chamber, and his views are contradictory to the very ideals of democracy that this nation holds so dear.
There was a time when Moore’s views were considered part of the norm. But many civil rights battles have relegated those views as the museum-like relics they embody when skin color and ethnicity defined one’s destiny.
That is why Moore’s loss was a powerful tribute to the countless efforts of the many who through the ages worked to build the foundation of democracy that everyone can be guaranteed equality under the law.
On the other hand, a Moore win would have dealt a serious blow to the deeper meaning of freedom conveyed by the words on the Statue of Liberty — “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — because America is an evolving democratic experiment.
Whether a Democrat, Republican or independent, the election of Jones was a victory for the values that have made this nation great long before “Make America Great Again” became a campaign slogan.
Jones’ historic victory is also a testament to the fact that fear-mongering and dog-whistle politics are not always winning factors.
In the eulogy of the four black girls killed in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Alabama, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said their deaths “have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. ... They say to each of us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution.”
Decades after the deaths of those little girls, Jones would lead the prosecution of the Klansmen involved.
With Tuesday’s results, Alabama has written a new chapter in history and helped advance the values of freedom and dignity, which is what America should be about.
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