I believe that the controversy surrounding George Colby is a symptom of a much larger problem in our country.

Colby is a New Gloucester selectman who is accused of racism. A petition to recall him is underway. After the Pledge of Allegiance at a town meeting on Dec. 3, 2020, Colby said, “Liberty and justice for all, for everyone. Even us white folks!” His critics state that since Colby is an elected town official, his remarks were inappropriate. They also allege that Colby has made questionable comments in the past.

Peter Falkenberg Brown, a resident of Gray, is a writer, author and chairman of the Gray Republican Committee at grayrepublicans.org.

There are many ways to react to Colby’s comment. New Gloucester teacher Laura Fralich wrote an op-ed in the Lewiston Sun Journal titled “White grievance is racism: Why New Gloucester Selectman George Colby needs to be recalled.” Through that lens, Colby’s remark was racist, and he is thus condemned.

A different way to view Colby’s remark is that his comment reflected his frustration with the messaging in our national culture that America – and all whites – are irredeemably racist, especially when they complain about being called racist. If you do an internet search on the phrase “white grievance is racism,” you’ll see a large amount of opinion of that ilk. But think …

Just because a certain number of people in America have adopted the poisonous and destructive view that all whites are racist doesn’t make it true. To brand anyone as a racist, one has to know what is in that person’s heart and mind. To say that all people of any race are racist is itself the definition of racism. We cannot assume that every person of a particular race thinks and feels the same way. It’s not logical or truthful.

A dictionary definition of racism includes “the idea that one’s own race is superior.” Real racism is very bad because, from a religious point of view, it denies the sacredness of all humans as individuals and incarnational peers created by a God who loves everyone. God sees our heart and our soul and wants all human beings to forgive and love each other as beloved brothers and sisters. Skin color is irrelevant. Martin Luther King Jr. agreed.

It may sound like too high of a mountain to climb, but won’t we find tremendous guidance and inspiration for our daily life if we examine the question: “How does God love each person?” A different way to express that is the phrase: “What would Jesus do?” He seems to have answered that question in John 8:7: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

If the people concerned about George Colby’s comment look at him with the love of God, I think that they might say, “Hey, George, we understand how you feel, but that’s probably not the best thing to say at a meeting.”

He might say, “Yeah, you’re right.”

Then life would go on. I believe that goodhearted people will adopt that stance. That is, after all, a reflection of the Golden Rule: to treat others as we would wish to be treated.

But to work not only for his recall but to permanently brand him as a racist, thus destroying his career and life? To me, the punishment doesn’t fit the so-called crime. And yes, he might have said something long ago that was untoward and off the cuff or unwise. But, truly, he or she who is without sin or has never made a mistake, please do step forward. George Colby is a good person, a good selectman and does not deserve to be recalled.

The toxicity of the “cancel culture” sweeping America smacks of the mob, raging through the streets, yelling, “Burn them! Hang them!” Will America descend into a pit where every word is tested against the current definition of political correctness? Will “speech criminals” be publicly shamed, as they are in communist China? Don’t we all hope that America does not go any farther in that direction?

Abraham Lincoln ended his first inaugural address on March 4, 1861, with these words:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

The better angels of our nature are indeed our best hope.

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