Saturday, July 4, 2020

Happy Birthday, America

This has been a tough year. Not just for America, but for the world. But I'm writing today about America because it's my country. My Americanism goes way back. Like colonial America back. On both my mother and my father's lines. So, we've been here a very long time.

Based upon the timing of my mother's line in Georgia, her people were probably debtor prisoners sent over from England. Even the Irish line (I'm 20%) was here before Americans rebelled and fought its first war for independence. I was reading this week about how the Irish were enslaved here too. The article claims (and I believe) they were treated like human cattle, their lives expendable. And they were often sold for even less than the Black slaves.

But eventually, an Irish slave--if able to escape--could do something a Black slave couldn't. He could stay hidden more easily because his skin was white. Just like after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the US enslaved thousands of Japanese Americans, you didn't see that happening to German Americans. It happened because they could look at the Japanese and tell they were Japanese. That was harder to do with the German immigrants.

I'm frustrated right now. Angry and a little depressed. So many of the issues raised by people of color are legitimate ones. There ARE too many imbalances and injustices in America. It makes what our founding fathers hoped for with our new country a contradiction. A mockery. Because the claims of freedom, while noble and great, weren't being offered to everyone. If you were a white man who owned property, then you had opportunity.

Equal protection under the law. That's huge. Things are improving in some ways. I think we are making some progress. But, dang it, slaves in the US were freed in 1865. Yet we had to have a Civil Rights movement a 100 years later to shine light on the injustices and imbalances. And over 50 years later, the battle still rages. Even after we've had a Black president.

I'd love to live long enough to see more "color blindness." But I hear comments of people about the protests because of the violence. Some say people won't listen to the message unless you get their attention. But, at the same time, the message gets tainted BECAUSE of the violence. It gets lost.

I can promise you that looting a store and setting fires will not persuade most people that a cause is just. The violence compromises credibility.

But I also understand the anger and frustration which drives the violence. Especially when it's about patterns of behavior and injustice that span not just decades but centuries.

America--and Americans--must do better. We can do it. We've done some amazing things over the course of our history. Hard things. When John F. Kennedy made the determination to put an American on the moon, he set a task that had never been done before. But we did it. In a decade.

How do we soften people's hearts and get them to walk in the shoes of their fellow humans? That's going to be the true task from here on out. WILL we learn anything from our 2020 experiences?

I don't want the idea of American freedom, and the country as a land of opportunity, to be a mockery. We have in our hands the gift to shape a better future. Here's hoping its a better one for ALL its people.

So, Happy Birthday America.

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