Community Engagement · Faith · Liberation · Race and Privilege · Social Justice

Healing America

Nine months and four days ago, riding my bicycle home with Angie and Joey from Octoberfest, my life entered the cusp of leave this world. For days, death was held in the balance. For weeks, my mental capacities continued to hang in the balance.

For me, this July 4th is not an Independence Day. Today, it is an Interdependence Day.

If it were not for Angie, for Joey, Eric, and Maddie, for mom and Christine, for close neighbors and friends, for people from work and community, for former and current students near and far, for the more than human people of this earth, let alone for the many caring nurses, therapists, and doctors, for each of their seconds and minutes and hours and days of care, a true, deep ethics of care, I would not be typing this blog post. I would be in an assisted living home sitting silently, thinking about little if anything meaningful.

All I can say is thank you and I love you, because what I need to really say to each of you personally cannot be put into words.

Instead, this morning I want to talk about the need to heal America.

This morning I woke to read the daily Red Letter Christians Wake Up:

‘My kingdom is not of this world.’

John 18:36

It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in patriotism and swept away by nationalism – particularly during times of global crisis. Yet Jesus reminds us that His kingdom, in which we’re all invited to participate, is not made up of artificial borders implemented by governments created by humankind. As followers of Christ, our calling is higher than any loyalty to political party or country – a call to love our neighbors, whomever they may be.

And then I read Sojourner’s Daily Verse & Voice:

All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

– Matthew 23:12

Lowliness is the base of every virtue,
And [they] who goes the lowest builds the safest.

– Philip James Bailey

Both of these brought home different insight into the ways each of us is to dedicate our lives to an ethics of care to those around us, and especially to the widow, the orphan, those in economic and other forms of poverty, and to those who come to us escaping other lands, the sojourner.

But in the United States, there’s something more we need to remember on this day celebrating our liberty, and on every other day of the year and every day of our existence as a nation. Late last month I attended the American Library Association annual meeting, where I attended a session by the Kellogg Foundation in which they introduced their “Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation” guide. During the presentation, they mentioned that for 20 other nations, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been used to help discover and address past wrong doing by a government. But the Kellogg Foundation has decided to bring forward a different approach. In particular, they put forward that America is unique as a government and a nation in that it formed specifically through the wrong doing of racism, something that continues, often hidden, to this day.

My life’s work has been dedicated to truth, racial healing, and transformation in one form or another. But what has haunted me over the last 9 months, more than anything else, is that the ethics of care I received as a white male is by far superior to that which the majority of others in our nation would have received. I am recovered in large part because I am a recipient in large part of an unjust system.

This is not to say that this transformative ethics of care should be removed from me and granted to another. It is to say that we, as a nation, should transform ourselves so that each and every person, no matter their race, no matter their religion, no matter their gender or gender preference, should receive the very same transformative ethics of care. This is the birthright of every single person in this nation and across the planet.

And so this morning I re-read Martin Luther King, Jr.s  (read the speech at http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm or watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vDWWy4CMhE). Please read or watch it at some point today.

And I want to finish this re-post of a Langston Hughes poem posted this morning by Topology Magazine’s “the daily asterisk”:

Make America again!
The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Langston Hughes
from “Let America Be America Again” (1935) in The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes

 

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