This 4th of July many Americans enjoyed an extended weekend with friends, family, and loved ones. We mark this celebration of American freedom with fireworks, thunderous bursts of lights soaring through our great nation’s sky.
In this very same week, gunshots have reverberated across the streets of America, ending lives rather than valuing them. Americans, shot down, killed in public, horrific scenes, broadcast for millions to view. These are our public servants and private citizens, each loss impacting a family, colleagues, friends, and a community. Despite this loss of human life and my initial trauma to watching these scenes unfold in my own city, I somehow began to feel indifferent and distant about the future of our nation.
I felt exhausted by the incessant tirades I see on the news, people yelling, arguing, spewing uncompromising-extremist vitriol at one another. I felt overwhelmed by the videos, memes, and hashtags that invaded my social media timelines in rapid succession. I woke up this morning feeling traumatized with feelings of anxiety. Asking, should I attend a prayer vigil? A protest march? Or stay at home? All I wanted to do was disconnect and detach myself from it all. This was too much. Why can’t I find my peace and joy, live in a bubble, and shut everything else out? I’m frustrated. Why not choose apathy? I don’t know what to do. How are we going to save ourselves? Then I watched an excerpt from an interview of James Baldwin and Kenneth Clark from 1963. I was challenged by his words, "How precisely are YOU going to reconcile YOURSELF to your situation here?"
I believe we, human beings, Americans, are compelled by our sense of survival. We rebel against anything that infringes upon the safety and provision of those we love. Accordingly, there is public outcry against the restrictions of our civil liberties – our right to bear arms, freedom of speech, right to vote, access to proper health care, and our right to secure and earn a fair living wage. As we espouse the liberties granted by the U.S. constitution, its amendments, and citizenship, we too, must honor the spirit by which it was fashioned.
"The only foundation of a free constitution, is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people, in a great measure, then they have it now. They may change their rulers, and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty.” John Adams
This country’s founding fathers believed that our claim to lasting freedom requires lasting virtue. Where is our American virtue? When discriminant policies and practices are prevalent and remain unchecked. When violent acts against our citizens are justified and concealed by our legislative and judicial systems. When the health and well-being of individuals is a secondary consideration, if considered at all.
"When virtue is banished, ambition invades the minds of those who are disposed to receive it, and avarice [greed] possesses the whole community." From Common Place Book written by Thomas Jefferson
What have we learned from BRexit? Will we self-destruct as we are blinded by our own pride and nationalism? Has greed spread like cancer throughout our nation’s psyche to the point that we are now devoid of virtue and basic regard for human life. Are we so filled with anger, apathy and self-righteousness that we refuse to acknowledge the despair that exists among our people?
"No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles." George Mason
My answer is no. We must not succumb to the folly of our lesser selves. We must not let fear, foolishness, and ignorance guide our actions. We can choose to be kind, caring, and generous people. We can value intellect, wisdom, and dignity. These are the people that must lead us. It is you and I. For those of us that have been granted the privileges of freedom, it is paramount that we [do not become apathetic but] remain connected to the very real human oppression that exists beyond ourselves. We must engage in the future of our communities.
It is our charge as global citizens to preserve the principles of justice and fairness. As our Muslim brethren celebrate Eid, the ending of the holy season of Ramadan, we must fight against xenophobia and islamophobia. As we witness the death of Alton Sterling in Louisiana, Philando Castile in Minnesota, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Misty McBride, and Shetamia Taylor here in Texas, we must not seek to blame the victims or add them to a list of martyrs that further divide us, we must insist on improving our police-community relationships, and change our law enforcement policies and practices. As we search to move past the deaths and mass shooting in Orlando, we must vote to support background checks and better gun controls; we must embrace diversity and dispel irrational hatred and bigotry based on identity. [race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion].
Making this country great, is not about inciting fear or anger, it is about using compassion, common sense, and our better judgement to improve our lives and equity within our communities. We must remember the past but today we must take action, as Americans.