“America is no fairy tale,” Biden added. “It’s been a constant push and pull between two parts of our character: the idea that all men and women — all people — are created equal and the racism that has torn us apart.”
That quote is from a remarkably good news piece in Breitbart. Interestingly, it sums up well what Bill Moyers said in a remarkably good speech celebrating Juneteenth at Carnegie Hall in 2019. Maybe more remarkable is that two quite politically opposite news outlets could express so much in common. Towards the end of Moyers speech he makes an eerily prophetic reference to people of color not being able to breathe. Just over a year later those same words would be spoken from George Floyd as he is slowly suffocated by a white police officer.
My grandfather fought in world war I, which is why I can and do hang on Independence Day, the 9’ long flag that covered his casket. To honor his sacrifice. To honor the idea that our flag and country try to exemplify. It has 48 stars. My Father’s equally large flag has 50. Our country’s evolution within a generation symbolized. As well as the reality of freedom lost for some and still in peril for others due to two world wars. They are a symbol of hope for continued evolution. Both flags are made from heavy dyed red, white, and blue cotton fabrics sewn together with embroidered stars. There is much noble and inspiring history that established the American flag as a symbol of many united who offer freedom and justice for all. These same values inspire the flying of our smaller multi-colored flag—proclaiming peace and fairness for all—regardless of the color of our skin or our sexual orientation.
There is much in our history of independence that doesn’t align with the proclaimed values of their day or our understanding of those values in our day. There are heartbreaking stories of not just missing the mark of such ideals, but causing widespread generational suffering because we were blinded by our ideology or knowingly used it to justify the mistreatment and subjection of those we believed were less than us. Less right, less able, less deserving than us. I say us because it is important to ask ourselves in this, our moment in history, who we might be diminishing and even unintentionally harming.
The independence that many—but not all—have enjoyed since the birth of our founders declaration and violent revolution, is in peril. We seem less inclined to unite and compromise over basic universal shared human values and aspirations and more inclined to demonize and silence those who differ in how they express them or how to actualize them. This is not a political party problem. This is a universal human problem. It is partly from our unwillingness to walk in another’s shoes so that we might not just hear their words but feel the ground beneath their feet. So in the hope to show that there can be, and is, a reasonableness and some shared understanding between those of difference I found two thoughtful messages. In honor of the idea of this holiday—and a better future—I hope you’ll take a brief moment to hear them.