An unwillingness to rest
Halloween has never been a favorite holiday of mine, aside from the Twix and Reese’s Cups I get to sneak from the trick-or-treat stash. But, each year I enjoy the kids’ dress up day at school. They have to choose a character from a book for their costume. This year, my daughter decided to be the Statue of Liberty and picked the book Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers. With everything going on in the world right now, it felt like an appropriate choice.
Last week, after reports of a series of targeted bomb threats to prominent progressive leaders and critics of this administration, two black people were shot dead in Louisville. The killer had attempted to enter an African American church to cause more carnage, but thankfully the doors were locked. The next morning, eleven people were gunned down at their synagogue in Pittsburgh. Despite some of the initial media reports that the bombs might be a “liberal ploy” to gain sympathy and support before the midterms, all three of these horrific tragedies were hate crimes based on politics, religious beliefs, or race.
Over and over again I keep asking myself, what is happening to our country? Is it too broken to fix? When will we wake up and demand change? Or, is this struggle necessary to rebuild something stronger and more beautiful?
This doesn’t feel like America anymore.
The people who committed these crimes must be held responsible for their heinous actions. But, that is just one part of a much larger problem we face as a nation. We must also denounce the nasty and divisive rhetoric coming from the “leader” of our country. We must force ourselves to look in the mirror at the ways we perpetuate this downward spiral of division and lack of nuance, or how our silence allows it to continue.
Derogatory language like violent invaders, rapists, terrorists, and illegals, used to describe other human beings has an enormous impact, particularly from those with power. Our words matter. Our children are paying attention. People are listening and feeling emboldened. Between 2016 and 2017, there was a 60% rise in anti-Semitic incidents, the most substantial increase in the last thirty years. These aren’t isolated instances happening somewhere else to other people. This isn’t an issue just for Jewish Americans or people of color. This is about the soul and character of our nation and the freedom of her people.
I don’t care which side of the aisle you reside. We can and should disagree on how to tackle issues, that’s the beauty of the design. But, we cannot waiver on our shared values of truth and integrity without the whole system crumbling to pieces. No perceived policy victory is worth the toll this is taking on our society. Sure, the stock market is doing well, and the tax reform put some more money back in my wallet, but, I am simply not willing to compartmentalize and trade my values for economic gain.
Life is not a zero-sum game, and there is plenty to go around. Nothing good comes from building more walls between us. We are meant to live in community, to share our abundance, to build relationships across difference.
It is no longer acceptable to take a seat in the back or hide in the shadows and avoid getting involved in politics. It is too late for that, and people’s lives are on the line. The only way that things will change is if we take action; if we vote to restore checks and balances, and elect people that reflect the diversity of our country; if we support candidates with nuanced positions who are willing to work across the aisle and who aren’t beholden to corporate interests; if we vote out leaders who lack moral fortitude or spew hatred and incivility to win at all costs. We have the power to change how this works and force them to play by our rules.
It means we must center humanity and the people who are most impacted by the policies we support. Instead of assigning criminal intent and exacerbating fear, we must seek to understand the root causes of why people are fleeing their country for ours and use our position and influence as a global leader to work with those countries to solve challenges.
America is a beacon of hope and a place of opportunity for the rest of the world because it is a melting pot of different races, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and experiences. If we only continue to look out for our own interests, we lose sight of the common good and the struggle of our neighbor.
Her Right Foot is a powerful reminder of what the Statue of Liberty represents for our country. She, too, was an immigrant brought over from France to stand as a symbol of welcome and acceptance to the poor, the tired, and those struggling to be free.
Have you ever noticed that the Statue of Liberty is in mid-stride moving forward, breaking away from chains? It’s because “liberty and freedom from oppression are not things you get or grant by standing around like some kind of statue. No! These are things that require action. Courage. An unwillingness to rest.”
There is no one else to come fix these issues but ourselves. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Now is the time. We must make our voices heard and restore the moral compass of our country before it is too late.