Summer Waning Strawberry Moon
The 4th of July. A time to think about our country, our home, our sea to shining sea. Are we in decline? This chestnut has begun hitting the op ed pages again. I don’t know, they don’t know. Only history will tell us. Does it matter? Not to me. We’ll still be Americans, just like the British are still British in spite of the collapse of the empire on which the sun never sat.
Are there major problems within our body politic? Oh, my, yes. Does this make our time different from any other time? Emphatically, no.
Here’s an example from a Frederick Douglass speech quoted in the Star-Tribune today:
“Fellow citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions, whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are today rendered more intolerable by the jubilant shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!”
To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs and to chime in with the popular theme would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.
My subject, then, fellow citizens, is “American Slavery.””
Does this harmony of misery make us any less accountable for the unemployed, the dying lakes and rivers, the immigrants who would live among us and share this land? Emphatically, no.
Whether in decline or doggedly ascending the hill to that Bright Shining City so beloved of our forefathers, we must attend the great American ideals of liberty and equality, the twin conceptual mounts on which both our past and our future rest.
And not these only. We now have before us the Great Work, the demanding and joyful task of creating a human presence on this planet that is benign, not malignant.
Here are the things make me believe we will continue to rise to these challenges no matter our relative status in the world: we ended slavery. we fought and defeated fascism. we looked at old age poverty and created social security. we have a statue at what used to be the main entry point for immigrants; it is a statue of liberty and one which says to the world, give us your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free. we have brilliant scientists, great laboratories and universities, students even at this moment learning to be the future leaders that we need. we have poets, movie makers, authors, critics, musicians, painters and sculptors all ready to help us see what we do not see. we have neighborhood after neighborhood of people who want only a chance, the same chance many of our ancestors have already had. we are a people who have won great victories for humanity. we are a land unparalleled in its ruggedness, its beauty, its flora and fauna, rivers and streams, lakes and forests.
All of these things make me happy and hopeful on this 4th of July.