America is at a crossroads. Recent events in our nation have left us both alarmed and heartbroken. And while our immediate response may be to condemn one group or another, in reality we are all to blame. This country belongs to all of us. Therefore we all share the same responsibility to see that every citizen is treated justly and fairly.
We live at a point in time when our country faces many complex issues that we strongly disagree on – and probably always will. These include abortion, gun control, same sex marriage, religion, politics, immigration and many other controversial topics that people are passionate about. But that passion does not have to take precedence over intelligence. We can disagree without our differences of opinion turning into hate and violence. We must understand that it is in our own best interest as a nation that we find civil ways to discuss the issues that can otherwise divide us.
America was founded on ideas and concepts that represent the highest moral principles human beings can conceive, but they must be embraced day after day to be sustained. The ability to make them a consistent reality depends on our attitudes, because how we think and what we believe make us who we are.
Unfortunately, we want to take the easy way out and have others solve our nation’s problems for us. We expect public officials to provide all the answers to society’s ills. Each election cycle brings forth the conviction that one party or the other has the answer, and yet after the election, no matter which side wins, things remain the same. That is because we are content to just sit back and wait for the necessary change to magically happen. Then when we are shocked that it doesn’t occur, we vote that party out of power and the next one comes in and history repeats itself. Meanwhile our society suffers while we wring our hands and cry out that somebody should do something. But no one does. Each of us is focused on ourselves, and we are not inclined to step out of our comfort zone to make a difference in the lives of those who are in need, at risk or vulnerable.
It is just not reasonable to expect elected officials, scholars, religious leaders, or anyone else who has influence in society, to improve our world without our active participation. Change happens one person at a time. Each day the American spirit is kept alive or torn apart by the actions of all 320 million of us.
Until we are willing to accept responsibility for making our nation a more inclusive and compassionate place, it will not happen. Until we are willing to accept and not judge, things will not improve. Until we are willing to be tolerant of those we don’t agree with or don’t understand, the hostile environment we now find ourselves in will continue. Blaming each other for our problems does nothing to solve them, but respecting each other allows us to open up constructive dialogues that can result in real solutions. If we are to heal our nation it is up to each one of us.
Today we are presented with a clear choice. We can continue to do and say nothing about the violence that grips our country, or we can take a stand as citizens of the greatest nation on earth and make the effort to understand each other, accept each other and to love each other. However, if we are unwilling to change our own personal behavior we have no right to expect others to change.
It is a fact that America is now more diversified than ever. Unfortunately, many of us pretend that isn’t the case, preferring instead to waste our time in futile attempts to deny reality. But if we will open our hearts and minds to the tremendous beauty and power of diversity, and if we will do everything possible to make society inclusive, we can ensure that the United States has a future based on justice for everyone.
But to make certain that is the path our country takes, we have to be willing to see people for who they really are, without clouding our judgment with unfounded bias. We must understand that a person’s ethnicity, gender, age or disability has no bearing on their humanity. We must accept that no one is inferior or less than. We must believe that we are all the same.
As we sit safely in our homes and watch with disbelief the brutal acts that continuously fill the news, it is critical to remember that whether it is a person of color lying dead in the street or an individual in a police uniform, they are both Americans. When they are violently cut down, they are both denied the opportunity to live out their lives. They both leave behind families and loved ones who are shattered. They are both victims of the culture of disrespect that has been created and allowed to persist. Their deaths are the result of our unwillingness to appreciate and value the humanity of every member of society.
America is our nation, and we are free to make the choices that determines its future. But in these troubled times, it is crucial that we have the wisdom to choose tolerance over belligerence, understanding instead of divisiveness and compassion in place of hate. Change is not easy, but the rewards more than pay for any discomfort we experience. However, if we do not alter our thoughts, opinions and attitudes, if our perspective remains negative and close minded, if we continue to be suspicious and cynical, we will suffer and our children will suffer.
Democracy is not about having someone take care of us, it is about taking care of each other. Our freedom brings with it the responsibility to do what is right.
If our nation is to thrive, it is imperative that we develop the strength of character to embrace the essential truth that every life is equal.