I have been intensely involved in the political debate in this country for over 45 years. Protesting the Vietnam war, supporting Dr. King, siding against injustice whenever I could.
I’m sick of it.
I was inspired by JFK, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” I tried. I failed.
I’m old, and tired, and I just want some peace and quiet. This is a country that is built on the principle of not giving a damn about anybody but yourself. And it has all the broken qualities one would expect from that attitude. Violence, poverty, homelessness, shame.
We have prosperity theology, the assertion that God wants us to be greedy and grasping, pile up earthly treasure, and ignore the needs of those who have less than we do.
We have Christians who preach hate, who defend the wealthy and deny the poor. We have women who are raped and beaten, who are blamed; and men who rape and abuse, who are excused. An unarmed black man walking down the street is shot dead, for the capital crime of not cringing before a police officer. We have white men, armed to the nines, who laugh and joke with the same police officer who did the shooting. We have violence paraded as the answer to all social problems; and anti-violence ridiculed as weakness. We have capital punishment for those too poor to afford a good lawyer.
We have global warming, denied; evolution, denied; equality of rights for all citizens, denied. We have school text books rewritten, to pretend that slavery was no big deal, and not the cause of the Civil War. We have the Confederate battle flag, the flag of traitors who tried to destroy America, celebrated as “heritage.”
The most basic elements of human decency, — empathy, sharing, loving, helping, — are ridiculed. Cruelty, avarice, selfishness, are held aloft as virtues.
Earlier today, my younger daughter’s boyfriend was watching the History Channel series, “Vietnam in HD,” which is built around documentary footage and interviews of combatants. I watched some of it; as always, the old, bad memories resurface. 58,000 dead, 158,000 wounded, 2 million Vietnamese dead. Savagery. Horror. Brutality. Slaughter.
We are no better today, than when I was a teen, listening to Dr. King’s soaring speech on my primitive clock radio.
In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.
We have learned nothing. The vault is empty, the check is uncashed.