Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Let Freedom Ring
I'm going to write this and then I am going to take a long, long walk in the woods to clear my brain. I am a nearly 65 year old white grandma who is about to write a very long rant. It is going to include offensive thoughts and language. At least I find them offensive, so if you are easily offended, I'd suggest you stop reading this right now. I am the kind of person who wants to fill my space with happiness and love. Yet right now, I feel surrounded by the opposite; being bombarded with news that can only be described as hate. I need to speak my piece on this and then maybe I can find the beauty again in the world. In a few days, in this country, we will celebrate Independence Day, the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed. It starts with these famous words:
hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."
Today, there is a church burning down in South Carolina. Arson? Maybe. Why? Well, it's a predominantly black church. Why would someone want to burn down a black church? I think, hatred. Where did the "Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness" go? Or did it ever really exist?
In our country, right now, there are so many examples of hatred that I think we have no right to celebrate Independence Day.
Let's start with the upcoming race for President. There are 14 men, at the moment, vying for the Republican ticket. If you listen to each of them, they are tripping over each other with how they will make this country a better place and waste no time spitting out their hatred for the current sitting President Barack Obama. It's hard to actually fathom what he has done that could be so horrific, so much worse than any other president, but the haters out there believe he is destroying our country. "Our country", they say. Barack Obama is black. It was such a source of pride, for me and so many others, when he became president. I though this country of our's had finally turned a corner. Over his years as president, though, there has been nothing but Republican push back almost smirking every time they were able to through up a wall. There has been an overwhelming scream for "less government" and yet the things that seem to interest the Republican representatives the most are laws to restrict freedoms. Humiliation and degradation of women, poor, black, hispanic have been top of their agenda. "Our country" appears to be the country of the rich...white...males, unless of course you're gay! Then, you need to fix that too because you don't need to be gay, you are choosing that. You know, somewhere in the bible, it says that being gay is wrong. "All men are created equal" must have meant all heterosexual white, rich men.
Many of the church burnings going on around our country right now appear to be arson. Why? A few weeks ago, nine people were shot in their church during a bible study. They were shot by a young white male who told them that he had to shoot them before they were taking over the country. They were black. Hatred lives loud right now. The horror, of that shooting incident, caused immediate discussions about the potential that this hatred could be coming directly from a strong hold on the Confederate flag. And yet, the country is divided about that. To me, the Confederate flag stands for Southern pride in what was a fight for the right to own black slaves. For others, it is simply a source of Southern pride, period. The twenty year old shooter of nine black people learned his hatred from somewhere. He felt he needed to preserve white supremacy. He wore that flag along with others on his jacket that day.
Police brutality has been on the news for months, now, as well. There is a sense that there is a correlation between the brutality and the fact that the people are almost always black. While we need to trust law enforcement to be there to protect us, are they really protecting all of us or do they believe some deserve better protection than others? Over and over again, these officers have been dissolved of any wrong doing, saying they were following procedures. I drove by a car accident where there was a black man and two white police officers. The black man was screaming at one police officer. Disrespectful, yes. Would the procedure, then, be to take this man down to the ground in a chock-hold and handcuff him? This is what happened to Eric Garner in New York. Mr. Garner was apparently selling illegal cigarettes. He was arguing with the police officer. Mr. Garner died from the chock-hold. The investigation stated that the police officer was innocent of any wrong doing. He was following procedure. Is it procedure to take down someone who yells at you? Are we all to be quiet and submissive when confronted by law enforcement?
Recent news also reported the Supreme Court ruled that same sex marriage was legal - a groundbreaking event to be sure. It stated that marriage is a constitutional right and "no state shall deprive any person life, liberty, and property without due process of law...these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to personal dignity and autonomy", and yet there are state officials who refuse to follow the ruling, immediately lashing out that either states have the right to define the word "marriage" or that you can refuse to issue a marriage certificate based on religious beliefs. While support filled my Facebook feed for the Supreme Court's ruling, hatred for the ruling lives right on the other side. Disrespectful? Yes. What will the procedure be for those who defy the Supreme Court?
The latest Republican presidential candidate no more than announced his candidacy then went on a rant with derogatory statements about Hispanics. You don't even need to ask where he would stand of immigration! His comments were so offensive that he was taken off the television network that he had ties to. "You're Fired!" His words coming back to haunt him. Will he care? No. He is so rich he could buy the station.
Hatred. Where does it come from? When I was growing up, my mother's belief was that, as Catholics, we could only marry others who were Catholic. She had been taught that it was the only true religion. All other religions were established by people who had fallen from the truth. As I grew older, I could see that this was simply her belief and I had the freedom to believe differently. When my brother lived in Louisiana, he picked up the habit of calling all black people "Nigger" or "monkey". When I called him on it, he said "What? That's what they're called". Since when? By whom? This, he hadn't learned from his parents. And yet, it became a learned skill based on his surroundings. He felt superior to all black people even though he ended up dying a vagrant. A belief does not make it true. Yet people hold on to their beliefs for some reason. Why?
Why, in this day and age, are we living in a country that is so filled with hatred? I say it's fear! Why do you think gun ownership statistics show that 1 in 3 Americans own at least one gun and the majority of them are owned by white males? Many state that they own a gun for protection. Our country is changing. White caucasians soon will no longer be the majority. Our countries "freedoms" were based on white supremacy it seems. "All men are created equal". Again, this must have meant all white, heterosexual, rich men. That belief is being challenged by women, homosexuals, increasing populations of other racial groups and those speaking up for the poor.
Now, that I've put this all down on paper, I wonder - What will become of us?
My concern is that this hatred will grow stronger and stronger, fueling a "belief" that this country, our country, really belongs to White Supremest groups. Are we, innocently, blindly, following their fear based logic? Extremist movements always show themselves, at some point, to be too extreme. Are we there yet? Do you see it? We have an obligation to our country to preserve Freedom for All. Truthfully, standing by our commitment is the only thing that we can do. We have to stand up to hatred. We have look fear in the face. Call it what it is! We have to do this or we lose. We all lose our country. This is my belief right now.
What would happen if on this Independence Day we celebrated the true meaning of "Independence". For once and for all, we could take a stand to live by the Declaration that "All men are created equal" and we all have right to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." You know we can only do this by becoming educated on the "beliefs" of those who want to lead us. We must be able to sift through their words to determine what is real versus fear versus hatred. And I think, most of all, Our Country need to really stand for freedom for all. To do that we must work to preserve real freedom even if we personally don't hold the same "belief" as someone else. That does not mean that I have the freedom to dictate other people's freedom. It means we have the freedom to live our life free of discrimination, segregation, oppression, and most of all hate.
Let Freedom Ring!