Tuesday, July 04, 2006

America's Broken Promise

There's a kind of angst associated with our nation's birthday, isn't there? We love our country deeply, cherish our freedoms, tout the special qualities of our homeland and our chosen geographic areas, and we are ashamed of it at the same time.

I expect I'm preaching to the choir here, but despite all the fireworks and friendly gatherings and kids with watermelon all over their faces and softball games between intergenerational teams and all the hoopla that Fourth of July offers, there's a sadness for me. I suspect there's a sadness for many of you, too.

There's such a disconnect for me between what America ought to be and what it seems to be these days. I read the headlines and the stories in the newspaper and cringe at what is happening in my beloved nation's name. And I want to scream "No, that's not really America! That's not me. That's not what I represent in the world! That's not right!"

Religion has been hijacked by the radical religious right. The peace process has turned out to be not so peaceful. Our air and water are sacrified on an altar dedicated to the corporate world. Many Americans fight the very institutions that are pledged to protect their freedoms---the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, our judiciary, our governmental system of checks and balances. Sometimes those institutions seem to be under fire from the highest offices in our land.

The ACLU is seen as helpful only when it goes to bat for popular causes. Planned Parenthood is not supposed to tell kids HOW to plan parenthood, but rather to keep them from knowing anything about how to plan parenthood. Religious beliefs are inserted into legislative actions. And those who protest are called traitors.

I still feel hopeful. I still do what I think is right, in my small area of influence. I know I can't change the whole world, but I can change my little piece of it. And isn't there something about a butterfly in Chile changing the weather in the Arctic? That's what I am clinging to these days, in America.


Joel Monka said...

Oh, come on- things aren't THAT bad! Why is it that most UUs I know judge everything on a binary scale- if it isn't perfect, it's the Apocalypse. I don't know how old you are, but I'm old enough to nearly claim aging hippie status myself, and my memory is middlin' good- so let's look at your complaints: "Religion has been hijacked by the radical religious right." Within my memory, it was illegal to buy or sell anything but food or lifesaving drugs on Sunday in many places. School opened with a prayer, and grace was said at lunch. I remember ministers conducting massive bonfires of Beatle records, often held on public property. Many people conveniently forget that one of the reasons Civil Rights took so long is that the opposition to them was also led by ministers. The total influence of religion on America has never been lower, and the liberal voice in religion has never been louder than it is right now.

"Our air and water are sacrified on an altar dedicated to the corporate world." Come on... there WAS NO EPA when we were kids- don't you remember the river catching fire in the 60s, or how people would actually DIE during smog alerts? Don't you remember entire cities being evacuated because of toxic waste pollution? Don't you remember industrial farms bigger than some states being saturated with toxins that persisted into the groundwater every spring?

I"ll sum up this way: a 45 year old was born in a segregated America with no Civil Rights Act, no Voting Rights Act, no OSHA, no EPA, no EEOC, no Title Nine, no Affirmitive Action, no Roe vs Wade, no Miranda rights, a small but still functioning House Unamerican Activities Committee, and about to embark on one large and several small wars that would cost more than 60,000 American lives and a half million foreign lives in less than 15 years... and you're despairing TODAY? You're forced to cling to a Chilean butterfly for hope TODAY? Chill, as the kids say, and put the troubles of today in context.

patpb said...

I am a 60 year old woman who agrees with Ms. Kitty. We can always look back to the "good old days" and find both better or worse in our life experience. For me, my own angst has its grounding in my earlier activism when we believed that we were making progress in dealing with the injustices of each time.

It is only in the current administration I find myself with the same disconnect of which Ms. Kitty speaks.

I am one voice, with less physical energy than I had in youth. So each day I recommit myself to doing my part to promote healing and recovery among those I serve in my work: the homeless and formerly homeless who are disenfranchised and invisible in our American society.

I am an active voter and hold accountable those who have received my vote.

Lastly, to the best of my ability, each day I reflect our 7 UU principles in my own life.

What I am NOT going to do is "chill"!

ms. kitty said...

Thanks to both of you for your thoughts.

Joel, of course you're right----we have made lots of progress and need to celebrate our successes.

But I think, like Patpb, I'm tired. I've helped fight many of those fights you mention, at least in spirit, and under the current administration, I feel slippage, every day, back to a bleaker time.

I do feel hopeful and I feel pleased by the successes, but I'm still tired.

Bill Baar said...

Pick up Joseph Loconte's End of Illusions: Relgious Leaders Confront Hitler's Gathering Storm.

It's a collection of writings from the 1930s and early 1940s by American Clergy both pro and anti-war.

Lynn Harold Hough from Christianity and Crisis April 21, 1941 on Defending Justice Despite Our Own Injustice is especially good.

Hough concluded,

The first setp toward moral achievement for the individual and for the nation is the hour of commitement to something more perfect than the individual or the nation has yet achieved. Jesus put the heart of the matter into an immortal epigram when he spoke of those who were evil and yet could give and would give good gifts. We, though evil, may give the good gift of a great loyalty to the cause of man. We can achieve some sort of justice in spite of the injustice in our hearts and in our national life.

ms. kitty said...

I'll have to check out that book, Bill, thanks.