This has been a strange, interesting and sobering July 4 weekend.
For years, we have seen an ever-growing divide between conservatives and liberals, pro-life and pro-choice, the haves and the have-nots, pro-Trump and anti-Trump and on and on. Time was we could look beyond those differences and at least talk with one another, often reaching consensus on the direction we would take as a country. Now, though, those differences have become entrenched, hardened seemingly beyond hope of compromise.
This being an election year, our bubbling cauldron of beliefs threatens to boil over, and that's before the special circumstances are factored in.
America -- and the world -- is in the midst of and COVID-19 pandemic. For three months, we hunkered down,staying home as much as possible, dining in and forgoing movies, live theater and even church. As the novel coronavirus seemed to be waning, our governors started opening up the economy, many of them urging people to keep a 6-foot social distance from each other and to wear masks in public. Of course, many Americans, eager for a return to what once was normal, ignored their elected leaders and the members of the medical community. So, the coronavirus came back with a bang, Number of infections and deaths in statess such as Texas, Arizona, California and Florida skyrocketed and governors were forced to close some of the places such as bars and beaches that only had been open a few days.
Into this mix came July 4, the day Americans traditionally celebrate the freedoms we enjoy. But this year, all of us have been made aware that not everyone enjoys those freedoms in the same way, if at all.
The brutal death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police focused our attention on the difficulties of being Black in America. There have been many Black deaths caused by rogue police over the years -- and, sadly, since -- but few captured the attention of white Americans and others as the images of a white police officer with his knee on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes, even as bystanders urged the officer to get off Floyd and three other officers stood by and watched. Who could not be outraged? The diffence these days is that almost everybody has a smartphone with a good built-in camera and the video of such atrocities are showing up with great regularity.
For the first time, white Americans began to understand what it is like to be stopped and frisked simply for being black. White Americans began to understand that we must do more than simply state we aren't racist. White Americans began to understand the hoops Blacks have to jump through just to secure the most basic of rights, that discrimination continues to hold Black Americans back, perhaps further from the American dream than before.
Thousands of Black Americans took the streets in protest -- some of which turned violent by agitators that seemingly have no connection with the true protesters. Our own president condemned the protesters as unAmerican, out to destroy this country, but nothing could be further from the truth. Every American has the right -- even the responsibility -- to gather and speak out against the things that we think are wrong. It is one of our greatest freedoms.
The Declaration of Independence signed 244 years ago in Philadelphia promised many things, and in dome cases those promises still are to be met.
We know that when Thomas Jefferson wrote: "We 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" he certainly didn't mean all people are created equal. Women certainly weren't in 1776. He didn't mean all men are created equal, because slaves definitely barely were considered human, let-alone equal. And, Jefferson didn't even mean all white men are considered equal. Only those white men who owned property shared that "self-evident" equality.
For almost 250 years, America has worked to turn Jefferson's words into true equality. We still have a long way to go, but on this Independence Day weekend, let us celebrate the strides we have made and recommit to each other to keep pushing and marching and protesting until every American truly is free.
Let's use these troubled times as a way to learn we all are equal.
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