Heartbroken in America

Heartbroken in America December 18, 2014

This week my guest blogger is Jim Foti, the assistant minister at the congregation I serve. He delivered a version of this reflection over the weekend.

We hold in our hearts the United States, as our country continues to fail to extend to all the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We are a nation that still has not healed from our original wounds of conquest, genocide, and slavery. We are a nation also still wounded and grieving from the attacks of 2001, when we lost not an imaginary innocence, but rather a significant portion of an already compromised moral compass. We have turned much of that very real grief and fear into anger and misdirected violence, at catastrophic cost to the world and to ourselves.

Our country continues to fail to see all people as part of humanity, instead relying on the brutal and inaccurate shorthands of skin color, religion, language, nationality, and gender to devalue and deprive, and it continues to uphold systems that further concentrate power and wealth. The Latino and Latina farm workers enduring forms of neo-slavery, the African-Americans still living the legacies of segregation and now facing massively unequal incarceration and a loss of voting access, the victims of a staggering program of US-sponsored torture — all these groups and many more have in common that they are not white, not Euro-American, not in power.

We grieve for a country where these things are possible, where torture is supported by a majority of the population. We grieve a country where violence is still viewed as a redemptive force in the face of incalculable evidence to the contrary. We grieve for a country where so much fear persists between tens of millions of citizens and those charged with protecting them.

We grieve for a country where greed is mistaken for freedom, and where that greed fuels the wars, the tribalism, and climate change, where that greed fuels the neo-slavery, the mass incarceration, and the expansion of poverty. We have become a country where even torturers are rewarded as millionaires.

We grieve these parts of our country, yet our country also has given so many gifts to so many people — a country that has allowed the blossoming of countless religious traditions, a country that has given millions upon millions better lives, a country rich in beauty and bounty and human flourishing and potential as yet unrealized.

May we find a way forward, a way forward from this heartbreak — a heartbreak whose existence proves that all humanity within and among us is not lost.

We know that we will never live in a world with no violence, but we could live in a country with less violence — there are people and places that can show us the way.

We can, should, and must be a country that does not torture.

We can be a country without enormous, greed-fueled disparities in how African-Americans live. And we can be a country without enormous, violence-fueled disparities in how African-Americans die. When life and liberty are not secure, the pursuit of happiness becomes a dream that explodes.

We are a country of mass distraction, a country where the comfortable can decide not to look or see or do anything. But our country must look and see and listen, and acknowledge its realities.

That is where our work has begun, by looking, by seeing, by bringing reason and reality into the public square and onto the streets. By embodying love and making it visible. By listening with humility to those whose lives are different from our own. By finding ways to move from sympathy to solidarity. By knowing when to follow.

Hope is a choice, an action, a way of being. May our compassion, our generosity, our voices, and our deeds be gifts to our country and our world — gifts to a human race so wounded and so in need. May it be so.

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