Last night, after yet another independence day celebration, yet another weekend of flags, festivities, and fireworks, I read a rather apologetic post from one of the new co-moderators of the PUCSA. In it, she writes that although she doesn’t want to be a “Debbie Downer,” on the fourth of July, she is also painfully aware of the transgressions of our nation, especially with regards to slavery and civil rights, and our present problems like gun violence, torture, pollution, and racism. She writes that while she will celebrate, she recognizes that others will grieve.
But I say, don’t apologize, Rev. Edmiston, for speaking your truth.
We need voices of dissent in this country, even as we have those who cry out (and I would remark unapologetically, as well as uncritically) to “make America great again.” We need a fuller appreciation of our tattered history to find a more purposeful present. In our zeal for patriotism, we often forget that our founders, flawed as they were, were hearty dissenters!
Why is it that we in America today are so afraid of the dissenters? Why, despite years of good and bad, do we espouse to have all the answers? Don’t we know that what makes America great is insight and innovation, change and adaptation, that can only come with critical reflection upon our very mistakes?
My truth this morning is that love is not enough. We need justice. We need change.
We need change because it’s not just in Medina and Baghdad and Dhaka and Istanbul but everyday, sometimes twice a day, that gun violence on American soil intervenes to take the lives of young men, mothers, and children.
We need justice because faith has been compromised; justice would choose a fast that breaks the chains of poverty, discrimination, and sexism, chains that we often prefer not to see even in our very history of liberation and our present struggle.
We need truth, because real truth, the ugly, full, challenging, meaningful, both star striped and tattered truth, does and can set us free. Dissenters are part and parcel of that truth.
What is your truth to speak, America? How will you go on, despite, in spite, to fight injustice?
O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath— America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain— All, all the stretch of these great green states— And make America again!