We have never been a perfect country…no country is. Nor have we ever been perfect people…none of us are.
But we have been a country with ideals that we tried to live up to–even imperfectly.
Those ideals have been enshrined in a number of documents.
From the Declaration of Independence:
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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
From the United States Constitution (a living document, because as needs have arisen, it has been modified):
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
From the poem by Emma Lazarus, placed on the Statue of Liberty (called Liberty Enlightening the World–and which Lazarus called “Mother of Exiles”) which was one of the first sights many of our ancestors saw as they came to this country:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
But that door has now been slammed shut…and we have barred and locked it.
We have lost sight of the ways in which our diversity has strengthened us…and become fearful of differences instead.
We have become the world of Animal Farm, where “all animals are equal…but some are more equal than others”…a world where “might makes right”…a world where “whiteness” gives power and control over those deemed non-white…a world where what passes for Christianity is far too often non-Christian in its actions.
And in so doing, we have lost our soul.
Can we gain it back? I hope so.
But we can’t sit quietly and just hope. We have to work…to write letters…to protest…and most importantly, to vote! We have to live out our words.
It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be controversial.
But it’s essential if we are going to regain our soul.