“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these pointed words during tumultuous times in this country over 50 years ago, and I think this admonition and warning is just as applicable and relevant in these crazy days as it was back then.
The past year has been pretty rough in this country, and while it hasn’t been all bad (there have been plenty of inspiring acts of compassion, generosity, and heroism), there has been a whole lot of bad acting and many things we should all be ashamed of as Americans.
We should be ashamed of the depths of extreme divisiveness and outright viciousness to which our overall political environment has sunk.
We should be ashamed of the way many of our elected leaders (on both sides of the aisle) have played political football with a global pandemic while hundreds of thousands of Americans have died and millions more have lost jobs or businesses.
We should be ashamed that our biggest national news media sources (of both the left-leaning and right-leaning varieties) have become just as polarized as our political parties, too often opting for narrative and opinion peddling over objectivity and a balanced presentation of facts and views.
We should be ashamed of all the mean-spirited, intentionally hurtful, and just plain crazy messages that have been launched out by the millions into the social media universe – and of all the lives that have been damaged or destroyed by the insatiable monster of cancel culture.
We should be ashamed of that killing knee that was pressed down for nearly nine minutes on the neck of George Floyd.
We should be ashamed that retired police chief David Dorn was gunned down by looters, who posted it live on Facebook as he lay dying on the sidewalk.
We should be ashamed that we can’t seem to have civil, constructive conversations about racial issues in this country without getting bogged down in blame games or hurling derogatory and dehumanizing labels at each other.
We should be ashamed that more American flags have probably been burned on the streets of this country during the past year than on the streets of Iran.
We should be ashamed (and alarmed) that the number of radicalized extremists in America (both on the far right and the far left) has grown so large and so bold.
We should be ashamed regarding every single person who was injured or killed or had their businesses or places of employment destroyed during outbreaks of politically, racially, or criminally motivated violence over the past months – regardless of whether that person was black, white, brown, or otherwise, a police officer, protestor, counter-protestor, or just somebody who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And, yes, we should all definitely be ashamed of what went down on January 6 at our nation’s capitol and the role a sitting president played in helping to set the stage for that sorry debacle of riled-up anger, violence, vandalism, and sheer stupidity – though (to be fair) it seems clear to me that Trump did not actually intend for all that to go as far as it did, nor did he plot it as some kind of attempted coup, as some have tried to frame it.
We should also be ashamed of the way that some are using the events of that dark day as justification for portraying a very sizable chunk of this country’s population as potential domestic terrorists, white supremacists, or brainwashed, right-wing lunatics who need to be deprogramed and re-educated.
But there are some things that we as Americans should never be ashamed of.
Americans should not be ashamed (or be made to feel ashamed) for exercising their constitutionally-guaranteed right to vote for their chosen candidates, regardless of who they might vote for.
And Americans should never feel ashamed (or be shamed, silenced, or cancelled by others) for expressing sincerely held beliefs and political views, so long as it is not accompanied by violence or intended as an incitement to violence.
Well that about does it for my wall of shame. I’m sure many more things could be added, and I’m sure there were some things I featured on my list that some of you may not like (or wish I had left out).
And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make us all feel bad about ourselves or our country.
But I think this is a point in our nation’s history when we all need to take a step back, take a clear-eyed look around at where we are and where we seem to be going, and think about what each of us can do to help bring down the temperature, come together and work together in spite of our differences, and maybe get America back on a better track.
I’ll end this rant with another quote – this one from a very long time ago by another very wise man, who I believe was (and is) much more than just a man.
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”