An Open Letter to America

Dear America,

First let me say that I will always love you, no matter what you do.  You were and are a grand experiment, but like all experiments there are tremendous variables, mistakes and necessary trial and error.  You have just made a terrible, terrible mistake, but that doesn’t mean I will write you off or disavow you.  On the contrary, I will now remember the many times I have made mistakes in my life without suffering the consequence of condemnation and what a relief that was, and how healing.  I am here for you in your darkest hour, even though you brought it on yourself.

I am thinking of terrible mistakes you have made in the past; in some cases, as with the treatment of our indigenous people, you never really had to face the music for what you had done.  In other cases, as with slavery, the price you paid was dear.  But somehow, in spite of everything, progress continued to be made.  The wonderful country I grew up in has become more so in my lifetime, mainly through exponentially increased inclusion.  Inclusion is our premise, and we have grown in leaps and bounds in this arena.

However, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and that is what got us here today.  Because some of our citizens have been raised to believe inclusion is a threatening stance.  That the more people we accept, the less there will be left for the rest of us.  That our differences should divide us, rather than making us bigger and better.  It is not your fault if you believe this, any more than it is my fault that I believe in the goodness of mankind and that I am my brother’s keeper, no matter what his race, religion, sex or sexual orientation.  This is how we were raised, and it is hard to break free of the many years of conditioning we receive during our formative years.

But still, you have made a terrible mistake.  The consequences of this mistake will be far-reaching and devastating to so many people.  You think it will be okay, because you think this mistake you have made will only affect people who don’t “belong” here, people who are not living by the rules you believe in.  This belief is also wrong, because with only a small handful of exceptions, we will all be suffering now.

Because what you don’t understand is that it never was about “us” versus “them”.  There is no “them”.  We are all made of exactly the same stuff, and we can all be broken or healed, good or bad, weak or strong.  We all have the capacity for greatness and we all have the capacity for villainy.  There are no exceptions in this.  There are too many factors involved in the complexity of what it means to be human to ever judge a whole person by any one thing.  None of us has a corner on the market of righteousness; none of us is immune from the degradation we can suffer at each other’s hands.

We are all vulnerable now, in an unprecedented way; we are all at risk.  The freedoms that set us apart from every nation on earth at our inception are in immediate peril.  The idea that some of us are “better” and deserve more is the slipperiest slope going; because once the initial parameters are established as to what constitutes “better”, the circle gets smaller.  And if those parameters continue to be enforced, they will, over time, narrow.  Fewer and fewer of us will “qualify”.  And don’t kid yourself into believing that you will have any say in what those parameters are, because you just gave away your power.  Now someone else gets to decide if you made the cut.

History has proven that this will not end well, perhaps even for the majority of us alive today.  But history has also proven that somehow the pendulum will swing back and we will learn from our very worst mistakes.  We are still a young country, and in retrospect this will be viewed as a teenage rebellion; we had no clue what we were doing, but our anger and immaturity has triggered a colossal crisis.  As is the unfortunate case with all teenagers who do reckless, dangerous things, some of us will not survive it.

But our country will.  Our country will not only survive it but it will someday grow greater for having made such a terrible mistake.  Because we are all made of the same stuff, and that stuff can’t help but grow and evolve, it is the law of nature.  We will learn from our mistake, perhaps not in my lifetime but certainly in my son’s.  It is my job to teach him to believe in the goodness of mankind, despite all evidence to the contrary.  It is my job to remind him to act from the goodness in himself.

We have made a terrible mistake.  Those of us who understand it are allowed to grieve, but we can’t lie down.  We have to continue to stand up for our beliefs even if it becomes dangerous to do so.  Perhaps especially then.  This will not be an easy journey for us, but it will be a worthwhile one.  We all have the capacity for greatness and villainy, but often it is the villainy in others that brings out the greatness in us.  We remain a team, symbiotic to the end.  We remain standing, even in our darkest hour.  We will become greater because we were forced to confront our darkness.  This is us.  And we ALL can and will do better.