I remember watching the race riots on television news – Watts, Harlem, Hough and Newark. I remember my first lesson from the Bible as taught me by my mother – a Christian fundamentalist daughter of a poor Southern farmer: that the first sin, the worst sin, is to discriminate against anyone on account they look different or think differently from me, for we are all equal in the eyes of God.
I remember my lessons of a good history: Shays’ rebellion; the Abolitionists; the early labour activists defying the guns of hired thugs and company paramilitaries, the Wobblies and the mineworkers and the rail workers; the long, and still not complete, campaign for racial and sexual emancipation from ideologies that destroy the mind, the body and the spirit; those who refused to bow before McCarthyism even though they lost their livelihoods and their reputations; the men and women protesting against the Vietnam war, the invasion of Iraq – protesting for peace; the singular protest of Henry David Thoreau against America’s first imperialist war; Dorothy Day and Franklin Roosevelt and Huey Long and Martin Luther King; the idealism that never abandons American and always returns to save it from those who can only see a little country and an even smaller world; Walt Whitman and the beat poets who celebrated a large country,in a large world, tolerant and open to all creeds and people.
I remember men and women throughout history, movements of people working together – demonised, excluded, shot at and killed, labeled ‘unpatriotic’ but always persevering in that good hope and unwavering conviction that America will become a light to the world, a light among many lights, together brightening everyone’s life on this planet without war, disease, and want: self-evident truths, an irresistible future.
Today, the American people have the opportunity to truly bless America. The world is with them.