Friday, December 11, 2015

A Great Nation

"Morning Sun and Olive Branches"
- At the Desert Retreat House -


I can vividly recall a time back some years ago looking out an airplane window on my way back from my first trip to Europe. We were flying across the New York harbor and below me I could see the magnificent Statue of Liberty as she continued to greet those coming into her port, welcoming them with open arms: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I remember feeling so proud to be an American, so honored to be a citizen of this great nation that, for generations, has been a safe harbor for people from all across the globe, a place where we all might live together with liberty and justice  for all.

I am very aware that this great nation has not always lived up to its high ideals and noble standards but the latest news on the political landscape has been so stunningly antithetical to what this nation stands for that I sometimes cannot bear to hear one more story on the news nowadays.

For the past months the vile hate-speech spouted by the likes of Donald Trump has become ever increasingly strident – the proposal for building walls to keep out unwanted immigrants was bad enough,  but now the new wave of calling for the establishment of a religious litmus test to determine who belongs here and who doesn’t belong has crossed the line of decency and violated every value that makes this country a great nation.  

Interestingly enough this nation was established by pilgrim ancestors who came to these shores to escape religious persecution and live in a land without religious bigotry,  and so it is painfully ludicrous and even frightfully dangerous to hear Trump sounding off about “making America great again”  by promoting a platform of hatred, prejudice and exclusion.

While I suppose I can understand how someone like Donald Trump might spew his mean –spirited, Nazi-like propositions (after all, he is a politician and politicians say lots of stuff to get votes); but what is far more disturbing to me is that so many of my fellow citizens have so enthusiastically applauded his positions.  In fact the more outrageous Trump’s rhetoric becomes  the more his support grows in political polls.

I think it all comes down to fear. Donald Trump is peddling fear and lots of people are afraid,  and so they buy into what he has to say. And yet, fear is a poison that ultimately leads to death.

Whenever any of us lives in the grip of fear we will always retreat inward, into the fortified ego-walls of a self-protected, rugged individualism – a sure formula for the death of the soul and national decay.

Today as I reflect on what has been going on in this country I recall the words of someone I consider to be a truly great American hero - one of my very favorite spiritual gurus. Several generations ago Martin LutherKing, Jr. looked at this country and warned that we were in danger of losing the soul of the nation to the forces of bigotry and prejudice corroding the fabric of the society. He lifted up his voice and stood boldly in the face of bigotry - it cost him his life to do so and yet his refusal to remain silent may well have changed the world. It certainly contributed to making this land a great nation.

In light of all the vile and hate-filled words that have filled up the airwaves over the past days,  today I offer some other words taken from some of the speeches of Dr. King. I pray that they may they serve as an antidote to the poison that has been polluting us.

Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality
 and eats away at its vital unity.
Hate causes a person to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful.

Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

In this generation we will have to repent not merely for the
vitriolic words and actions of the bad people,
but for the appalling silence of the good people.

The one who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as
the one who helps perpetrate it.

But even in the midst of chaos I refuse to believe that humankind is
bound to the starless midnight of racism, bigotry and war.
I refuse to believe that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood
can never become a reality.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Yes, I still believe that
We shall overcome!

I think Donald Trump is right about one thing. This is indeed a period in the nation’s history for us to make America great again.

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