We’re supposed to be a free nation. Free to speak and express ourselves. Free to self-govern. Free to achieve and succeed. Free to enjoy personal safety. Free to seek greater happiness. Yet, we’re also entrapped in our freedoms, it seems. Because some of us are free to hate others in our country. Free to use unlawful, deadly force against persons of color. Free to imprison our poor in conditions of economic and societal despair. Free to separate and cage migrant families. Free to discriminate indiscriminately. Free to demand law and order from some ‘bully pulpit’, while simultaneously fanning the flames of chaos, injustice, racism, and division. Free to invoke the Christian faith, while repeatedly violating its tenants of human dignity.
Some of us are free to breathe, while violently choking off the air and life of others. Free to accumulate power, while disempowering and excluding those outside of it. Free to conveniently forget the many scars of our past, while perpetuating this cruel history of bondage on those whom we still marginalize. Free to proclaim that racism is behind us now, while continuing to protect inherent and protracted white privilege. Free to label others as extremists, while ignoring the daily terror that we systemically inflict. Free to ask for sacrifice from others, while ensuring our own continued safety.
Lastly, some of us are free to disingenuously champion the notion of ‘love’, while ignoring the core societal and collective demands of it. Free to call others our ‘neighbors’, while missing the whole point of it all. For being a good neighbor means that we deeply care about all those who live around us; listen and engage; offer our time and self-sacrifice; share in the suffering of others; and give from our relative abundance. It means that we understand this important truth: when anyone in our neighborhood is hurting, we are all hurting—even when the actual neighborhood we’re speaking of is located far from us in physical distance. It means that, while we are all individuals, we’re also a single ‘collective, loving being’.
Throughout the past week or so, our country has witnessed widespread, heart-wrenching protests arising in direct, righteous response to the unwarranted killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. But a smoldering, underlying sense of outrage in our communities of color has been a long time in the making. The seeds of unrest are sown by dystopian decades of mistrust, betrayal, inequality, and the senseless loss of black and brown lives.
In response, we are all called to urgent, concerted, and non-violent action in order to advance social, economic, and legal justice reforms. We must do so in inclusive, respectful, and authentic partnership with our communities to constructively and definitively address the systemic underlying causes of our longstanding national dysfunction. But our current, toxic national ‘climate’ should also remind us of the complicated, sometimes oppositional and conflicted, nature of our respective human souls. In this spirit, we’re called to deeply reflect on who we are as individuals in the process. To discern what we can and should stand for as a whole.
Blessedly, each of us are free to be different and unique persons in life. I thank God for that. But we’re also free to become a better, more unified, and indivisible People. Free to be One Soul, under God, as a far more communal and universal nation. Achieving this lofty goal requires that we connect with our ‘better angels’ far more often in our lives. And that we actively engage all of our society’s many parts. These parts must freely and consciously work to understand, support, mutually empower, and care for each other across the entire, diverse spectrum of our shared neighborhood.
In the end, it’s fairly straightforward. A choice, on our parts, to ignore this pivotal moment in our history and keep going it alone is a patently false, solitary, and imprisoning one. Because, in truth, ‘freedom together’ is the one and only way we’ll ever be free…