Here’s a copyrighted saying: Things never were as good as they used to be.
So forget the myths about America the beautiful. You can find real truth in them. For instance, this nation has set aside what was at one time more than half of all the reserved mountains, plains, and waters on the whole globe. That’s really good, even if we are now logging and oil-drilling on some of it.
We also keep trying to get to true equality. As a nation, we keep finding ways for those who suffer prejudice to take their future in their own hands. I saw that at Selma, where the long breakfast was peopled with black political leaders, business people, educators, and families – all of whom had taken charge of their lives (as far as any of us can).
But we do not really have an ideal past to yearn after. We just haven’t, having practiced slavery and having really just taken their lands from the American Indians. And of course, violence. What can it mean that there are two guns out in the population for every person in it? I don’t know, but I do know the meaning can’t be good.
It’s not the America I would like to see, and keep living in. It shows up sometimes (120,000 people in Selma, joyfully crossing the bridge, with four policemen to keep order – and they standing around chatting). But I would like to see blacks and browns and tawny and pink - all make ourselves and one another at home - it's our country.
I would like to see the two political parties, with maybe some splinters, really struggle to take over the government - and their trajectories really differ, except that all are fixed mainly on the common good.
And I would like to see an economy founded on the conviction that this nation's wealth belongs to the nation, not to individuals first. We can still insist on having private property because it’s necessary to protect and further the common good. We pay our taxes. They are real and take a real bite; they limit the amount any individual can take control and they do it in ways that do not keep anyone from striving - mainly because the nation as a whole so honors honest work and creativity.
And in this nation, Catholics, Jews, Baptists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses all live their faith visibly and happily, confident that all of us respect one another fully – even if we are glad to dialogue and even to argue when that’s agreed on. But all of us just as happy to profess our faith in God as feminists are to profess their feminism – and as gays are to come out. Why not? We may or may not approve of what you do but we do approve of you.
Because, for me, all of us are God’s creation, and all of us are going to be saved from wrong, sin, and evil – provided we want to be. And I hope all of us do want it.