The division that rocks our nation appears to be political and cultural. People following different leaders, listening to different sources of truth and accusing the other of lies. Everyone wants to be included. Everyone wants to be affirmed. Everyone wants to feel empowered. Everyone wants their version of the USA.
People fill the streets demanding justice for black and brown people. People protest democratic institutions they feel have betrayed them. People violently storming Capitals to tear down the government.
I was taught that we are the greatest nation on earth. What the founders got wrong, later generations fixed. Slavery was wrong; the civil war fixed it. Denying citizenship to women was wrong; the 19th amendment fixed it. Jim Crow was wrong; the Civil Rights movement fixed it. Denying LGBT marriage was wrong; the Supreme Court fixed it.
Recent events followed by broader and deeper understanding of our brokenness defy this narrative. We are far from fixed.
Our brokenness is not just political and cultural, it is fundamentally racial. The systems and institutions we inherited have hardened the biases of our past, and we continue following the same patterns. Black and brown people have always known this. White people like me have been slower to see it, and our realizations have just begun. We may not want to be racists but we all operate within, and many of us benefit from, systems in which racism is so deep it just feels normal.
We are shaken by the truth of brutality and injustice. We are fearful about what it would mean if we became the country we tell our children we are.
The people who stormed the capital represent but a tip of a deep iceberg that we all sustain. If we despise their blatant racism and violence, we must look at our complicity and participation in sustaining what lurks beneath the surface.
We are in the midst of a reckoning. Will we reach toward our founder’s ideals or retain their biases and bigotries?
I still believe that our founders, flawed though they were, created a brilliant system of self-government. I still believe in equality, freedom and justice for all. I worry that the sins of our past and present that fuel our divisions, will destroy rather than fix the very system of government that could save us from each other.
God help us.