Why is America not learning from its past? How can we leverage what we know to be true into a better way of living out this great "experiment?"
Historical fact. Present interpretation.
As I walk along this road in Franklin, Tennessee, I contemplate all the history that this place represents. It is, in many ways, the heart of where America fought against itself. At least back in the 19th century.
It’s ironic, but America is once again fighting itself. Perhaps that’s just the way this nation has been designed. Throughout its history, dissension has been a hallmark of change in this democracy. However, when dissension becomes distraction, it tears away at the threads of a society. In some ways, this is what seems to be happening today.
Back to my walk. I am literally walking through one of the battlegrounds of the American Civil War. As I think about this, it seems so unreal to me: people fighting on the basis of control, really enslavement, other human beings. This seems the most pernicious and greatest type of infringement upon the ideal of freedom on which the United States of America was founded.
The problem then, of course, was how the powerful class of white landowners viewed their workers. Espousing lofty values based upon Christian principles, they failed to see their fellow human beings with darker skin as equals. Even though the Bible clearly speaks of the value of all human life and our U.S. Constitution – espousing all men [and women] to be created equal – was founded upon many biblical principles.
This was arrogance, of course. And it remains so.
It comes down to a fundamental truth
Some would argue this dynamic has not changed much. I would say it has, but, I do recognize the situation for most African Americans and so many people of color in the U.S. is still quite problematic. My heart hurts that this is so. In 2019, we can and should do much, much better.
I know, I am a Coastie. If someone wants to label me, perhaps, they would call me a “coastal elitist.” Why, I am educated. And not just at any college, but at a liberal bastion of education, Stanford University.
My upbringing and education engendered in me a mindset that yes, those “self-evident truths – that all men [humans] are created equal” just make sense.
To me it gets down to this: no one ever chooses to whom they are born, when they are born, or where they are born. Why then should anyone be relegated a lesser value, a lesser dignity because of where they were born, when they were born, or even to whom they were born?
I feel, at a very basic level, there is something so inherently wrong about assigning different degrees of value to people because of skin color, gender, education – even socioeconomic class.
I know, I know – it happens all the time. Some people are born into wealth; society might ascribe him or her a higher value than a child born into poverty. But this does not mean, ever, it’s right.
Life is life is life.
Human evaluations are error prone. And often prejudiced.
Where this self-evident truth arises from
But I believe there’s a Master Designer – the Creator of all – who sees it very differently. From his vantage point, each human being is a work of art, a creative expression of love, unique, beautiful and imbued with value
This human way of valuation, I believe, is the result of the fallen state of humanity. But regardless of where you may see it coming from, at its deepest level, it simply is wrong. Deep down, I think every human being on the planet knows this to be true. Some (mostly those in positions of power, or, perhaps, fearful of losing their power or status) simply don’t want to admit it.
We really do need to get to the place where we understand this truth. Namely, that every single human being, no matter their skin color, ethnicity or socioeconomic status at birth, is made in God’s image. Therefore, each one is worthy of dignity and respect.
Every single human being, no matter skin color, ethnicity or socioeconomic status at birth, is made in God’s image, worthy of dignity and respect.
I was born in the United States. On the whole, the U.S. is a place of great wealth. Some would say it is the wealthiest nation in the world, although that is a point of debate. Yet, honestly, I had no choice in that matter. I didn’t choose where I was born, nor to whom. Of course, I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve enjoyed as a result of my American citizenship.
But no question. I have nothing to brag about. Nothing! As a person, as an expression of a loving Creator, I am no better in worth than a child born in the heart of Africa to a poor, landless family. Not even one iota!
Is there a chance we can truly learn from our past?
So, wrapping up, I want to just get back to the question, “Why would we fight one another like this? Why, oh why?” These questions swirled around in my mind as I walked along the road in this history-laden part of the U.S. not long ago.
And I continue to wonder, “Why can’t we learn from our past?” I mean, really learn.
I do understand the economic issues at stake maintaining the status quo in the Confederate south of the 1800’s.
But I struggle with the many forces at work today aiming to hang on or return to a similar power structure. Not only in the U.S., but all around the world.
I understand why it happens.
But I don’t.
How about you?
Image credit: Author's photo
Copyright 2019 © Your Global Family. All rights reserved.