"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Really? So, what happened? We the people have allowed the worst of us to take over. We the people have sunk to our lowest level so far because, by now we should have moved much closer to the realization of our ideals.
But we haven't.
We say, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
"Yo prometo lealtad a la bandera de los Estados Unidos de America, y a la Republica que representa, una Nacion bajo Dios, entera, con libertad y justicia para todos."
So, what happened? Our justice system serves primarily white people, our legislative system primarily serves the people who corrupt and obstruct it. We the people lost sight of the values, strength and discipline that could have made our country great.
Are we OK with who we've become? Do we just accept it as 'the way things are'? Or do we want to create the America that our founders intended?
It's not too late to turn it around, but it is in our hands -- not anyone else's -- to change America. We have developed the attitude that they (others) must solve the problems. "The Department of Justice has to change; our lawmakers have to change," etc. No sir, no ma'am, we have to change first, together -- blacks, Hispanics, whites, multis -- we all have to combine our strength in order to leverage the change we seek. Together, we are powerful; separately, we are just weakly squabbling.
Change has to begin with ordinary people -- with you and me, with our families and our friends; with our neighbors and co-workers. It begins with each and every one of us all across this land.
We're afraid of our neighbors and everyone else whom we think might be different from us. Of course, we all carry seeds of racism and other harmful qualities, whether we face them or not. We begin by changing our own self-talk -- what we think -- about people of other races, socioeconomic levels, education, gender, age, religion and everything else that distinguishes us, one from another.
When we catch ourselves mentally labeling another person, we can change that label by eliminating whatever adjective we attached to it, change the sentence in our inner dialog, and just think of them by their given names. Period.
We can realize that most people are operating within the framework of their own traditions, experiences and life situations. We cannot judge others according to our own frame of reference, because we are each unique. No one else on the globe is exactly like you. Or me. Or anyone else. And we have to get along with each other, or be constantly afraid.
Rachel Jeantel, the black teen who testified at the Zimmerman-Martin trial, was ridiculed by both black and white people for her lack of formal education. Speaking with Piers Morgan several days after the trial ended, however, she demonstrated again (for people who would notice) that, not only is she a dignified, soft-spoken young woman, she is also wise and understanding of cultural differences, explaining some of them on the program.
Calmly, she confronted judgmental statements she regarded as inaccurate, ('Trayvon was a thug'), explaining them from her point of view. Taken on her own terms, Ms. Jeantel projects as an admirable young woman with dreams and aspirations -- not so different from any of us.
In order to move our society closer to the ideals our founders stated for us, we monitor our self-talk, and our children's terminology, working to keep it non-judgmental. Working is the operative word here, because it's not always easy. We like to see ourselves as ideal, when we're not.
We move out of our homogenous comfort area, and begin to engage productively with individuals whom we might have otherwise avoided. We avoid the temptation to reply in kind if they speak judgmentally.
And we have to learn to listen. By truly listening, making eye contact, until the other person has fully expressed themselves, we can begin to find areas of commonality which we can strengthen with practice. If we are courageous enough to look them in their eyes as they speak, perhaps they will take the chance and look at us, and we can begin to connect.
Now comes the hardest part. We have to begin engaging with groups of people we have avoided all our lives, in order to explore ways we can begin on the ground level to increase understanding and acceptance.
Because, unless we do it together, we won't do it. Effect change; make it happen. Fulfill the ideals of our nation's founders. The past is over; whatever it was and why, is gone; we can't change it, and there's no point reliving it. We don't forget, of course; we have to make sure not to repeat ugly parts of our past. We have got to find ways to move forward, though, to create a better United States of America, together. And that means erasing racism and other value judgments.
Once we've begun a groundswell, we can unite to form powerful voting blocks, we can begin to run for office, we can make the changes we wish to see. And, with more than 50 percent of the world's population under 25, we can inspire and lead our youth to their own greatness. This is what we mean when we say, "God bless us all, and God bless the United States of America!"