Pain and Shame: Let Us Claim a New Beginning

Charlottesville's tragedy is an American tragedy.  It has created much suffering, pulled the scars from the old wounds of fear and hatred of people of different ethnic backgrounds.  We wanted to believe that America was beyond such deep fear and bigotry, it was painful to face the reality, but yet, it is still with us.

The shame resulting from Charlottesville’s murderous demonstration is nationwide, beginning with the President who failed to provide moral leadership to the nation and does not understand how his words and actions have helped to foster this deep division within America.  I fear this wound will fester and continue to spill out onto the streets.  As a North Carolinian, I am proud that Governor Roy Cooper and Senator Richard Burr spoke up - hopefully, other elected officials and community leaders will join mayors and corporate leaders to provide the moral leadership needed. 

Elected officials who say that "all Americans are equal" but who have failed to speak up, in the light of this tragedy, but who also push for and vote for legislation that perpetuates discrimination against some Americans – restricting access to the ballot box, or forgetting the sacredness of our humanity in ensuring access to affordable health care – should not only be ashamed, but are complicit to this divisiveness. Likewise, citizens who fail to act morally, when we should, should also be ashamed, for this is our country, too. Our democracy is dependent upon responsible citizens being actively engaged and holding their elected officials responsible, regardless of political party or ideology. We should remember the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends."  

Before we can correct or improve our countries plague of racism we must be willing to have a conversation, to hear, to understand, and to rightly identify the core of the problem.  The truth of the matter is that we cannot cure an illness we fail to investigate, examine, or even understand.  Hopefully, from the shameful tragedy in Charlottesville, some gains can be made.  We can begin to explore ways in which we as a nation can begin to heal. People of faith often say that one’s pain can be turned into good, and I am hopeful for we have come too far to turn back now.  Nonetheless, it is going to take the courage of all of us to stand against the spread of hate and the fear that it perpetuates. 

For many of us, the images shared from the abhorrent demonstration in Charlottesville were often images we during the days of Hitler or during the struggle for Civil Rights by social justice warriors.  Sadly, though, actions of a few can conjure up the memories and images that we have tried to bury.  Charlottesville should serve as a reminder that we cannot allow the rise of neo-Nazis or white nationalists to be normalized in our society.

We must remember that America’s story began with the courage of ideals, yet we some times miss the brut of force by which those ideals manifested. Nevertheless, it is what we do today that can change our future for the better.  The ideals of our democracy are the same when our founders began its journey in Philadelphia all those years ago, and today Americans, like our founders, must hold the promise of America high by standing boldly against hate, divisiveness, and violence.  We have to believe and work to ensure that our nation’s best days are ahead, and that hate cannot and will not prevail.

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