Pain. Anger. Sorrow.
My family members, my friends, my neighbors have, through the wonder of social media, expressed their pain. Their anger. Their sorrow. At the events of the past days and weeks and months. At occurrences which all too often, history repeats.
Many of my friends have been alienated. Whether they be Muslims, Latinos, members of the LBGT community, blacks, Mormons, Catholics, other minorities or groups, and even white Protestants.
Divisions have appeared in our community we call America. The Great Melting Pot, once simmering, has boiled over. And many of our leaders don’t appear to care, or – even worse – instigate or by their inaction casually endorse acts of hatred and divisiveness.
The senseless gun violence seems overwhelming. Instead of passing legislation to restrict the use of guns, some states have passed laws explicitly permitting individuals to carry guns in our schools, our colleges – where sadly much of the gun violence has already played out.
We turn to our political leaders for solutions. But, rather than being stewards of our trust, most leaders appear to spend most of their time raising money for their own re-election. Some use their government paychecks to afford them time run for higher office. Once they leave office, they get hired, usually at high salaries, to lobby on behalf of special interests.
Even when they spend time discussing real issues, the positions of our political leaders often reflect not what is right for the country, nor their own constituents’ views, but rather what will bring them the most campaign contributions or opportunities after they leave office.
We ask our political leaders to work across the aisle, and to enact sensible, reasoned legislation. Yet, following election and upon arrival at their legislative bodies, most just kowtow to their own parties’ views.
Obstructionism prevails. Senseless, wasteful government results. Corruption pervades. We have ceased to be a republic, but rather we seem more like an oligarchy run by powerful monied interests.
We are a country founded upon respect for our institutions and the rule of law. Yet, time after time, our political leaders express dismay at our judiciary, our police, and our other institutions. Often they pronounce that they will not adhere to the rule of law themselves. And respect for our institutions, and the rule of law, continues to diminish and fade.
As a result, individual Americans are dismayed. Frustrated. Angry. Too many failed promises, including promises that should never have been made. Too many lies. Too much useless pointing of fingers at others.
We are dismayed by politics. For we no longer possess a political system that works. Instead, we possess only the vile, dark side of political action – name-calling, a senseless focus on anything that might undermine the “other side,” and promises not to work together to solve our country’s problems but rather to stall and to stymie any meaningful change.
We turn to the press, whose freedom once brought with it a responsibility for truth. Yet, today, those in the media are not concerned with truth and justice, but rather with their own celebrity and ratings. Media outlets partner with politicians, rather than act to expose their failings.
What is our remedy? Surely it is not electing a person whose promise of change brings with it a resounding rejection of the rule of law, the wholesale alienation of minorities and women, and a resounding lack of compassion and respect for all peoples of this earth.
What is our remedy? It must be this.
When our politicians and political parties have failed us, it is our responsibility, as citizens, to stand up and demand change. Angrily. But never violently.
And what change do we require? We need a new breed of people, to run for political office. Those who possess the leadership qualities we should expect of all politicians. A love of country, first and foremost. Persons who do not make meaningless promises. Those who are candid, honest, and of the highest integrity. Persons who work to strengthen our institutions, and who themselves respect the rule of law.
We desire new leaders who don’t promise to cast their votes merely as their political parties’ leaders require, but who vote their conscience and maintain their independence on every issue. Leaders who spend their time focused on the issues that matter, and who seek to better the country by enacting meaningful changes, realizing that their jobs are just temporary.
We desire individuals to run for office who don’t seek to attract attention to themselves by belittling others. Those who accept personal responsibility, and hold others to account. And, of great import, we desire leaders who serve our country, knowing that the position they hold is a temporary one to which no entitlement should attach.
In the darkness of our pain, our anguish, our suffering, perhaps we – the citizens of our country – will arise to demand change. Perhaps we can demand that money be removed from politics. Perhaps we will judge harshly those who run for office who are not prepared to assume the mantle of leadership. Perhaps we will again hold those who assume political office to the high standards we reasonably require of them.
Never has our country been perfect. Liberty. Equality. Justice. Fairness. Freedom. These are concepts worth fighting for, but democracy is not easy.
For, if we do not require change, of each and every person who seeks to acquire or retain political office, we will then only further plunge down the dark hole of our misery. And the light of America, which once shone bright as a beacon of hope for the world, will no longer cast its endless shadow.
The responsibility rests with us, each and every one of us. To question. To demand. To have the limits of our resolve tested. Never to act with violence or fueled by revenge or hate. But rather with a firmness and perseverance, realizing that much is at stake.
In the end, it is we who must act, to ease our own pain. This is a responsibility each of us must assume. It requires our own courage, effort, and steadfastness.
And this must begin with a shared belief that together – with our families, friends, and neighbors – we can effect the meaningful change we desire. That together we can heal the wounds of our society. That together we can create a better America for our children and grandchildren. And that together America can once again lead the world toward a better future for all.