By Bruce Stambaugh
I’m grateful to have been born in the United States. I realize that’s an easy statement for me to make given my lineage and geographic life space.
It’s taken me a while to recognize my absolute privilege as a natural born Caucasian American male citizen. Coming of age in the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960s, I should have caught on much earlier.
I couldn’t help but follow the progress of those volatile days. All earned headlines in newspapers, and plenty of airtime on the evening news. Long before the Internet or smartphones, that’s how we kept up to date with ongoing daily events.
There was plenty to absorb. Times were tense. The Cuban missile crisis, persistent protests for civil and equal rights for minorities and women, anti-war protests, urban riots, and assassinations are all indelibly etched in my psyche.
Given today’s political rancor, I’m appalled at the actions and comments of others toward the poor, minorities of every kind, and the down-and-out of today’s global society. It’s like everything is coming undone. I struggle with what to do, what to say, how to act.
My parents instilled in their children a sense of fairness, justice, and equality for all. I think that came from their knowledge of previous generations of hard work, personal experience with injustice, and an absolute desire to ensure their offspring had a better life than they did.
In that, my good folks more than succeeded. They instilled in us a strong work ethic, a desire to serve, the importance of community, and the need to connect with others.
I think my devoted wife can say the same about her upbringing on her family farm. Those core values have been the foundation of our 45 years together, cemented by a love that has survived and evolved through the joys and heartaches that life lays out for each and every one of us.
Unfortunately, others in this diverse nation are not so fortunate, if only because of their race, religion, economic situation, or demographic roots. For a variety of legitimate reasons, they rest uneasily in our society.
I yearn for the day when I can erase those words. In the meantime, I see the anniversary of the independence of our great nation as a reminder to continue to help wherever and whenever I can.
As a thankful American, I see that goal as my continued responsibility. Whether through words or actions or donations or genuinely associating with others beyond my comfort zone, I must do what I can to help within my grasp and power however limited that may be.
I must linger with the poor, the destitute, and the powerless. I must listen to their cries, their calls for justice, and their desire to fulfill their basic needs.
I must learn from those who have so much less than me. They have much to teach me, to help me grow, to help me understand, to help me live.
As Americans on this pinnacle national holiday, we need to linger with one another, listen to one another, and learn from one another. Doing so is for the common good of us all.
Shouldn’t it be the goal for all of us to improve responsibly the country we all love so much? After all, the Pledge of Allegiance ends, “…with liberty and justice for all.” Can’t we all help make it so?
© Bruce Stambaugh 2016
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