July 4 has me thinking about what it means to be a good American, and all my paths of thought seem to end with people who are really disappointing right now. It’s not that hard to be a good citizen, to be a good American, to be a good human. So why are we having so much trouble?
When you bump into someone, say you’re sorry. Even if the other person is grumbling or glaring at you, you say you’re sorry because you did the bumping. You never ever pull out a gun, or point your gun at children. And you never ever make excuses for that sort of behavior.
Don’t say All Lives Matter. I’m giving most people the benefit of the doubt here and just assuming you don’t realize how awful that statement really is, but let me be clear: no matter how you try and spin it, you’re showing your rear-end when these words come out of your mouth. All lives don’t currently matter equally, and they never have in this country, which is why the statement Black Lives Matter is important. It’s not a statement that white lives or police lives matter less, it’s not a statement that you endorse people who riot, and it’s not even a statement that you believe in protesting or civil disobedience. It’s a statement of love for your neighbor, and of recognition of wrongs.
Examine the roots of why you believe strongly in the things you do, and if there are inconsistencies or things that are downright wrong in your heart about your beliefs. Do you believe that good Americans or good people don’t publicly question the President or leadership? That good Americans don’t protest? That good Americans, good people, are from one political party or another? Because those things are not rooted in our founding or declaration at all, and while we’re at it they are also not rooted biblically. Do you think because there are people in your life that you love that are not like you that you don’t harbor any racist or hateful thoughts or feelings or versions of history? That’s a lie. We all have some learning to do and some work to do. We have to commit to understanding our inconsistencies and our convenient little lies, to ourselves and to others, and to the work to do better. And we need to understand that until we do, all our arguments to convince people we’re right are falling on the deaf ears of people who know we don’t have our act together.
Stop fighting over symbols of hate and inequity and injustice, and recognize instead HOW MANY OF THEM EXIST. Our land – our hearts and minds – are literally filled with symbols of racism. Statues and mascots and team names and confederate flags. Even people who don’t want to take them down or change them acknowledge what they are, and they argue not to take them down or make changes on the basis that they are historical or because those men were veterans. Symbols of oppression and hatred, even if they are a part of our history and even if they are of people who fought in a war and even if you believe the original meaning to some people may have been something else, cannot be glorified in public places as if the men and symbols were or are great.
Wear a mask when you’re in a public place. It’s not a sign of oppression, or that you’re a snowflake, or that you don’t believe in God enough for protection and healing. The vast majority of you are wearing seatbelts and getting vaccinated for polio so just stop with the I have rights on this topic. No one wants to do it or likes to do it. It’s a pain in the butt for everyone. But the reality is that Covid numbers are the only way in which the south is rising again.
Before you repost or post on social media, take 10 seconds to google for truth. Grandma Sandy from Topeka is not necessarily the most credible source of info on crime, history, who’s holding secret fundraisers for politicians, or voting laws in the state of Idaho. Stop spreading false information. It’s us, average American citizens, that are spreading the vast majority of fake news.
People are so frustrating right now.
We are so much better than this. We are so much smarter than this. And I refuse the notion that this land is filled with mostly selfish and crappy people.
My company has been conducting town halls and small group discussions about all that’s happening in our world right now, and our moderator introduced the sessions with some really smart guidance that I think can apply in all sorts of situations.
1. Assume positive intent from others when they say or do ignorant things.
2. Take accountability for the impact of your words and actions, because you don’t get to choose how they impact others.
3. In this time you may find yourself feeling uncomfortable. Ask yourself why and really think about it. Is it because you learned that what you used to think maybe isn’t totally true, that perhaps you have biases that you were not thoughtful about, that behavior or thoughts in your past when you didn’t know better make you feel ashamed?
4. And above all, don’t hide from those thoughts and feelings – use them to change.
Freedom means we have “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” That also means we have the freedom to see when we’re on the wrong path in an area and get on a new one. We are free to change our minds, change our thought patterns, change our behaviors, and change our tired old ways to be better.
Maybe change is how we best display our commitment to America.