The Rev. Bill McGill is senior Pastor of Imani Baptist Temple in Fort Wayne.
“The truth put squarely is that I am spent, having fought too many American social battles that should never, in a more decent society, have presented themselves as such to begin with. I am no longer a normal person, as it were, preoccupied as I have been constrained to be, with race and all the wearying baggage that rakes heavily in its train. But, of course, America had scarcely noticed me, not least that I was weary, preoccupied as America with the taxing obsession of its unrelenting self-adoration. Ask yourself: Would you have done any better, had you been in my place and I in yours?”
– Randall Robinson, author and activist
Indeed, these are not only difficult but dangerous days for our nation. Instead of being recognized for our education and innovation, we are capturing international headlines for living in a perpetual state of assassination and aggravation.
Not only do we live with senseless and chronic violence in our streets, but an ex-reality television host is now occupying one of our most powerful political seats. The phrase “only in America” no longer represents our streams of opportunity but is a sad indictment of our political and intellectual obscurity.
We seem to be more interested in yelling than gelling.
Unfortunately, this is no new phenomenon; our nation has been here before. While we once again celebrate our Day of Independence, we would be wise to heed the question raised in the hit musical “Hamilton”: “And? If we win our independence? Is that a guarantee of freedom for our descendants?”
In 1776, we may have won the right for our national existence, but 243 years later we are still wrestling with hatred and racial interdependence. I celebrate the massive step by more than 1,600 neighbors of all colors and creeds joining me at the Embassy Theatre to commemorate the deeds of Dr. Martin Luther King, but there is so much remaining work to be done before we get to hear the freedom bell ring.
Unlike my fellow activist and friend, I am not quitting America, and will work for solidarity and equality until my life comes to its end. Dr. King was right that while America has not been fair with me, I have a moral responsibility to work toward ensuring that the next generation is free.
Yes, there are deep issues which divide us, but we must find the courage to acknowledge that our fellow citizens are beside us. We may run a different political pace, but we share the same space; we may have a different racial face, but we share the same space; we may have a different understanding of God's amazing grace, but we share the same space!
John Donne was right: “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. ... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
We certainly may never be able to cheer one another, but we must take the time to hear one another. Why? Because whenever you shut me off, you cut me off. Whenever one feels isolated, they are prone to feel infuriated.
So, we must find creative ways that allow those of varied opinions to speak without causing civility to spring an unrepairable leak. Can we begin to agree that “all lives matter” – and show concern whenever and wherever human blood begins to splatter?
Can we agree that regardless of one's spiritual affiliation, they should never engage in racial, social or sexual demonization? Can we agree that whether life starts at inception or ejection that children have a fundamental right to economic and academic protection? Can we agree that every American has the right to happiness' pursuit, even if they're traveling on a different route?
We may not agree with our neighbor's choices, but let's find a way to at least value their voices.