Exceptional? We could be, but we aren’t.

 

When I was young I was taught we were better than this.
I was taught that the color of your skin didn’t matter, but the content of your character did.
I was taught that my worth as a girl was equal to the worth of any and every boy.
I was taught that we loved everyone whether they shared our beliefs or not.
I was told we had learned our lesson during WWII about racism and xenophobia.
I was told we had learned our lesson about excluding people during the civil rights movement.
I was told we had learned our lesson about equality between the sexes during the fight for women’s suffrage.
I thought we were supposed to have learned that rounding up citizens and putting them in internment camps is wrong.
Torture is wrong.
Racism is wrong.
Sexism is wrong.
Armed citizen vigilantes, suspicious and with their itchy fingers on a trigger patrolling the streets is wrong.
Make no mistake, what we have now IS. NOT. FREEDOM. It is bondage.

Somewhere along the line, I was sold a bill of goods that America was exceptional. We aren’t. We could be, but we aren’t. We do have the potential to be exceptional. To be exceptional, every human would have to be truly equal regardless of their gender, race, religion, sexuality or national origin. Exceptional would be universal healthcare with mental health care valued and available to all, racism would be decried and actively fought and spoken out against, homophobia would be non-existent, #blacklivesmatter wouldn’t need to be a hashtag because it would be obvious and we wouldn’t be entertaining closing our borders to people based on their religion alone. Exceptional nations don’t allow a school in a poor neighborhood to crumble and go without textbooks while the school in the wealthy neighborhood a few blocks away has a laptop for every student and state of the art classrooms. Exceptional nations don’t have the highest levels of incarceration and for-profit prisons. Exceptionalism would demand peace be our default and war a last and reluctant resort. To be truly exceptional we would not even be considering (and certainly not seriously considering) candidates who are against most, if not all, of the things I just mentioned.

Freedom isn’t free, lovelies. The cost, in this case, is giving up our paranoia, our hatred, our phobias, and our fears. But the benefits? Oh, the benefits! They far outweigh the costs.

The video at the top of this link is a cover of the Patti Smith song, The People Have the Power as performed by U2 and The Eagles of Death Metal in Paris this week. Here are the lyrics:

I was dreamin’ in my dreamin’
Of an aspect bright and fair
And my sleepin’ it was broken
But my dream it lingered near

In the form of shinin’ valleys
Where the pure air recognized
Oh, and my senses newly opened
And I awakened to the cry

And the people have the power
To redeem the work of fools
From the meek the graces shower
It’s decreed the people rule

People have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

Vengeful aspects became suspect
And bending low as if to hear
Well, and the armies ceased advancin’
Because the people had their ear

And the shepherds and the soldiers
And they laid among the stars
Exchanging visions, layin’ arms
To waste in the dust

In the form of shinin’ valleys
Where the pure air recognized
And my senses newly opened
And I awakened to the cry

People have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

Where there were deserts, I saw fountains
Like cream the waters rise
And we strolled there together
With none to laugh or criticize

The leopard and the lamb
And lay together truly bound
Well I was hopin’ in my hopin’
To recall what I had found

Well I was dreamin’ in my dreamin’
God knows a pure view
As I lay down into my sleepin’
And I commit my dream with you

People have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

The power to dream, to rule
To wrestle the earth from fools
But it’s decreed the people rule
But it’s decreed the people rule

Listen, I believe everythin’ we dream
Can come to pass through our union
We can turn the world around
We can turn the earth’s revolution

We have the power
People have the power
People have the power
People have the power

The power to dream, to rule
To wrestle the earth from fools
But it’s decreed the people rule
But it’s decreed the people rule

We have the power
We have the power
People have the power
We have the power

So say well all, Patti. So say we all.


If you have an extra minute please go read the brilliant response Brian McLaren has in the Huffington Post today.

An Open Letter to Jerry Falwell Jr, Students and Faculty of Liberty University

 

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