Americans must hold onto hope
My heart is full as I continue to grieve for Seth Rich, shot by an unknown assailant as he walked to his Washington, D.C., home on July 10. Seth was my colleague at the Democratic National Committee. He registered voters and helped them find their polling place.
I grieve for him as I grieve for the fallen officers in Dallas, Texas, killed by a veteran with a soul warped by war and hate.
I grieve for the officers’ wives and their children.
I grieve for Alton Sterling, father of five, shot in a routine police action while selling CDs in Baton Rouge, La., and his family.
I grieve too for the stereotypes held of black people, held even in the nation’s capital. I grieved as I watched South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American in the GOP’s caucus, talk of disrespect in the Capitol Building where, of all places, he should have it. Though wearing the pin that identifies him as a senator, Scott spoke of how a Capitol security guard told him, “The pin, I know. You, I don’t. Show me your ID.”
I grieve for those politicians who watched the tragedies in St. Paul and Baton Rouge and Dallas unfold, then seized them as an opportunity to divide Americans along the same, tired lines that brought us to where we are today.
I grieve for our president who again had to address the nation about a horrific mass shooting.
And yet, I also feel stirrings of joy. I love the messages that both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama gave. Each in their own way spoke of respect and tolerance and their faith in us, our unity and common decency, our possibilities.
“At times, it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together,” Bush said, adding: “Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”
Obama struck a similar message. “In this audience, I see what’s possible,” he said. “I see what’s possible when we recognize that we are one American family, all deserving of equal treatment, all deserving of equal respect, all children of God. That’s the America that I know.”
Then came the wisdom of holding onto hope:
“I know we’ll make it because of what I’ve experienced in my own life, what I’ve seen of this country and its people – their goodness and decency – as president of the United States.”
The answer to our repeated tragedies is to change our character, he said.
After all the terrible violence, one thing is clear: This is not blacks versus whites, or cops versus civilians, or Black Lives Matter versus pandering politicians. Rather, this is about people who work out their issues with violence, as opposed to people who work for justice and peace.
We have to be clear though. This is a complex problem that continues to arise because we can’t see past each other’s positions.
The new way is the way our Founding Fathers laid out for us: equality before the law. We’ve strayed from it.
We can no longer paint all police as bigoted or all citizens shot by a policeman as criminals. Equality before the law – for black and blue, for all hues. The new way is to hold on to hope.
We have a problem that cannot be solved until we abandon our hardened positions, reject the politicians who would keep them and work to rebuild trust, decency, civility, tolerance and the respect for the rule of law.