published Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Upton: Thoughts on new America

By Tabi Upton

The babies will change everything.

They are the new America. An America with no ethnic majority. An America with a widely skewed web of ideologies, religious beliefs and political persuasions. An America with highly individualized moral and social norms. An America like we’ve never seen before.

Are we ready for this new America? When the verdict was handed down in the Trayvon Martin case, I could not think of much to say. Something like numbness overtook my heart, my mind and my mouth.

The verdict startled me, but that wasn’t the only surprising thing about the case. I watched as highly charged citizens marched and sat in places to protest what appeared to be injustice, with a beleaguered memory of many unjust laws and practices that are often wielded against men with darker skin.

I read the polls that indicated that people’s perspectives fell heavily along racial lines. Most whites didn’t think anything wrong had occurred. Many Hispanics didn’t hold an opinion. But the majority of blacks felt discouraged, dismayed and betrayed. As Americans, we all live next to each other, but our perspectives are worlds away.

Even as I ponder this new America, I realize that it isn’t quite so different than before. We have fought over many issues since our inception. We have tried to split off from our sources and form new nations. We have yelled, fought and killed each other over our differences.

Today, what constitutes a majority voice is murkier than in the past. Slippery, quickly changing and often startling. We don’t know what will happen next. And this often unsettles us.

As little boys and girls, we obediently pledged our allegiance to the United States of America. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” We felt the pride stirring. We remembered that we were all a part of something larger than ourselves … “and to the Republic, for which it stands.” Our unity held us together … “one Nation” … and we reminded ourselves that we held to an enduring, universal principle … “under God” … and that this freedom that we show off proudly to the world should exist first and foremost within our own walls … “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

For all … actually giving justice for all has been our struggle, our hypocrisy and our blind spot. When the founding fathers weaved the Constitution together, they didn’t really intend for all its rights to apply then to Negroes or American Indians or women. Eventually the lofty and beautiful words, through time and constant pressing, came to give rights to everyone. This amazing document held an almost prophetic, transformative power that continued to form and shape the trajectory of our nation. We are still growing toward the reality of what this great experiment should be.

Let us not lose hope for an America that can really exist in unity, even as we agree to disagree at times. Let us be eager to hear different perspectives and to respect them, without losing touch with our own. Let us humbly remind ourselves that our personal histories and backgrounds inform us, and that we can all be a bit off kilter at times.

We still have so much to learn about freedom. Let us meditate on enduring directives that implore us to show love to our neighbors as to ourselves, and to adore our Creator more than life itself. The vision has been with us from the beginning; let us keep striving to make it true today.

Tabi Upton is a counselor, speaker and freelance writer. Contact her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.

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