We Do the Right Thing
I know it sounds hokey, but I believe in America. I’m not talking about the Norman Rockwell, amber waves of grain America. I believe in the America that lies beneath the purple mountains majesty, and the spacious skies. I believe in an America that does the right thing. From the earliest days when Tom and George, down in Virginia, got together with John and his cousin Sam up in Boston, and old Ben in Philadelphia, the vision was cast; not just of a new nation, but of one that had at its very core the belief in the government’s responsibility to do what’s right. The belief in equality, and personal freedom, were written in to the very framework of our national values. No other modern nation has documented the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or states in official government approved documents that all men are created equal. From day one, from July 4th, 1776, as the signatures were drying, this was the ideal that was set forth. This was, and continues to be the line that is drawn in the sand, and the expectation of every American.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that America always does what’s right. Prejudice continues to thrive in our culture as anyone seen as different from our individual image of an American, is outcast. Racial and cultural differences continue to fuel oppression. Gender biases still drive my daughter, Sarah, to consider teaching, or nursing as the ‘best options for a woman.’ Politically conservative attitudes suggest that the poor are lazy. In 2005, while recovering from Guillian-Barre syndrome and unable to work, I ran head on into a social service system that was designed to help the downtrodden, with complete distain for those they are trying to help. Rude comments were exchanged as I sat with women, and men, who were forced to wait, sometimes with their children, for up to five or six hours to get the help they needed. This is not America at its best, but I have faith. We are at least trying.
America does the right thing. I see it every day. Less than 100 years after Susan B.’s successful efforts for suffrage, a woman has mounted a genuine presidential campaign. Less than 150 years after Abe issued the proclamation that abolished the abhorrent system of institutional oppression, a black man is the nominee of a major political party with a legitimate chance of winning in November. A system that creates institutionalized disrespect for its clientele also creates agencies such as VESID, a program of the New York state department of education designed to re-train handicapped citizens of our state. VESID has been instrumental in the re-creation of my life after suffering the paralyzing effects of GB. My observations of the history of our country and my work with VESID have combined to restore my faith that when we are staring at the line in the sand, trying to decide, America does the right thing.
This I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.