The Ferguson, MO rioting in the wake of the Darren Wilson grand jury decision, with the usual cast of professional purveyors of divisive racial politics and race-hustling, showcases not only America’s continuing racial struggles, but even more basically the sharp divide in how “civil rights” lies far removed from “civic duties” among political factional lines and also down racial lines too. Trying to find a root cause for racial discord in America takes pretty clear-cut explanatory paths, depending on individual racial identity and political lines. The problem with expecting solutions from highly-charged polar opposite political factions boils down to a home truth – politics can’t change hearts or offer a safe place to ford the raging river of racial animus in America. More government programs, more politically-motivated awareness campaigns, more in-your-face punditry battles, more riots can not ever help us find common ground, common hopes, common dreams for a real “United States of America”.
In past blog posts I’ve written about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, oft-referenced, “I Have A Dream” speech. While the line: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”, gets recited often, another line, perhaps harkening to my Pennsylvania roots with the city of brotherly love, resonates as the simple goal we can all strive for in our daily lives: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”
With Thanksgiving thoughts still warming my heart and memories of pumpkin pie for breakfast this morning (yes, I baked my own this year) creating a pleasant, all-is-right-with-the-world glow, or perhaps that’s my blood sugar peaking, who wants to think about all the ugliness that surrounds racial politics in America, right? Often the answers, so simplistic as to sound too easy, are, in fact, the truth. Yes, the way to unite America is not a political endeavor, but a matter of winning hearts and minds. Sadly, we have role models, like President Obama, who invest enormous efforts to be “community organizers”, devoted to political action, but completely unwilling to roll up their sleeves and invest in the hard work of helping the individuals in their communities find paths to successfully achieving prosperity in America, rebuilding their shattered communities and families and most importantly winning their hearts to the belief that moving beyond America’s ignoble history on issues of race is not an insurmountable obstacle.
Rioting fuels hate and oddly enough, Maya Angelou, a very unlikely choice for conservative ol’ me to quote, said it best:
“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” –
Although we had a busy week at work, some ladies decided we should have a potluck on Wednesday, because my store provides Thanksgiving dinner to those of us who have to work on Thanksgiving Day. My store, due to being outside a large Army post, with the requisite very diverse ethnic make-up, results in potlucks that are an around-the-world culinary experience. As everyone eats, there are always questions about some new dish that gets rave reviews and we have certain people who get special requests for dishes, like Marcia from Jamaica usually brings her Jamaican jerk-chicken, Doris makes an excellent German chocolate cake, and the list goes on and on. Tawanna makes some outstanding collard greens. Some new associate brought egg rolls that received high praise.
I’m always amazed at how when people sit down to share a meal, the petty squabbles subside, conversations almost invariably turn to family and home. A friendly dinner table is the world’s most under-tapped peacemaking tool. The simple act of breaking bread together at a table of brotherhood doesn’t seem all that hard and once people can come together and peacefully share a meal and conversation, then all the other politicized barriers fall to the wayside. Community potlucks could rebuild communities and not cost taxpayers a dime. Believe it, because it’s true and with so much animosity and hatred in America, at the very least neighbors might make new friends, so there’s no downside to the endeavor.
PS: Here’s an old LB post on the dangers of factions, “The duty of a wise people“, from my hero, President George Washington.