an epitaph for justice

a shared mythology

How does a country whose revolution, inception, and existence are intertwined with sin, do any good? How does a country whose mythology is built upon lies and misconceptions find a common story? Ibram X. Kendi proposes that denial is the “heartbeat of America.” And in eviscerating this denial, what remains? Or as the Aspen Institute asks, “who is us?”

We likely all know the oft-repeated slogans. No taxation without representation! A country of immigrants founded upon principles of freedom and equality. The greatest democracy in the world. In every lie, there is a kernel of truth. How do we begin to process that our revolution was for refusing taxes for national defense while trying to infringe upon indigenous land? Or that embedded within our Constitution is a clause delineating that Black people are less than human? Or that throughout our history we have sought to disenfranchise those who were deemed as others or to keep them out entirely or to violate treaties made with those who already resided on the land?

We are a country that both developed a vaccine for polio and utilize non-consensual cell lines of Black people and aborted children to develop new medicines. We are a country that stood against the rise of fascism in the world while fostering racism at home. We are a country that says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” while passing the Chinese Exclusion Act. We are a country that has developed incredible technological innovation while devouring natural resources around the world to expand the bottom line. We are a country which has brokered peace deals amongst warring nations while having some of the greatest gun violence in the world on our own soil.

From all of this we can indeed find our common story – we are a country of innovators. Pioneers. Explorers. None of these facets are a moral good, and so often they have been twisted for demonstrable harm and evil. These qualities are also not exclusive to America, but they are the soul of our country. 

America is filled with so many generations of those who moved to start something new, to build a better life for their families. Too often, this has resulted in the erasure of cultures past – whether by oneself or systematic violence. As spoken by Dr. Jose P. Rizal, “A person who does not look back to where he came from would not be able to reach his destination.” We must never forget where we came from. We must never forget Whom we came from. Only from these points can we begin to take on the audacious task of building a true multicultural society that carries forward a culture of life for all of its people to the ends of the world. Despite all of the fallen nature of our country’s founders and foundation, this is our call: to be innovators of new and beautiful things rooted upon justice and mercy.