Sometime in the early 60’s the teenage students sat in class with a radio located in the principal’s office blaring through the school intercom Each classroom had a separate speaker for the morning announcements. This day the students were fixated on the voice emanating from the speaker. The students were fairly evenly divided both Anglo and Spanish speaking. Some grew up here, others were recent arrivals. All were listening to the news covering the Bay of Pigs, worried, excited, concerned but together filled with hope.
Vietnam was an unanticipated journey. A twelve thousand mile trip, not truly understanding why but believing in a purpose together. This excursion by us all so different and so alike. The day, July 20th, 1969, we learned a man, an American man, had set foot on the moon. What a together moment, Sputnik’s challenge overcome no thought of fighting or cleaning weapons just a radiant glimmer of hope. We can do anything.
A saddened America, an America that can be hurt loomed large on September 11th, 2001. The towers, a symbol of economic power and wealth, tumbled. Perhaps first came shock combined with fear but then the belief and mindset that has been America surfaced. The lesson that was learned by others in World War II emerged, if you attack America, you better finish the job. Failing to do so creates a monster that will be at your door and will not knock before entering. Hope springs to action.
These times witnessed other tragedies as well. A young President assassinated, a civil rights icon killed by a gunman on the balcony of a Southern motel. A brother of a President murdered in a California hotel while campaigning. Through each of these events we as Americans held together, believed that these Americans did not die in vain as we lifted our eyes to the heavens hoping for a better world.
The current times have created a different trial for us, for America, for the world. We live with concepts like shelter in place, social distancing, we wear masks and seek the old life, our normal lives. Perhaps pride, independence or hope carried us through other times, different ordeals. Have many of us become weaker, less caring, more a me first attitude? Integrity seems such a trivial thought these days. Make no mistake the world, not only America, has transformed. Being self righteous or inspired are not concepts that strut through our daily lives. Considering who we are and what have we become in this age of pandemic are merely passing thoughts. Today resembles tomorrow and all our yesterdays even those yesterday’s yet to come are passed.
Survival is a descriptive word associated with America, but pity is suddenly resonating from a distant shore. Who would have ever believed it possible? A transition emanating from the ignorance of perhaps a few, a vocal, visible few of our own. The road not taken has become the road never taken for some. Who will reclaim our moral ground when many are living in fear? The opposite of fear is hope. Have we forgotten?
The Wall in Washington, D.C. has over 58,000 names on it. The front page of a national newspaper lists 100,000 names. Not merely names but lives lived with families, loved ones, feelings, beliefs, concerns, fear and hope. A hope to see us all live a better life not only here in the suburbs, on main streets, in big cities and in the farm lands but those in foreign lands. As we all cling to such dreams we must not release our grip on hope. Our actions of late appear to be in a tailspin. This descent is not only to a lower position but from a lofty position. We view leadership as associated with money and material possessions. We have elevated this attitude to a higher rung. Our values and beliefs are reduced to one liners and slogans on a baseball cap. Our leaders wear expensive suits and shoes and talk down to others. This gospel of wealth is advocated by those who have it or want it.
The day is here we must return to that fork in the road we blindly passed. Time to take that road less traveled or we may become lost. We have ventured off on our own before. Perhaps that journey seemed uncertain, often fear filled steps but together we kept walking, one step in front of another. The lighthouse in the distance was guiding us to that city on the hill we were occupying once and will again. As we all are learning less is enough and sharing matters then hope will shine once again as a beacon on a hill.