At the very core of our idealism as a nation is a philosophical insistence that: “… All persons are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. This is the central idea informing the exceptionalism we claim as a nation. The preachers among us constantly remind us of the indelible imprint of the Judeo-Christian influence on our sense of who we are as a nation. Those who insist on the validity of the fundamental ideals informing our nation’s origins, it’s growth and it’s development; must never forget that our core religious belief is founded in a moral and ethical relationship with the God of Abraham and Moses. This is a Being who, throughout History, has declared on behalf of the disadvantaged, the oppressed, the widow and the orphan, and the wanderer seeking a place to build a better life for self and kin.
If we have ears to hear we will pause and listen to the consistent call to true community that proceeds from a righteous Creator. That would be HIS/HER voice calling out to us from the “burning bush” at the center of our communal experience. That voice is becoming a louder and louder presence in the many heated places where inequity is rooted in our social and political environment. It is a voice that demands that we reign in our scandalous propensity to the kind of violence that issues in torture and murder and wars for profit. It is a voice that calls us to account for the innocent blood that we are complicit in shedding in our own nation, and around the world. The Power from which that voice emanates is defined in the reality that we are inextricably connected in our being, and are therefore essentially affected by all the circumstances that touch each of our lives. This connectedness of being transcends all national and tribal distinctions.
The voice of our supreme moral and ethical Source declares in no uncertain terms that, as a nation, we must take off the boots of moral ignorance which weigh us down in the miry clay of injustice. Those boots keep us from advancing overdue liberty-promoting actions toward our fellow persons withering away as captives of an unjust system. They wither away in Guantanamo and our other prisons, known and unknown. These captives yearn for deliverance from the liberty-suppressing, life-thwarting circumstances prevalent around them. The undeniable dynamism of that Voice holds our feet to the fires of Justice. Cover our ears as we might, that same voice echoes disturbingly from the distant “wilderness” of our beginnings as a nation. A nation founded on the ideals of Liberty, Equality, and Justice, as endowments of our common Creator.
Those among us who would “preach” to us about our religious foundations are required to have an exegetical moment that is ontologically meaningful. A nation that claims the God of Moses as its moral standard-bearer cannot continue to ignore the call of this same God “to do justly, and to love mercy”. This is not a moment in which we can comfortably resort to the kind of meaningless obfuscation that calls our crimes "mistakes”. Slavery was, and is a crime. Racism is criminal behavior. Killing innocent men, women, and children with convenient drone strikes is a crime. The predatory behavior of investment bankers is criminal. A for profit healthcare system that denies care in order to cull a profit for investors and shareholders is legally and morally reprehensible. Criminalizing and imprisoning the victims of addictive substances is a morally bankrupt indulgence. Building jails as investment opportunities is in and of itself an injustice that reeks of criminality.
Repeating platitudes that comfort those who choose various convenient states of inaction while ignoring the need for change will only cement us in a place of cultural and spiritual decadence. Our claims to moral and political exceptionalism are meaningless in the face of our unwillingness to deal with the contradictions in our midst. It is time that we renew our commitment to the faith expressed in our foundational rationale for being America… Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. Beyond the parochialism of our claim to some special existential privilege; ours is a nation that claims a Faith based on an understanding of Salvation that is rooted in an act of Liberation. That Faith resonates in the powerful vibrations of one Robert Nesta Marley when he declares with the emphasis of well chorded drums: "Jah come to break downpression (every manifestation of oppression)… Rule equality… Wipe away transgression... Set the captives free… Set the captive free!… Set the captive free!"