“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945
As we celebrate the 247th birthday of America, recent years continue to reveal that we are still experiencing birth pangs. You would think that our nation would be farther along than where we are; however, we seem to still be crawling and stumbling while trying to walk.
I recently read an article on the discovery at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Virginia. A room was discovered that revealed the bedroom where Sally Hemings lived. The room was adjacent to that of Mr. Jefferson. It was discovered during an excavation of the space.
The man primarily responsible for drafting the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, the third president of the United States of America, was an owner of enslaved Africans, and raped and impregnated Sally Hemings at least six times. This is the president that declared, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness.” Theoretically and philosophically, these words are noble. From a practical perspective, over the years, they have not applied to African Americans and other minorities.
Bonhoeffer, who, with others worked to rid Germany of Hitler’s evilness, reminds us that it is not enough to bandage the wounds of injustice. We must work to rid injustice wherever it raises it ugly head. Therefore, 247 years later, good people must continue to call America to its highest ideals.
We can never be comfortable with simply quoting the founding principles and documents that are enshrined on parchment paper and housed in museums. We must make those words mean something for every generation, for every citizen. America still has a long way to go. All of us must be committed to helping it get there. Happy Birthday, America! Amen.