Home of the Free?

July Fourth is just around the corner! In the days before the COVID, we would be anxiously awaiting getting together with friends and family, cooking outside on the grill everything from hot dogs and hamburgers to corn and asparagus. Games of volleyball, bean bags, and whatever families invented. Then in the evening the fireworks, sparklers, noise makers and another round of food. This year will be different and not only because of the COVID.

We have seen weeks and weeks of protests from the west to the east coast and many cities in-between. Somewhere someone has actually calculated the number of cities who are protesting. Many people don’t understand why and declare, “enough is enough”. Peaceful protests, non-violent manifestations are part of the democratic way of being, the right of all citizens who believe that their voice matters. What do you think of the following quote and do you know who said it?

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” 

The brilliant speaker who not only wrote these words but lived them was Frederic Douglass (1817-1895). He was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the anti-slavery movement. There was much to protest during his lifetime and many struggles to embrace. As I reflected on these words, it became apparent to me how deep was Douglass’ love for his people and his country. Without the physical and emotional struggles, without the public manifestation of demanding change, injustices would continue, inequality would increase by leaps and bounds, and a country who claims that “all men are created equal”, would become a deep lie. A lie capable of cutting the life-giving roots of a nation.

Crops cannot grow without plowing up and upsetting the earth. “Unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die, it remains just a grain.” Without the frightening thunder and lightning, the rains cannot come to water the earth and bring new life which will benefit all. We have to walk through the fire of repentance and forgiveness, the blessed fire of the Spirit, confident that we will not be destroyed, as God promised.

The most powerful of Douglass’ words are these: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” The peaceful protesters on the streets know that they have to demand because what they want, for everyone, are the same things that our country was built on; the same that God sent his prophets to declare to the ancient Hebrews; the very same that Jesus taught and lived. Our words may be different now, but all of the following are examples of life in abundance:

*equality for all peoples regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or economic status

*equal opportunity for health care, education, jobs, housing, a shared and just economic system that supports the dignity of all human life, from conception to a natural death

*the freedom to live in peace without fear of being profiled and drawn into violent situations for no reason

*the eradication of white privilege so that no assumptions are made about people based on the color of their skin 

*the list goes on…

When I see the non-violent protesters, a mixture of colors and races, I see people who are demanding change because they love themselves and others enough to go public. I see people who truly love their country, not just because America is great, but because God created all of us in God’s image and likeness. This is the America that I hope you want too. This is the real reason we should be celebrating the Fourth of July: that we are a nation who loves all peoples and recognizes that this is God’s plan. Then we can truly be the Home of the Free!

Sister Nancy is a Franciscan of the Sacred Heart and Formation Director for the Joliet Diocese Missions.

Now we invite your thoughts. Please share in the comments section below. And while you’re here, continue on a virtual mission by reading more of our stories and reflections as we discover together how “We are Mission”.

One thought on “Home of the Free?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.