“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lighting. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” — Frederick Douglass
Over the past year, I have examined the meaning behind this quote with greater frequency and greater scrutiny. Our nation is unquestionably caught in the throes of a great struggle.
And with a year marked by a deadly pandemic, the politicizing of the virus and its vaccine, the weaponizing of my black skin color to gain power, riots and looting that have gone uninterrupted, enshrined Constitutional rights giving way to fear, unequal free speech, cancel culture, the sovereignty of our nation assaulted at the southern border, threats of packing the Supreme Court, and an unorthodox election cycle in 2020, I’m left with the question, what are we learning about our struggle? What are we learning about this struggle that has proven to be both violent and painful with no end in sight?
According to Mr. Douglass, in order to achieve progress, there must be a struggle. Whether by agitation, hard work or discomfort, there can be no progress without a struggle.
If this is true, what progress are we about to inherit? Will our current struggle lead us to a better place? A happier place? A place of greater liberty? A place where our children will inherit a safer and more prosperous America than the one we inherited?
Will our struggle lead us to unity, peace or love for our fellow American brothers and sisters? My concern is that the progress we are about to inherit will do none of this and will instead leave us broke, broken and bruised as a nation.
My sense of sadness over the progress I’m seeing was recently intensified when I watched a deeply disturbing video. A young white man, who worked at the registration desk of a popular hotel chain, was being taunted and recorded by a black man.
The video does not show what preceded the exchange or what the young white man did to “deserve” the ire of the black man, but it was clear that the white man was in distress and having what appeared to be a nervous breakdown.
Instead of showing concern for a rapidly devolving young man, the black man continued to film him, taunt him and make reference to him being a racist. He followed him and shamed him. The young white man was reduced to slapping his own face repeatedly and banging his head into his computer screen.
As a momma bear, my heart hurts for him. It’s an image that has been branded into my mind. I went to bed with my heart broken for him – and for our nation.
Who are we, as a nation? Have we become a nation of bullies? Do we now applaud the loudmouthed, the arrogant and the rude? Have we become a nation led by the personal and fickle opinions of the mob, celebrities and reality stars? Are we a nation too afraid to stand up for the little guy?
I fear many have lost their love for this nation, its principles and its people. Because we have tolerated evil, the love of many has waxed cold. America is unraveling.
But I am hopeful. I am hopeful that on the other side of this struggle is indeed real progress. I am hopeful that this real progress will leave our nation stronger, kinder, and more competitive on the world stage. I am hopeful that this real progress will leave our nation favoring freedom, even in the midst of the awful roar of the ocean.
It was my hope in this kind of real progress that led me off the impoverished pig farm I grew up on as a little girl. I grew up in a home with no insulation, no running water, an outhouse in the back and a well on the side.
I grew up watching my grandparents wake up early every summer morning to go to the fields. I can still see the lines of white buckets at the end of each row filled with the peas and cucumbers they had just picked all morning long and would take to the market by evening.
I remember riding with my grandfather to the slaughterhouse with one of our pigs — and I remember how after, he would go to the homes of our neighbors and share a portion of our good fortune.
I grew up watching the adults around me work hard to provide for their families. I saw them rise early and go to bed late. I saw them show kindness to strangers and help out their neighbors.
My grandparents certainly could have complained about the inequities, the poverty, the blatant acts of racism — but I don’t recall them doing so. Not once. They never told me I was a victim or that the odds were against me. Instead, I was loved and shown how to love. I grew up being told that kindness matters, that people matter.
We’ve lost this in today’s culture. We can see that in how people interact with one another at the grocery store, in the media, in politics, on school grounds, and in the home.
America has given me the opportunity to build a life for myself and my family. She has provided this same opportunity to countless others. I am so proud to be an American — and I believe it’s time for those who love this country to stand up and defend her.
Our Founding Fathers had their own struggle and did their part to create this republic. It’s our time to keep it and defend it. America is worth it. Our children’s future is worth it. Our struggle is worth it.
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