“...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.” (Declaration of Independence) Wise, beautiful and soaring words-written with vision and purpose for the glory of our nation.
The Pledge of Allegiance, said by school children every day, closes with fortitude, “...one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.
America: “The last best hope of the world.”
Eleven. This is the number of days in which the American flag has been ordered to fly at half-staff thus far in 2018. As there have been just over 140 days in the current calendar year, this current rate will yield to nearly one month of our flag hanging in sorrow. As I was lowering the flag on Tuesday morning to honor the victims of the school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, I couldn’t help but feel disheartened. I lower the flag far too often-so often, it seems, it is just part of my weekly duties. I remember seeing the flag fly at half-staff during the course of my life, every so often, to honor our military heroes on Memorial Day, or the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. But, recently, as evidenced by the statistics above, this is our new normal.
Is this a matter of happenstance? Is it just that sometimes bad things happen? Or, could this increased half-staff practice be a symbol of the state of our nation? Are we living up to what we put on paper for our stated ideals? Are we really still the last best hope of the world?
I would submit to you that, in our present state, the answer is no. Do we treat all with unalienable rights? Or, do we systematically oppress those we deem “the other”; do we value the whole person health and intrinsic value of every human being; do we educate, shelter and support all of our people with dignity?
Are we in solidarity, fostering freedom and equity for all? Or, do we attack each other’s beliefs, politics, and faith; do we truly invest in our people to grow opportunity now and for future generations; do we ensure the cornerstone of fairness in our criminal justice system?
These are not only American ideals; but, ideals that people of faith hold dearly. Our baptismal covenant calls us to “...seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself…” and to “...strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being…”. (BCP 305)
As a proud American and Christian, on the eve of this holiday honoring those who have fought and died for these ideals, I am saddened. It is a shame that, in our current state, our practices and policies do not honor the sacrifice of the men and women who gave everything to uphold what America means-not just to Americans-but, to the world.
We can do better. Together. We must never adapt our ideals to our practices and policies. Rather, we must always ensure that our practices and policies adapt to our ideals. The memory of so many; and, the future of so many more, depend on us. This is our call of duty.