By: Woodrow Odom Lucas
As a progressive Christian I have often operated in a love-hate relationship with the United States of America. I have seen the greed in our financial sector and the racial animus of our culture and have not hesitated to voice my dissatisfaction. As an individual of African-American descent, I remember with intermittent anguish what my ancestors had to endure in Slavery, what my grandparents had to endure during Jim Crow segregation, and what my parents had to endure during the civil rights movement. But today, I was struck by an incontrovertible fact. I as a person with a mental illness can live a normal life because some chemist at Alcon Labs or another pharmaceutical company developed a cocktail of drugs that can compensate for the neurological dysfunction that I was born with.
I do not approve of the inordinate gravity with which pharmaceutical companies influence politics in America or the way in which they inordinately profit from the suffering of others, but I am still very grateful that they exist and that they manufacture the 20 to 200 mg tablets that keep me functioning on a high level. This epiphany surrounding my beneficial interdependence with Pharmaceutical companies gave rise to a few other insights. We live in a society where you can talk with love one’s over the phone, over the internet, or via television, and in which you can be with love ones in a matter of hours by plane or train. We live in a society where you can be a communist, a socialist, or an anarchist and trust that you are protected by the same freedom of speech principles that protect the KKK or the Third Reich.
Yes, we live in a society that accommodates more violence than most other so called advanced nations, but we also live in a society with much greater diversity and consequently much more potential for angst, frustration, and malice than most other industrialized nations. Given its demographic and ideological diversity I believe that Americans do pretty well in maintaining peaceful relationships. As Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East implode in a failed attempt to deal with their religious diversity, the contrasting ability of Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Christians, Hindus, and Quakers to live together in one country without shedding each other’s blood is inspiring. We cannot change the massive blemishes on our nation’s history such as the occupation and usurpation of Native Land from this country’s indigenous peoples but we can celebrate a nation that allows us, even invites us, to criticize it for such a history. We live in a society where our media is plagued by gratuitous exploitation and the constant bombardment of manipulative enterprise. But it is possible through this very same media to get important guidance about healthcare or get closer to God through the messages that are provided. African Americans in this nation are being incarcerated at abnormal and suspicious rates, but I would still rather live here than most other polities.
Perhaps it is because we are too close to the phenomenon, but I wonder if we realize the truly historic nature of our times. We as a country which once used race as a criteria to enslave, marginalize, and misuse mass numbers of people for the second time in recorded history elected a president with brown skin who is married to a descendent of slaves. We as a nation, not only once but twice in a row chose progress over stagnancy and diversity over toxic homogeneity. From a more spiritual perspective, imagine the very possible reality that as we journey toward the end of 2012, this country was faced with a cosmic choice in this last election to either move forward in the advancement of its freedoms or to retreat in fear toward reactionary forces of chauvinism and injustice. Now imagine the very possible reality that this country the Rome of the 20th and 21st centuries CHOSE CORRECTLY. Imagine that what we did in this election was make a choice to dispense with the rhetoric and praxis of empire and begin the hard work of forging a new future of equality and equanimity. In my own marriage, as my wife asserts her right rather than privilege to shape our family’s future, I sometimes feel the urge to quote some bible verse as a way to assert my hegemony, but I realize that if I do that, then I will be condemning myself to the bondage of being a tyrant. It is my belief that in this last election we as a country chose the path of the servant rather than tyrant and that is truly historic.
While I suppose that I have always been proud to be an American in some dimension of myself, now I find myself more ready to say that I am proud to be an American from a source of true sincerity. And so I conclude with the enthusiastic revelation and proclamation that I am proud to be a citizen of this great nation and the best is yet to come.