July 4, 2020

We cannot feign respect for our flag, for our country, without showing respect for each other.

“It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more”

John Adams

“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.”

Thomas Jefferson

I have written several times that the 4th of July is my favorite holiday.

The words, the ideals, written in the Declaration of Independence inspired the birth of a new nation, extolling a government of the People.  A government that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.

I celebrate excitedly each July; the Grand Experiment in democracy…the birth of the United States.

For as much as we can admire the Founding Fathers, they were not without flaws.  They were not asking us to idolize them, or even emulate them; they were asking us to believe in them, in the ideas and actions that would change the world. 

“They loved their country better than their own private interests; and, though this is not the highest form of human excellence, all will concede that it is a rare virtue, and that when it is exhibited, it ought to command respect. He who will, intelligently, lay down his life for his country, is a man whom it is not in human nature to despise. Your fathers staked their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, on the cause of their country.  They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.”

Frederick Douglass

These conditions do not have to be binary. 

We can look to the past with a critical eye, but together we have an opportunity to create a better future.

While the American Dream has been good to me, Jefferson’s truths have not been so self-evident for everyone.  Equality has been only a dream for too many for too long.  We’ve struggled as a nation to live up to those ideals.  We’ve fought, both in courts and on battlefields, for or against equal rights, and equal justice, for all. 

That history is just as much a part of our present as it is our past.

244 years later, we still struggle with discrimination; in race, religion, gender, sexuality, and much more. 

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

Edmund Burke

Not only is it incumbent upon us to listen, to learn, and to educate, we have to respect our differences.

Ours is a nation of diversity, of disparity, but it shouldn’t be one of inequity and inequality.

We cannot feign respect for our flag, for our country, without showing respect for each other.

For all those who have fought, and continue to fight, for freedom, liberty, justice, and equality, I am grateful for your passion, commitment, and service.

I celebrate today, with pride and patriotism.  Not blindly, but respectfully, not just to the past, but for tomorrow.  The America I celebrate is the shining city upon a hill, where we teach history based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important, where everyone lives in freedom and equality. It has been only a dream for far too long. Join me in working towards making it a reality. Our celebrations will be that much more meaningful when we can truly share them with everyone.

The Horns The Devil Gave Me

“Where are your horns? Don’t all Jews have them?”

47 years later, this question still haunts me. 

I was 5 years old.  My family had just moved from New York to Virginia.  That’s when I met Keith.  For those first few days after the move, Keith and I were inseparable – exploring my new neighborhood, riding Big Wheels, and playing games.

One day Keith heard that we were Jewish and asked to see my horns.  The horns on my head.  The ones the Devil put there.  All Jews have them.

My mother tried to correct him, with no success.  She even went to talk with his mother.  That made it worse.  Keith was not allowed to play with Jews.  It is a tough lesson to learn at 5, or at any age.  I did not understand what happened.  I just knew I did not have my friend to play with.

This was one incident in my distant past.   There was no violence.  No real hatred; just profound ignorance and hurt.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to have that thrust upon someone every single day of their lives.  Mistrusted, hated, abused, persecuted, for their religion or their skin color, or anything.

All these years later, while it has not been directed at me personally, the hatred and ignorance still exist.  Even worse, hate crimes and anti-Semitism are on the rise.  I am not a practicing Jew.  I do not go to temple.  I married outside my faith (or my grandparent’s faith.  We never really lived it). It does not impact me directly, but I feel it personally.

For my friends of color and everyone in black and brown communities who feel this ignorance and hatred and persecution and fear every single day, my experience pales in comparison.  I will never comprehend the reality you are living but I can listen, learn, empathize, and stand alongside you.

No one should live in fear because of the color of their skin or the religion they practice.  No one should die for those reasons, either.

I share my story not for empathy or to make any type of equivalence, but to join in solidarity with those who have been marginalized, mistreated, and maligned for too long.  While I cannot change the past for any of us, I can work with you to change our future.

 

Recovering what we’ve forgotten

The continuous feed of ‘Never Forget’ only serves as a reminder of what we’ve forgotten.

I’ve struggled with sharing this, and it saddens me that I have.

Throughout the day, I’ve seen all the ’Never Forget’ pictures and posts.

While I’ve always felt a personal pain at our collective loss and an overwhelming gratitude to those who gave their lives to help others, not just on that day, but every day, I feel we’ve diminished the lasting impact of this national tragedy.

As I’ve written in previous years, it’s not enough for us just to remember, we must honor the memory.

Scrolling through these posts, while a touching tribute to those we’ve lost, I’m afraid we’ve lost much more than all those lives 18 years ago.  The continuous feed of Never Forget only serves as a reminder of what we’ve forgotten.

We have forgotten how to respect ourselves and each other.

We have forgotten how to communicate and listen to differing opinions, perspectives, and ideas.

We have forgotten to seek out the truth and disavow lies.

We have forgotten the value of education and the reasons to keep funding it.

We have forgotten the allies who stood with us in solidarity 18 years ago, and long before that, and now question our future alliances.

We have forgotten who our enemies are and allow petty disagreements and distractions to prevent tangible actions.

We have forgotten that we are still a country at war.

We have forgotten all those we have lost, not just fighting enemies on battlefields across the world, but by their own hands here at home.

We have forgotten that we do not elect leaders in our country, but representatives.

We have forgotten that elections matter, and we have a civic responsibility to participate fully in them.

We have forgotten that the strength in our Republic comes from our diversity and our unity.

We have forgotten our motto: E pluribus unum; out of many, one.

We have forgotten to honor our soldiers and have subjected them and their families to conflicting immigration laws and deportation, and watched silently as they struggle with physical and mental health issues, unemployment, homelessness, and hunger.

We have forgotten that supporting our troops extends to long after they are home.

We have forgotten that when we were attacked, we were all attacked, not liberals and conservatives from red and blue states, but Americans.

We have forgotten that the first responders, the volunteers, the helpers, the rescuers, and the supporters, we’re all welcome sights to those in distress, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, political views, citizenship, skin color, religion, or anything else.

We have forgotten that our rights come with responsibilities, and no one’s rights are greater than another’s.

We have forgotten that we are stronger together than we are divided.

We have forgotten what it means to be American, and to stand as a shining example for the rest of the world.

So rather than just ‘liking’ all these Never Forget posts, take action. Do something positive. Be kind. Show compassion.  Give of your time, treasury, or talent. Speak the truth and question those who don’t. Respect other opinions and beliefs and learn from them. Get involved in something meaningful to you. Learn the issues in your community and those you’ve elected to represent it. Educate yourself and vote your beliefs, not your party. Hug your family. Reach out to an old friend. Smile at a stranger. Make a difference.

We must truly never forget, not just that we were attacked, but who we are and what we stand for.

I am forever grateful for all those who continue to protect and defend these United States and all of us who live here.  Thank you to our first responders and all who work tirelessly to keep our communities safe and thank you to each of you for taking the time to read this tonight.

#NeverForget #USA #Remember #Respect #Honor #America #Freedom #UnitedStates #History #Community #Rights #Impact #TakeAction

Memorial Day 2019

As I pay my respects to those who have given all in service to this great nation, I pledge to do more and ask each of you to join me. Each action we take, regardless of how large or small, honors those who have sacrificed.

“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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Since those words were written in 1776, soldiers have fought to defend the ideals defined in our Declaration of Independence.  They have fought not just for that independence, but for liberty, freedom, and equality.

These are more than just words on a page, they represent our unalienable Rights.  They define who we are and what we are as a people.  These Rights have been worth defending since before we were a country and then enshrined in our Constitution after we won the Revolutionary War.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

For 230 years, men and women have put on the uniforms of our armed forces and sworn an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Throughout that time, millions have served, and thousands have died.

Today, we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our Nation and all that we stand for.  Several years ago, I wrote that it wasn’t enough just to remember, we must honor the memory.

As hatred and isolationism grow in the United States and around the world, as the press more frequently comes under attack, as our institutions are circumvented, and our very Constitution is questioned, I wonder if we’re truly honoring the memory of all those who have served and sacrificed.

We are still more divided than united when it comes to politics and policy.

Our armed forces do not represent red or blue states, they represent the United States.  There are no Democrat soldiers or Republican soldiers, there are American soldiers.

Today, as we reflect with respect on the service and sacrifice of so many, we should pledge to either put aside or embrace our differences and work to uphold the ideals of unity so many fought and died for.

If we are going to honor their memory and their sacrifice, we must adhere to the same ideals, pledge the same allegiance, and respect the same Constitution.

We honor their sacrifice not with ceremonies and celebrations, but with actions and words.

We honor their sacrifice with a commitment to truth, knowledge, and fact.

We honor their sacrifice with respect, empathy, and care for each other.

We honor their sacrifice by being informed, engaged, and holding ourselves, and each other, accountable.

We honor their sacrifice by continuing to form a more perfect union, not by dividing and demeaning each other.

As I pay my respects to those who have given all in service to this great nation, I pledge to do more and ask each of you to join me.  Each action we take, regardless of how large or small, honors those who have sacrificed.

Words can never convey the deep respect, admiration, and appreciation I have for those who have defended our country and its ideals.  I am thankful for everyone who has ever worn the uniform and sworn the oath.  Today, as every day, I’m humbled to recognize those who gave all in service to the United States. 

Today is Memorial Day, but we should live as if every day is.

May god bless each and every one of you, and may god continue to bless the United States of America.