On the front page of the July 19 Boston Globe was the banner, “A life reaching for the dream of racial justice.” Of course it was an article about the life of Congressman John Lewis. John’s life spanned 80 years and it made me sad to think that up to the last moments of his life he was still fighting the bigotry and hatred towards his race that has persisted since his ancestors were first shackled and taken to the “new world.”
Born in the 1950s, I witnessed the struggle and strife of the 1960s and 1970s first hand. I had high hopes that my generation would be the one to ensure that the phrase in our Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal” and that Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream that all people would be judged by their character and not by the color of their skin would become a reality in my lifetime. I honestly believed that when this country elected its first African-American president that we had finally turned the corner and were on our way to forming a more “perfect union.” Sadly, that hope was dashed when a man championing Jim Crow and channeling George Wallace was elected president.
I am so weary and my heart so heavy over the divisions in our country that there are times I just want to shout out to the world, let’s stop all this divisiveness and hatred and try working on acceptance, unity and love because it’s obvious that what we have now is not working! America, once the “shining city on the hill,” has lately been spiraling into dysfunction and mediocrity.
In my teens and 20s I crisscrossed this country by thumb and found that people, no matter what part of the country they resided in, all strove for pretty much the same things. We want to be proud of our country and regard it as exceptional in the eyes of the world. Most of us want simple things, a home to live in, food on the table, loved ones to sit around it and the freedom and opportunity to make that dream a reality. Unfortunately we still have a long way to go to make even these simple dreams real for everyone.
However, despite what is happening at present I have not given up hope. I truly believe that we are better than what we have been seeing the past three years. Even with our flaws this is still a great country and its potential for true greatness has yet to be tapped and realized. I wish that those of us who marched and voted for equality and justice in our younger years are once again stirred to raise our voices and spring to action. It’s time we got back on the message of “liberty and justice for ALL” and not leave that task to our children and our children’s children. The legacy of division and inequality is not the legacy I want to leave to future generations. Now is the time to make John Lewis’s dream of racial and social justice a reality.
Robert J. Leary