Celebrating the Divided States of America

downloadJuly 3, 2013 – Tomorrow marks the 237th birthday of the United States of America.

As we celebrate Independence Day with family and friends, we may want to think about why we celebrate, and then consider how divided we’ve become as a nation over the very beliefs that brought us together at the beginning.

Back in 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote 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.” Despite the debate that often accompanies discussions about Jefferson, and whom he may or may not have meant when writing about “all men”, we know what is right in our hearts. All human beings are created equal. We may not live equally or act equally, but we are all afforded equality by birthright.

237 years later, it doesn’t appear we’ve learned much along the way, and we are plagued with obstacles that keep us divided. The battle between political parties, for example, is out of control. By larger margins each day, survey results show we don’t trust politicians on either side, yet we do nothing about it. It’s unfortunate that the majority of the people believe that nothing would change, no matter who holds office.

The movie “Lincoln”, said to be historically accurate, showed that both parties have always played the political game, but until recently, they played with a certain respect. Now, the differences evolved into hatred that has trickled down to the citizens. We’ve gone from a country that has worked together in our worst of times, 9/11 comes to mind, to people who believe “I am right and you are wrong”, with no ability to view each issue separately outside of our party’s political agenda.

Politics isn’t the only problem. Racial tension hasn’t been this high since the early days of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Perhaps racism never disappeared completely, but for a while, it almost seemed as if it was fading and that the generations coming up today would look back and wonder how it ever existed. The recent Trayvon Martin trial has made it surface again, forcing people to choose sides that are either black or white, and not what is necessarily right or wrong.

This trial is a losing situation no matter the outcome. A young man is dead and another young man’s life is uncertain. None of us was present at the shooting, yet we all have opinions because of the media, our president’s words about the incident, and activists like Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson, who have exasperated the situation by labeling it a racial problem. Now, there are threats of rioting in the streets if Zimmerman is found not guilty.

Yes, there are hints of racism on both sides; Martin called Zimmerman a “cracker”, a ridiculous word really, but derogatory, and Zimmerman followed Martin because he believed he looked suspicious walking through the neighborhood. Sadly, this trial has become all about racism, and not if the shooter’s actions were committed in self-defense as he claims. Would we even be talking about this case if both parties were white, or if both were black?

Additionally, the situation with Paula Deen and her corporate partners shunning her over allegations of racism is common conversation, and once again, we’re split. There’s no doubt her use of the N-word (30 years ago) was stupid, but she was simply being honest about it in a deposition. I realize the lawsuit goes deeper, even into sexual harassment, but the media’s focus is on racism, which means they are pouring fuel on a fire that already is blazing. Haven’t we’ve all said something that might be considered a racial slur at some point in our lives, whether we meant it sincerely, whether we’ve learned from it since, or whether it was said in jest? It doesn’t make it right, but no one is immune to mistakes.

Companies like Target and Wal-Mart dropped Deen, yet they still sell CDs from rappers who use the N-word, along with other charming language that degrades women. I don’t need them to ban it for me. I exercise my right by not listening to or buying that music. I also don’t believe it’s acceptable for African-Americans to use that word to each other; it’s derogatory no matter how you use it, so why play a part in keeping it alive?

QVC is another company who pulled their support, yet they sell products from Joan Rivers, who has offended plenty of people, and the Kardashians, who are far from the poster children for good behavior. I’m angry that these companies took the decision out of our hands where it belongs. Attempting to make it appear as if they are taking a stand because of their belief system is absurd. From the comments I’ve read, many people view their decision as hypocritical, and say they will no longer shop at these stores, anyway.

Happy birthday, America. I wish us a great year ahead and pray that we can find our way back to being a united front.

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