I’m in a hotel room far from home. I’m staring at a piece of paper with a pen in my hand – speechless. I don’t know where to begin. Tears streaming down my face, I just watched a video of Christina Grimmie sing a song that I wrote about hope. And now, the TV is on with the news with more reports on the violence in Orlando.
I look around me, and I see fear on all sides. Paralyzing fear. Demonization fear. Terror is the loudest voice in the room these days, screaming like a loudmouth bully from every television set. And even though I’m not a loudmouth bully, I’ve still got something to say.
It used to be that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Well, I will not be driven by fear and I refuse to remain silent. I’ve got a serious question to ask. America who are you? Are you bigoted, racist, terrorized? Or are you compassionate, strong, and honorable? I’m not alone asking this question- America who are you?
Even our national anthem has more questions than answers.
“Oh say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave, over the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
It’s an honest question. Which America will my daughter grow up in? The land of the free and the home of the brave, or a nation driven by cowardice and terror?
We are a nation with a troubled past. Let our past failures illuminate the present situation. Let us remember the Jim Crow Laws, the Trail of Tears, the Battle of Wounded Knee, the Japanese internment camps, and on and on… We are a nation of honor and shame. Who is America today? Who will we become? It is in our hands everyday. We the people. You and I.
We are all unique. We all have our differences. Who am I? I am a Caucasian male who grew up in suburban America. And yet these identifying agents do not define me. No, I will be defined by my actions. I will be defined by my compassion or lack thereof. I will be defined by the life I live. By how I treat the ones around me.
Are you Muslim? Are you Buddhist? Are you Hispanic, African-American, Pakistani? Are you a man, woman, or child? These differences between us pale in comparison with all the commonalities that join us together. Are you Democrat? Or Republican? Or libertarian? Are you gay? Are you straight? Are you young or old? You matter. Your voice is important. I will not silence your viewpoint. We are different, you and I. And yet, you are my brother. You are my sister. You are my mother. You are my father. And I will not allow our differences or our disagreements to silence the conversation.
This is the America I believe in: a melting pot of contrasting beliefs. A nation of immigrants defined by creed that holds “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.” I believe in religious freedom. Mine and yours.
I am an American. And as such, I define America. I believe in freedom and honor and bravery in the face of fear. So that will be the America that I live out. The election is important, yes. But what about the rest of the year? How I elect to live my life is far more important than the one vote I get every so often. You cannot outsource compassion, you have to live it out.
Yes, I have my own beliefs, but I refuse to enforce my beliefs upon you. Even if I adamantly believe that you’re wrong, I will honor you with compassion, love, and kindness. Why? Because I am driven by a compassion greater than fear. I will not silence your voice. I will not retaliate with violence. I will not be driven by the loudmouth bully of fear. I want my life to be the living proof of the love that’s stronger than hatred.
This is my answer- my definition of America. And yet, the question remains: America who are you? The land of the free, the home of the brave? Only time will tell…