Back in 1989, when I was 16 years old I got the shock of my life. I learned from a generous Social Studies teacher–who was willing to risk his career to teach us things outside the curriculum—that many of the American forefathers had been slave owners. I was pissed! My own father had raised me preaching the gospel of the American forefathers and I trusted everything my he told me.
My father was my idol and the most peaceful human being I knew. He loved art above all things and he spoke passionately about the virtues of science and human ambition. He rhapsodized about humanity’s massive potential for peace and our duty to always strive for harmony across the planet. I did not understand how my dad could idolize and internalize the political philosophy of slave owners.
Slave traders and slave owners are depraved monsters who kidnapped human beings. They tied up people in chains and dragged them away from their homes forever and they did it for money. Slave owners kept humans in reprehensible conditions and beat them, raped them and terrorized captive innocent human beings on a regular basis. They ripped children away from mothers, wives away from husbands, and killed those who tried to assert and defend their right to live as free people.
I have a hard time type these words without crying. I can’t imagine the horror of being enslaved. I can’t imagine the fear these people must have felt to be so casually traded by such cold blooded creatures who thought they deserved the fruits of chained people’s labor and somehow elicited love and devotion from wives and children of their own. I can’t imagine the pain of having to raise a slave owner’s child while wondering without ends what they did with the children they took from you in the not to distant past.
Slave traders and slave owners are truly viruses of our planet. How could my beautiful, talented, poetic father see any value in that level of wickedness? My father grew up in poverty and his dreams of being an artist beckoned him more than his responsibilities as a father—he left us when I was 4. I grew up in the projects with my mother, siblings and grandparents in Queens and Harlem. Our life was very difficult to say the least.
My mother struggled tremendously when he left, he did so by leaving divorce papers on the table for her to find when she got home from church. He left her with a toddler and two infants to raise on her own. She loved my father more than God she said—that was her biggest mistake. Dad would come around some weekends, very often forgetting birthdays and he would take us to movies. At his squeaky clean apartment (a stark contrast to our dilapidated hellhole) he would give me drawing lessons and show me his latest dream project that he was working on.
We would have wonderful conversations until it was time to go back home. It was during these mini-vacations—when life was good because daddy came to see me—that his lessons on the importance of American values turned me into a super patriot and almost joined the Marines as a consequence. He invited me to come live with him and my new stepmother at 15. Everything was great at first but one year later, after realizing he failed to mention that his idols were actually monsters, I saw him as a liar, the enemy, and a traitor to humanity.
He picked me up from the train station in his car and I insisted on listening to Metallica full blast. He got angry; my father, who rarely raised his voice, demanded to know what my problem was. We got into a huge argument. It started about whether Metallica was real music or not and then we finally got to what I was really mad at.
“How come you didn’t tell me the forefathers were slave owners?” I asked my father. “How could you tell me they were good men? How could you tell me to admire them?”
He pulled the car over and looked at me with saddened eyes. He reflected for a moment about the words to say and then spoke up and dispensed the following words.
“Princess, every man is flawed in his own time. We got lucky that these flawed men created documents for the men and women of the future to inherit and uphold and enforce. It is the responsibility of every American generation who has come after them to make sure that America lives up to those ideals. Maybe they didn’t really mean “All Men Were Created Equal” but they said it and now we have a license to forever force justice upon tyrants and make the slave owners turn in their graves for eternity.”
My father is a flawed man with a good heart who is way too romantic about the founding of this nation. While he lived with his head in the clouds about his own dreams, he left his children and their mother in a very dangerous, precarious, unhealthy living situation. My father is a product of America and so am I. We are all flawed people, living in a deeply flawed country full of other flawed people chasing a dream of a better future. But when do we stop chasing the future and insist on focusing on reclaiming our humanity at this exact moment?
Why is it so hard to decide that enough is enough? How much longer will we look the other way and neglect the blood soaked American hypocrisy we allow to rupture the planet? Why are so many of us comfortable with our country killing innocent people all over the globe? As you read this, we are terrorizing and killing innocent people caught in the crosshairs of our endless ambitions. How do we deny health care and education for so many of our people only to turn around and finance the extermination of Palestinians in their own land?
Why did we allow Libya to be horrifically decimated after we promised we would not attack them if they disarmed? Why do we hide behind allies to arm psychotic murderers to annihilate people in places like Syria and Yemen? Why did we allow an illegitimate administration to open the floodgates of war in Iraq and Afghanistan to kill so many innocent people?
It is an act so shameful and wanton in its disregard for human life that we can’t even get a legitimate count of the genocides that are committed in our names. Why did all of this happen when we supposedly learned our lesson after Vietnam? How many times are we going to make excuses for ourselves not realizing that we have allowed the military-industrial complex to turn our nation into the menace of the world?
Just because we invented Hollywood, denim jeans, coca-cola and rock & roll does not give us the license to bludgeon humanity. When are we going to wake up from this consumerism induced coma exactly? How can so many of us sleep so well at night when our lifestyles are being financed through the blood and suffering of hundreds of millions around the world and right here in America? We have the power of social media in our hands but we allow ourselves to be lulled into inaction by false patriotism and counterfeit nationalism.
Why do we admire rich people who are presented as knowledgeable but are blinded by ignorance to the the horrors we commit as we are distracted by the lavish lifestyles of the stars. Why do so many of us think there is time to waste getting drunk every night, watching nonsense on TV or surfing for just the right bit of pornography to satisfy every last deviant craving we have?
It’s because we are content to be selfish and we are fine with abandoning our responsibility for the things our government is doing in our collective names. We are oblivious to the plight of the suffering masses and can’t be bothered about letting the next generation struggle as we pursue our selfishness. We have never been the America we say we are and we have never been the America the forefathers said we were. We have always been a nation of flawed people hoping to become part of something better than ourselves. It is because we intentionally or inadvertently keep propping up leaders who love being the drivers of a colonizing, imperialist force of oppression that we can’t live up to the idealism of America.
The noble ideals in our founding documents attract so many but very few have the courage to stop chasing our own dreams in order to stop the war machine that is crushing humanity. Individual selfishness is destroying our collective potential to be the nation we all say we want to be. However, there is hope. Perhaps my dad was right about each American generation having the chance to make it right.
The internet age has given me hope that we might be able to accomplish what has alluded us all this time. Is it possible for us to unite for the very things we all yearn for? I am hopeful enough to believe we can. I believe that we will finally realize that we are one human family. And with the viral nature of individual acts of courage, I believe that soon unselfishness will become contagious and it will spread like an anti-virus. This change will one day birth compassion and shortly thereafter a modicum of peace and coexistence might be possible in our lifetime.
I see what a man like Colin Kaepernick has accomplished in just one year. My hope soars watching his movement grow. He has woken so many people up to the joyous spiritual rewards of preserving our own commonality while caring for all of humanity. With the internet, America finally has the tool we need for us huddled masses to stand in collective power. Through solidarity, we can begin t tear down the grip tyrants have on hope. Evil cannot prosper in the light of truth, iniquities will collapse under a determined and collective pursuit of justice. In our time, we might finally have a chance to realize the promise of America. It is high time make slave owners turn in their graves. #CheckOfJustice
This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
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