Americans most generally have a great sense of pride for their country, because they believe in what it stands for and the principles it was founded on.
Over our nation’s history, America has had many voices speak out, though in protest or by petition, from many segments of its population, thanks to the strong civil liberties we all inherit by being citizens of this great country. Most of those voices came from minorities, protesting their rights to equality. Some came from religious groups and anti-abortion groups, and some groups have tried imposing their will on all of us by changing our laws to reflect their own beliefs.
Much of the battles for civil rights, from the Emancipation of slavery to the fight for gay rights, women’s rights and other civil rights movements of today, have molded this nation into what it has become. We have grown enlightened but at a somewhat slower pace than many of our European allies. Then of course, some of the countries that we have fought wars in are far behind us when it comes to women’s rights, gay rights, and civil rights in general.
We have a segment of our population — which grows smaller over time — that still holds onto its suspicions and hatred of anyone different. Of recent history — since Barack Obama became president — it would seem at times that their view on life has been imposed upon us all.
Unfair attacks upon our president, such as the accusation that he was not born in this country and that he is a secret Muslim who wants to take away everybody’s guns, has revealed to us a much deeper, hidden side of America. This hidden side, a side that went into hiding after the Civil Rights era of the sixties, has reared its ugly head and showed us that prejudice runs deep within our nation’s population.
The last few years have showed us two things; first is that narrow-minded and hateful people are still at least a small segment of our society and sometimes they can cause our nation a great deal of grief. Secondly, we as a nation in general are growing more enlightened, and therefore more liberal over time. We always have and always will grow more liberal, history has proven it.
An opportunity lies before us here, but much of it is going to be determined by — not what a narrow-minded segment of our society does — but by what the rest of the nation does as a whole, and the voices we choose to listen as a nation.
I think it is the accumulation of events, which has given us this opportunity. The first event was that we reelected Barack Obama for another four years. This means we have a president who is open-minded and ready for change. This is a president who wants to see the end of the “Defense of Marriage Act” and whose top agenda for his second term is a comprehensive immigration bill. He is also now finally talking about serious gun control, which he has not until now.
Which brings us to another event, one that broke our hearts but also set about a possible change in our gun laws. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Suddenly, the walls of partisanship fell down as both Democrats and Republicans felt the grief that was left by the horrific death of so many young children. The powerful NRA’s grip on even their own supporters slipped and voices began to ring out in protest and calls for new legislation, such as a ban on assault rifles and large ammunition magazines, along with enforcement of background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.
There is another event in our Congress that has opened our eyes to the partisanship and the danger it presents to our economy and therefore the nation. The fiscal cliff fight took us to the brink yet again, just as the last debt ceiling debate did, which ended up costing us a downgrade in our credit rating. We are now faced with yet another debt ceiling debate as Republican lawmakers plan to block the debt ceiling from being raised unless they get their demands, which is for serious spending cuts to entitlement program.
This is wrong-headed of the Republicans because this is about paying the bills that we have already run up. It is their responsibility as our elected leaders to pay our bills and for them not to do so deliberately is a direct refusal to do their job. They may see it as an opportunity now but if they cause us to lose another credit rating, they will pay for it dearly at the polls in 2014.
As a side note here: The GOP needs to stop listening to the voices of the Tea Party or it will find itself as the permanent minority party, not going anywhere because of its stubborn insistence that it remains the same old GOP of the past, never growing and out of touch with the American people.
We are at a pivotal moment in our history when America’s eyes are wide open and we can see what lies before us. We have a choice: listen to the voices of prejudice and hate, or listen to the voices that tell us that America is growing more enlightened by the day, with its arms wide open to all of its diversity and without exclusion.