Who are we, America?

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

The past year has, among other things, made me question how well I know my country and its foundations.

Already the events of this new year have caused us to ask: What is America? Who are we? In response to the insurrection in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, (then) President-Elect Biden said: “This is not who we are.” To which many others quickly countered: Oh, yes, indeed it is.

Ibram X. Kendi, anti-racist scholar and author, wisely commented in the days following the insurrection that yes, this is who we are. “It’s not all of us, but it’s part of us.” To live into the challenge of our times requires us to be grounded in the complexity of reality rather than our simplifications, useful as those may sometimes be. Truth, I believe, is made of many layers and seeming contradictions.

I am compelled to face the brutal and heartbreaking truths of our history, including the present moment, while also learning the inspiring truths about those who have always been present fighting for humanity and against injustice. I want to learn so that I can more certainly and effectively join forces with those working toward a more just, humane and truthful society. I am fortunate to find those stories close at hand.

Last Wednesday, our campus community heard from five first-year student storytellers in an astounding convocation (you can watch the video recording here). One of those storytellers was Isis Espinoza, who spoke a powerful tribute to her mother who trekked across the Sonoran desert when pregnant and sixteen years old to escape violence in Honduras. It is our joyful privilege to have immigrants like Isis in our GC community, along with many others fighting for their dignity and rights.

Last week, several churches in our community were joined by many viewers for an evening with musician John McCutcheon to raise funds to support the legal fees of immigrants in our community. It is inspiring to see and hear this community at work in support of human rights.

America is a complex and contradictory reality; I want to grapple with the truth and advance the good. Let us cultivate a GC community that is capable of listening deeply and speaking truthfully, holding the complexity with keenly educated minds and strong hearts.