Environment: Making it better wherever you are
Post Tenebras Lux: After Darkness, Light
Post Tenebras Lux is my motto in life. It’s timeless. It’s reliable.
You can count on light to come after darkness. When has a sunrise never happened?
On the Fourth of July, skies across America will be filled with the light of fireworks. Streets will be lined with colorful parades. Celebrations will go on from city to city, street to street, yard to yard, neighbor to neighbor.
Have you ever been to Washington, D.C. and visited our National Archives? In that building is a room unlike any I've ever walked through in any museum, anywhere. There's a sacred hush as you approach it. The lighting is soft and inviting. The room has no corners. Nothing is obscured. This is "The Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom."
Here’s a description of what you will find there:
The Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom is the permanent home of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution of the United States, and Bill of Rights. These three documents, known collectively as the Charters of Freedom, have secured the rights of the American people for more than two and a quarter centuries.
• The Declaration announced to the world on July 4, 1776, that thirteen British colonies in North America were leaving Great Britain to form a separate nation, called the United States of America. In justifying the revolution, the Declaration asserted a universal truth about human rights.
• The Constitution, drafted in 1787 after a hard-won victory in the War for Independence, codified the spirit of the Revolution into an ingenious practical scheme of government to promote the welfare of all its citizens.
• The Bill of Rights, added to the Constitution in 1791 as the first ten amendments, explicitly protected freedom of speech, of the press, of religion, and of assembly, among many other rights.
When my turn came, I stood in front of the display and peered closely at these historical documents, examining the signatures, thinking about the men who wrote these words so long ago. A feeling of appreciation came over me.
What other nation has written up such guarantees for its citizens? In so few words, a small group of men articulated a code of standards unlike any ever written. Displaying an astonishing degree of collective wisdom, these men committed their thoughts to words on paper for all to see, for all to read, for all to believe, for all time. The Statue of Liberty stands at our shore with words engraved on her foundation stones that welcome all to share in America’s Charter of Freedom. Where else in the world can you find such a welcoming image?
We are the land of the free and home of the brave. It takes courage to ensure freedom for all.
Lately our national conversation has been centered on racism. It’s a dark topic about our dark past with the dark people from that dark continent. Darkness shadows our thoughts. We stumble along paths of dialogue that search for light. People have been discussing racism in America for centuries. Frederick Douglass comes to mind of one who spoke with powerful words to persuade his fellow citizens to leave their ways of hateful prejudice and simply carry on as one nation, inclusive of all, and in accordance with the Charters of Freedom. Here is a link to his speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?"
Frederick Douglass could not win over the hearts and minds of his fellow white citizens, nor did Martin Luther King, nor any of the other great civil rights leaders. The Confederate Flag still flies in America to uphold nostalgic admiration for white men who fought a war to maintain their right to enslave black men, women, and children. Those who revere this flag believe that “the South shall rise again!”
What needs to rise in America is the light of knowledge that dispels the darkness of racism. I’m not talking about intellectual reason or “book knowledge” as some would have it. Obviously no amount of reason has been able to rid our nation of racism. I’m talking about the light of friendship. The word ‘friend’ has an Indo-European root meaning “to love” and is shared by the word ‘free’.
I’m starting a new project in my community. I haven’t even named it yet. It will create an opportunity for people to come together in their neighborhoods to get to know one another. America is a great melting pot and we need to stop turning up the heat on each other and instead cool down in the relaxing waters of our diversity. I’m going to run my project like a storytelling group where everyone can share a five minute story about themselves. True stories, unscripted. It will provide a venue where people can get out of their virtual worlds and have some time to actually be together: face-to-face, smile-to-smile, shoulder-to-shoulder. I believe that this project of mine will provide a platform for my community to build friendships and break down racial, ethnic, religious, and social barriers. Call me idealistic. But I believe that my little idea could help erase some of the ignorance that fuels our prejudice that ignites our racism. Please steal this idea and start it up in your community. I know that others are doing similar projects all over America. Mine will simply add a connecting thread.
I have a Japanese friend who commented on her first trip to America that when she got on the subway and noticed people of all colors, speaking several languages at once, and all sitting together, she felt a great surge of joy to see the beauty of America.
So that’s what I want to do now. Allow a space for the light of this beautiful nation to rise like a softly lit sunrise, not glaring on anyone, but slowly filling our hearts with the hope of a new day free from racism.
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