I’ve been thinking a lot about America these days.
While living in Korea, I’ve thought a lot about the kind of healing and transformation I’d like to see here. I’ve read books and striven to learn about the broken history of this peninsula. I’ve dreamed of the healing of the division that has split this country for decades.
But recent events in America, as well as recent movie/TV choices, have awakened my consciousness to America’s own broken history. We may not have a DMZ or the threat of nuclear missiles, but we, too, are divided. It’s a division less pronounced, but no less real.
Yesterday I watched The Butler, and cried pretty hard. (Highly recommend it.) It brought to life events I learned about in history classes, but had never deeply contemplated as an adult. Those freedom fighters. Man. They lived in a time when safety and justice was by no means a guarantee. Yet things weren’t as bad as the days of slavery. You could make a way for yourself as an African American. There wasn’t a need, per se, to rock the boat.
The freedom fighters weren’t content to merely pursue their own personal happiness. They wanted to see the system and culture change. And they were willing to sacrifice their dignity, their safety, and even their very lives to bring to light the divide many were trying to ignore.
When race issues surface nowadays, they must be understood in context.
There is a long history of hatred and injustice that has gotten passed down over generations. We can’t just judge and analyze events in isolation. There are wounds there, wounds that have never healed.
Working my way through the HBO series The Wire the past few months, I’ve had to face the reality that the answers aren’t simple. (Though the series ended over seven years ago, it remains extremely relevant today––and is especially poignant for me to watch as a native Baltimorian.) The complexity of issues that plague US cities can be intimidating to consider. There is race, class, politics, education, ignorance, hatred, assumptions, selfishness, and a whole lot of other things mixed in there. It is a bit of a mess.
But while I don’t have any clear-cut solutions, part of me just wants to run home and do something to make a difference.
For now, my place is here in Korea. But as an American, I feel a need to at least shed light on some of the brokenness. To add my voice to the mix. At least I can do that much. Start conversations, provoke thought and hopefully action, hopefully change.
What brings me hope is the stories I hear of individual transformations. People choosing to forgive. People embracing those different than themselves. People learning to understand another’s perspective and experience.
Even my own paternal grandfather grew up in Flatwoods, Kentucky, where racism was a regular, assumed thing. And just look at what got passed down to me: unconditional respect for all and a love for people of different cultures. My grandfather is one of the most open-minded and accepting people I know.
There is hope.
If one person can change, that means more can change, too. And person by person, a whole culture can change. That’s what I pray for. That’s what I hope to see. Healing. Understanding. The crossing of divides.