Whether you take the national view or just focus on what’s happening here in Colorado, America is pretty messed up.
In all the excitement over the vaccines, giddy at the prospect of dining out and going to the movies, we’ve quit talking about the COVID death toll, which is racing toward 600,000. In the U.S. last week, 4,270 Americans died from coronavirus. Here in El Paso County, only 43 percent of those eligible have gotten vaccinated. That’s compared to 60.2 percent in Douglas County, 81.5 percent in San Juan County.
On Mother’s Day, six people were murdered here in the Springs — in front of children — by a jealous boyfriend with a gun who then took his own life. More than 1 million Americans have been shot over the past decade, and while we represent just 4 percent of the world’s population, America accounts for 35 percent of all suicides by firearm.
There’s the lowering cloud of climate change, the arrogance and ignorance that fuel our systemic racism, the still-bleeding wounds of conquest and slavery, and hunger and poverty in a land where the top 0.1 percent take in more than 196 times the income of the bottom 90 percent.
And in Congress, where we might find a sane way forward? We have Mitch McConnell (“One-hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration”) in the Senate, and the House wasting the people’s time with the junior high mean-girl antics of Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, Doug Lamborn being sued for using staffers to move his furniture, and Matt Gaetz stumbling from lie to lie with his pants around his ankles.
It will take massive change to haul us away from this path of darkness, and there are days when we are not particularly sanguine. To be honest, most days lately find us thinking that we have no better than a 50/50 chance of pulling this off.
But there are signs that Americans are starting to understand what it will take to find our way out of this mess, and do the uncomfortable but necessary work to fix what’s broken. Here are three examples, two from communities of faith and one from the political sphere:
• In 1838, when Jesuit priests needed money to pay off Georgetown University’s debt, they sold 272 enslaved men, women and children, loading them on ships headed to plantations in Louisiana. In March 2021, the Catholic order announced plans to raise $100 million to educate the descendants of those slaves. “Our shameful history of Jesuit slaveholding in the United States has been taken off the dusty shelf, and it can never be put back,” said Fr. Tim Kesicki, SJ. “Racism will endure in America if we continue to turn our heads away from the truth of the past and how it affects us all today.” (See p. 28 for more efforts at atonement by the Catholic Church.)
• The Rev. Natalie Conway had started her new job as deacon at Baltimore’s Memorial Episcopal Church when she learned the church’s founding pastor, Charles Ridgely Howard, had owned her family. Striving for healing and atonement, the church has pledged $100,000 and another $400,000 over five years in reparations to support local racial justice causes including housing, education, civic engagement and environmental justice.
• An alliance of “former governors, members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries, state officials, seasoned political strategists and grass-roots leaders dedicated to offering a hopeful, principles-based vision for the country” has formed A Call for American Renewal, a mostly GOP coalition introduced in a May 13 Washington Post editorial. “Tragically, the Republican Party has lost its way, perverted by fear, lies and self-interest,” wrote members of the group. “What’s more, GOP attacks on the integrity of our elections and our institutions pose a continuing and material threat to the nation. ... We will not wait forever for the GOP to clean up its act. If we cannot save the Republican Party from itself, we will help save America from extremist elements in the Republican Party.”
Those Americans who are paying attention realize that we are, right here, right now, standing at the fork in the road. Like us, they’re weighing the odds, wondering if Americans are capable of doing the wise thing, the fair and just thing, going forward. They, and we, understand that these small, hopeful signs of incipient sanity are all we have that makes hoping reasonable.