The other day a car in front of me paused at a red light and I was suddenly angered to see the large sign on the hatchback window. It read: “My loving family” (in lovely cursive calligraphy) and above the words were decals of two AR-15 rifles, one shot gun rifle and three handguns.
I was surprised at my anger generated by this incident. Later I took stock of my emotions and spirituality only to find out that I am angry at much of what is going on in our country that is widening and deepening the fissure dividing us. In the patriotic hymn, “America the Beautiful,” there is a line that came to mind quickly as I reflected on the state of our country and my distressed soul, “…God mend thine every flaw.”
The flaws have been many: the effort of January 6 to overthrow our democracy; the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde; the killing of innocent and peaceful protestors; the hypocrisy of the Supreme Court touting itself as pro-life while demolishing the one hundred year law in New York to restrain gun exposure. And what of the puerile behavior of congressional and states’ leaders who terrorize each other like making political ads that show candidates feigning the killing of an opponent or invading the home of a candidate with militia in tow. Rather than solving our food, gas, and work shortages, and so much more, these leaders choose to direct the spotlight on their nefarious methods of gaining votes. Yes, God, we have many flaws. Many flaws. Please help us God, we desperately need mending.
And then I think of some courageous people who have emerged, despite these flaws. These are people who are mending the flaws and putting their careers on the line along with their lives and those of their families. Think of the leaders from Arizona and Georgia who explained, in the ongoing January 6 hearings, why they refused to lie, cheat, and short-change their voters when asked to do so by the President of the United States. Rusty Bowers, Republican Secretary of State of Arizona, told the president it would be wrong to finesse the votes in his state; he said this as his daughter lay dying of a terminal illness in his living room within earshot of protestors screaming for his very soul. Poll workers, Wandrea Shaye Moss and her mother Ruby Freeman, nervously narrated their trauma following promotion of a video that purportedly showed them carrying suitcases of votes out of the station and engaged in other illegal activities to hide the votes. Shaye’s grandmother’s home was later broken into by an angry mob pretending to search for hidden votes while terrifying the grandmother on the spot. They are afraid even to go shopping today, to do the ordinary things of life.
I find these witnesses so credible that I have placed them on my growing list called ‘profiles in courage,’ a nod to President John Kennedy’s great book of that title. My list is growing everyday. It reaches back several years to the impeachment trials, and Supreme Court hearings. It is a list of brave Americans whose testimonies courageously help in ‘mending’ the flaws of our nation. And it appears that given the attacks on our precious democracy, we are witnessing a growing courage among some to “mend our every flaw.” These are truly the ‘profiles in courage.’
I have been reading Robert Caro’s book, Working, which is his explanation to would-be writers on how to approach writing a political biography. He is the most respected authority on President Lyndon Johnson.
I knew that Johnson was a hard-nosed leader of the Southern Caucus which practically ruled the Congress for its tenacious holding on to segregation and anti-voting practices from the 1940’s through the 1960’s. Johnson was described by his fellow southerners as “racist in the deepest, cruelest sense of the word.”
But, only four days after he became president and while the nation was deep in mourning, Johnson stood up to his Congressional colleagues, especially the Southern Caucus and said: “We have talked for one hundred years or more about Civil Rights. It is now time to write the next chapter and to write in the book of law.” The bill was Kennedy’s legacy and, on his desk, when he died. Johnson could have massaged the segregationist power of the Southern Caucus; after all, it would have assured easier days ahead for him on other issues. But he stood up to the critics and took a lot of flak and signed the Civil Rights Act. He was no longer empathetic to the Southern Caucus. Something had changed in Johnson. His courage mended a major flaw in our nation. He had learned from a tragedy. And he went on to push for and sign the Voting Rights Act (which now needs reforming), Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, and some seventy education bills. Have you benefitted from any of these laws? Somewhere inside Johnson’s massive frame was a heart to “mend our every flaw.”
By the end of his presidency, Johnson could not overcome the political swallowing of all the good he had done with our nation’s involvement in Vietnam. Lady Bird once found him in his office in the early hours of the morning looking out his window. He had just read the American casualty report from Vietnam. He turned to her in tears and said, “How would we feel if we had sons there?” An empathetic response at a moment of mending the flaw.
Happy Fourth of July!! Remember, the independence we have been guaranteed does not mean anger about our country’s flaws but commitment that will provide healing. Think of those courageous Americans working hand-in-hand with God, doing their part, to mend our every flaw. Be grateful for them.
In your prayer, ask God to help you do what you can to heal the flaws of our nation in your family, your neighborhood, your community. Be strong. Conversation requires strong commitment, even among loved ones. Remember this phrase and what you can do to implement it: God mend thine every flaw.
And, for heaven’s sake, enjoy those burgers and dogs and fireworks. We are lucky to be Americans!!