We’re especially proud right now to be parents and grandparents. The Trump administration has finally gotten so out of hand, a Wall of Moms had to “stop this car” to intervene in Portland, Oregon. When they got tear gassed, PDX Dad Pod got busy and organized its members to show up with leaf blowers to blow away the gas and hockey sticks to push back gas canisters. These parents aren’t afraid of anything—even the camouflaged, masked, anonymous federal police attacking them. They are going to stand, with joyful determination, fearless, armed with nothing but their voices, their sports gear and garden tools, and their indomitable will.
Let the goons prove by their state-sanctioned brutality that this movement to end police brutality is exactly what needs to happen. Those parents are there for their sons and daughters, and for ours. They are there for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Amaud Arbrey; the protesters who were illegally detained or beaten by Trump’s minions; thousands of children kidnapped and caged by federal agents at the border; and thousands of others who have suffered from official cruelty and malfeasance whose perpetrators were never held to account. Parents have always been there, of course, alongside our collective kids in one way or another, but now it’s time to bring this “car” to a screeching halt, turn around, point our finger at the wrongdoers, and say, “No more!”
The late Rep. John Lewis implored us to “make good trouble, necessary trouble.” That’s always what it’s taken to make big changes, and it is what is happening in cities and towns all around the country. People are exercising the rights guaranteed them by the Constitution to help secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity. The right to assemble and protest is in our First Amendment and our national DNA. The American Revolution began in Boston Harbor with protest and civil disobedience against the injustices of a tyrannical leader. We now call those hooligans “Patriots.”
It’s time to ask ourselves some important questions. What does patriotism really look like? Is it a few people brandishing weapons and screaming at marchers from their front yard? Is it idolizing the flag at football games but forgetting the most basic principles for which it stands? Or is it thousands of people gathering to advocate for true liberty and justice for all? There’s a reason the Constitution begins with “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…” and not “Every man for himself, devil take the hindmost”: the law of the land is not just about individual freedom, but also the Common Good. Patriotism understands this and gathers us together to act on it.
Do we value wisdom and integrity in our leaders? Do we take the word of a grinning huckster sitting at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office of the White House (not his desk in his house; the People’s desk in the People’s house) selling beans? The man who called COVID19 a hoax for months, until the undeniable fact of over 140,000 dead souls at last, and too late, could not be denied? Or do we listen to and elevate the voices of people in offices and on the front lines who have devoted their lives to public service, and are showing us how to take care of one another?
What is true courage? Is it sending federal troops to clear protesters out of Lafayette Park for a lame photo op, or is it grandparents, moms, dads, and young people putting their lives on the line every day for the Common Good, at essential jobs and in demonstrations? The fact is, the President is terrified of the people. We increasingly reject his small, cramped, oppressive version of America’s greatness. He now threatens to target with his secret police other cities led by Democrats—in his mind, his enemies. This is the opposite of bravery; it’s the desperation of a would-be strong man who knows he’s losing popular support and has no patriotism, courage, or integrity– only intimidation and weaponry– to justify his being in office.
And, finally, who do we want to become? What does it really mean for America to be great? Most of us think it has nothing to do with the trappings of power or military parades or persecuting migrants. Nor does it have anything to do with the demonstrably false claim that secret police are merely “protecting federal property.” From what—leaf blowers? Naked yoga instructors? Moms carrying signs and chanting? A Navy veteran standing still and strong while his bones are broken with billy clubs?
The greatness we seek is none of that. It is simply the realization of the highest ideals of the founders of this democratic republic: government of, by, and for all the people; equal access to all the blessings of liberty; equal justice for all; generosity toward those who are vulnerable and to one another in times of need. This always has been a work in progress, and we’ve often struggled and failed, but we’ve seen progress through the centuries, as well. And in 2020, in our states, cities, towns, and neighborhoods, we’ve seen every attribute of greatness from one another. We now need to demand it of our leaders and elect leaders up to the task.
Rep. Lewis and C.T. Vivian, the two last great Civil Rights Era leaders, both passed away last month. We will miss them, and there is no one to replace them except us. Those giants’ work must be our work now. Let’s honor them by using whatever skills we have to demand integrity in government; justice in our institutions; and a new, expansive, inclusive understanding of what it means to be endowed with the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s daunting, but there are millions of us, we are not afraid, and we know how powerful we are when we stand together.