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Friday, 04 July 2014 18:00

William Rivers Pitt: We Rise

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WILLIAM RIVERS PITT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTaaa4th(Photo: A.M. Willard)

In all the darkness, the teeth-grinding fury, the disgust, and the desperate temptation to surrender to despair, I remember:

That Black people who were brought here in chains won their freedom, and then more freedom, and then equal status under the law. It was a long and horror-filled road, it should never have happened, but we as a nation fixed it, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That women have only had the right to vote for 95 of the years this country has existed, which frankly blows my whole mind. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That growing old used to be a dead-bang guarantee of growing poor. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That 146 people, mostly women, died in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire because as workers, they had no rights. We as a nation fixed that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

That marriage rights existed in a state of apartheid, to the exclusion of LGTB people, until the dam broke recently. We as a nation are still fixing that, and many of us fight for it still (because, sadly, we have to).

The curious thought experiment that is the United States of America is built on a lot of mythology, and a lot of greed, and the machinery of that construction was lubricated with an ocean of Native American and African blood...but it has a lot of soul, too, and an astonishing amount of potential.

So very slowly, one brick at a time, we have worked to improve our flaws. It's a hell of a project: take people from every country in the world, every religion, every nationality, all packing centuries of racism and resentments and differences, throw them all together, shake it up, hand them a couple of pieces of old parchment, and say, "OK, figure it out." Sometimes, it's two-steps-forward-one-step-back...and sometimes it's one-step-forward-two-steps-back....but the push forward is always there, even in those times when it loses ground.

I'm not much for the concept of "American Exceptionalism," but unless I missed a chapter in my high school history textbook, nothing quite like this has been pulled off before in all of human history. All we have in common, really, are those old pieces of paper, and the ideas inked upon them.

It's hard. Brutally hard. What was that line from the movie "The American President?" Oh, right: "You gotta want it."

I want it. I will live my entire life and die not having achieved the goals I want for this country, and when I go, I will be fulfilled, because the effort yields its own rewards, and the idea is worth the fight.

While I am certainly not the biggest Bill Clinton fan in the world, I hold close and dear to my heart a line he delivered during his first inauguration.

"There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America."

Bang on, Bill.

Shoulder to the wheel.

There are more of us than there are of them, and the arc of history bends toward justice.

Happy Fourth of July, all. We rise.