The Soul of America

This 2016 election has brought up, what all Americans of all races, religions and backgrounds have always known. That America, while floating on the waters of freedom in its laws and rhetoric, possesses an evil underbelly of racism.


This blog has been dedicated to helping Christians with individual spiritual awareness.  But being a U.S. Citizen and part of the great state of Illinois today, my mind is focused on America’s spiritual awareness during our 2016 Presidential Campaign.  One of the greatest fights we have in this election is a fight for the soul and identity of this country we call the land of the free and the home of the brave.  The soul is defined as the real life, the inner consciousness of any being or organization.  Our soul’s true self is not based on what we say we are, it’s what we actually are in fact. Our soul is what defines us as human beings and as a nation.

We have long held high to the world that we are a melting pot of democracy politically, a free market bastion of liberty economically, and a nation of religious liberty spiritually.  Despite these lofty claims, America has often been dragged kicking and screaming by many disenfranchised groups to the center of reality.  The reality being that as a country, even though we promulgate these ideals, we often fall short.  Caesar Chavez drug us there, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X drug us to that spot as well, pointing out America’s hypocrisy and fight for its own soul.

This 2016 election has brought up, what all Americans of all races, religions and backgrounds have always known. That America, while floating on the waters of freedom in its laws and rhetoric, possesses an evil underbelly of racism.

Our nation is most unique on the face of the earth.  We do not have a thousand years or more of history and tradition to call upon.  And being a nation made up of people from other countries, the most history we can dredge up from our inception to celebrate is the fourth of July—Independence Day.  With our independence from England came ideals and principles that were noble, namely that all men were created equal. And as much as we struggle against radical forces outside our country that may not like our existence or way of life or international tactics, we always took solace in the fact that we were free to love, and yes hate our fellow man, and even though we may offend, our government and leaders would allow us to say our peace unhindered. We would not be hauled off to jail just for expressing differences.

We further took solace in the fact that our leaders were intelligent enough to understand that with 300 million differences, there are certain things that are lethal to bring to the forefront.  We took comfort that whatever problems were under the surface of those great ideals, our leaders would not resort to the “dog whistle” of hatred and bigotry that every one of us knew existed, but we hoped would not affect our personal lives.  We held out hope, that as we worked in our communities and the government worked with us, that this ugliness, this bad uncle that no one wants to invite to dinner, would stay under the surface, locked in a room somewhere so we wouldn’t have to talk about it, deal with it or acknowledge that it existed.

I am angry and hurt this election year, that my beautiful country with such beautiful ideals has embarrassed itself.  My mom used to use the term “don’t show your behind”.  Meaning, it’s not good to show who you really are.  Somewhere inside, even though I know that these people exist, I don’t want to believe that the people at Trump rallies yelling “go back to Africa” or “America 4 Americans” (whatever that means) are going to have any voice or power in our great country.   I heard a Muslim man on the radio (WBEZ 91.5 FM) this morning who stated that he has been in America 25 years “this is my home” he said, but he made sure he came out to vote because he is wondering if he will have to move away because of the rhetoric that is being thrown around and is doing what he can to see that this doesn’t happen.

This horrible rhetoric that makes people non-Christians and people of color tremble with concern, comes from the Republican camp and has thankfully been condemned by both democratic and republican leadership alike.  No one wants to hear or see this ugliness come to the surface.  The wink and nod that Donald Trump gives to his supporters, his slowness to condemn institutions with a history of racism and violence are all part of the problem.  However, the larger problem is that the Republican Party did nothing when this faction in its party re-surfaced during John McCain’s campaign in 2008. Most of us remember John McCain having to correct a woman at a town hall meeting who stated emphatically that Barack Obama was an Arab. See Video

The Republican party acted irresponsibly and did the opposite of what you see in this video.  They played three groups of people to their advantage.  Those who seemed to believe that:  1. America is a nation only for Christians; 2. that America is only for white Europeans and 3. Uninformed people who appeared to get their information from conversations at the corner drug store and would follow anyone who said or implied the magic words they wanted to hear.  “Obama Evil”, “Mexicans Bad”, “Islam=Bombers”.

The Republicans saw this underbelly back then in 2008 and probably before but, allowed this element, this wound in their party, fueled by “hate” talk radio, to fester, boil and exist untreated and unattended.  Now the infection is spilling out and souring the atmosphere.  What atmosphere?  That of peaceful co-existence in America.  One of the reasons many people in leadership ignored the Trump Effect was that they underestimated the level of racism and hatred still existing in our Country.  When African-Americans and others of color would say that the fight is not over, many would look around and say “where” “oh no, we’ve moved beyond that?  Well, here it is and no we haven’t.

The bubble that has burst is this.  Wherever we came from, whatever our background, we all knew that being an American was based on acceptance of citizenship and not simply our birth or religion or race. All Americans came here from somewhere.  Whether they call themselves Daughters of the American Revolution or the NAACP, it doesn’t matter.  The people who came unwillingly over on slaves ships, or across our southwestern borders, or sailed the Atlantic to Ellis Island or came here and worked railroads from China in the West, all ultimately settled on this one principle and goal— to live their lives in peace and do the best for their families that they could possibly do under the laws of their adopted country.

If we don’t have peaceful co-existence, where is the soul of our nation?  Where is the unity of under one flag if we allow the baser elements of our society to take hold? Where is the soul of our nation and how can we possibly profess to please God, by disenfranchising and treating violently those He created.  If you believe the bible, you must believe that we all came from the same blood and are plagued with the same challenges of life (See Genesis 1, 2 & 3).

What frightens me, is that we had a standard of public conduct that has been stripped away during this 2016 campaign. Whatever our disagreements on economy, education, or social justice may have been, we sought to remain civil in our discourse.  To protect the soul of our Country, we must continue to put racism and bigotry where it belongs.  Locked in the back room, like an embarrassing uncle.  We have looked at the ugliness before, and decide that is not what we want as a country.  We’ve done that before, and we must do it again.   If we all work in our individual lives to put the spilt milk (bad rhetoric and dog whistles) back in the carton, look one another in the eye again and realize we are all human beings created by God on an equal plane, we can survive as a country.

Author: Renee

I am an author and a retired minister. My passion is helping others find their sense of self and identity after so many years of losing my own. So often we go to church and are still not aware of our disconnection with our true selves. The person inside that God deeply values. My husband and I have been married for over 30 years and have 3 children. I love gourmet cooking, swimming, all kinds of music, and political and religious discussion- the two things my mom said never to talk about at the dinner table.