Do we really mean, with liberty and justice for some?  

To the Editor:

The editorial, “You’ve got to be carefully taught,” and Dennis Sullivan’s column asking the question, “How do we deal with a system that’s ambushing the American Dream for all?,” were both published two days before the July 18 protest in Greenville supporting racial justice. There were counter-protestors there as well, some of them cursing at families and children, some of them riding motorcycles through the crowd.

Risky business, standing up for liberty and justice for all.

I wonder how many Americans actually care about justice, actually value and aspire to be just. How many actually believe in liberty and justice for all? Some people in Greenville that day showed they did, and modeled it for their children. They also showed courage in the face of intimidation.

Before America — before the explorations of the Vikings, ancient Chinese, Columbus — there was the continent known in languages other than English, as Turtle Island. Human beings of diverse cultures lived here. What did Columbus, who never set foot on the mainland, see when he landed in the Caribbean? He saw treasure and potential slaves.

It was Columbus, hastily returning to Spain in 1493, who instigated enhancement of a set of documents known as the “Doctrine of Discovery,” first decreed by Pope Nicholas V in 1452, then added to by Pope Alexander VI in 1493. It granted Christian monarchs permission to invade and subdue non-Christian lands and to hold them as revenue-producing colonies for European powers, who believed they were superior, that their religion was superior, that their color was superior, and that they had a right to take anything and anyone they wanted.

We can follow the whitewash of history back further than this to learn more about racism, its impacts and remedies, and even consider neural structures in the human brain that predispose us to in-group bias. No discussion of racism in America, though, should side-step that first brutal taking of aboriginal lives and land.

This doctrine established a spiritual, political, and legal justification for colonization and seizure of land all over the world. It was codified into United States law and is still used today, as recently as 2005 by the U. S. Supreme Court, even though it has been severely condemned in the United Nations as socially unjust, racist, and in violation of basic and fundamental human rights.

It helps perpetuate white supremacy generation after generation. Several churches have denounced it. Many Catholic and aboriginal groups have asked Pope Francis to revoke it, but to my knowledge, that has not happened.

How, indeed, do we deal with a system that’s ambushing the American Dream for all?

Our Haudenosaunee neighbors, the people many call Iroquois, may give an example. They learned that peace requires fairness and justice.

In 1754, delegates from most of the northern colonies and representatives from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy met near here and adopted the Albany Plan of Union, drafted by Benjamin Franklin. The plan was not supported by English officials — big surprise — but many principles of the Haudenosaunee Great Law of Peace were incorporated into it, and later into the U.S. Constitution.

Long ago, a visionary known as the Peacemaker, who lived just beyond the Haudenosaunee, was born during a time of endless war within and between families and tribes. The brutality caused enormous suffering and vengeance raged like wildfire.

The Peacemaker believed that peace was the Creator’s will. He shared this message with a woman who believed it too. She became his first ally. She was known as someone who would not take sides and as someone who would feed anyone who came to her door. Her only rule was that weapons and talk of war be left outside. Anyone could rest and eat at her home without fear.

His second ally was a man who was a great orator. Griefstricken by the murder of his wife and daughters, the man was helped by the Peacemaker, some accounts say, and together they found words that helped console others who had also lost loved ones.

Once restored to the state of good mind, a mind that uses wisdom and intelligence rather than violence and force, the man helped bring the teaching of peace to the leaders of five Iroquois nations. One by one, the leaders agreed that peace would be better than war.

The next task was to bring the message of peace to the people. It took many years. Through the process of condolence, restitution, and profound listening, the value of good mind became the people’s choice as well. Long before Columbus, The Great Law of Peace was adopted and five Iroquois nations united as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, which later incorporated a sixth Iroquois nation.

The literal and symbolic Haudenosaunee commitment to peace was to bury weapons of war under The Great Tree of Peace, a white pine. It’s from that event that we get the expression “Bury the hatchet.”

Can we bury the hatchet? I know some are willing to do so. Are you a person of good mind who, by resolve and example, will commit to do this difficult reconciliation so that all our people can thrive?

When we swear allegiance and say, with liberty and justice for all, do our words have integrity? Or do we really mean, with liberty and justice for some?

The Founders, with the exception, I think, of John Adams, all owned slaves. Somehow, in spite of themselves, they managed to articulate a vision that transcended their own bigotry and hypocrisy.

That vision — We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal — and all that followed, still appeals to the human spirit, to people everywhere who dream of a better life.

Peace is not submission to authority or aggression. It is not a truce. Peace requires constant attention because conflicts, grievances, injury, and different points-of-view are inevitable. Without justice and fairness, there can never be peace.

Thank you for listening to me.

Dianne Sefcik



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